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Miley Cyrus: A Child Star's Rite of Passage

Meanwhile, as her audience grew out of their Hannah Montana backpacks and into MP3 players filled with Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna songs, each sign of Cyrus' own growth was met with the equivalent of "Oh, Hannah." She was always going to be that Disney girl, that childhood memory or Billy Ray's kid. For that to stop, Cyrus had to assure her fans that she was still one of them while alienating the parents who wanted her as well-preserved as a college kid's childhood bedroom.

That's why Cyrus used a diamond wire of increasingly forward public appearances to sever all ties to her lingering Disney alter ego and to the parents who bought into the marketing machine.

Those same parents will counter that they'll never buy a Cyrus or Hannah Montana item for their little Jayna again, but Jayna's already in high school and has been downloading her own music since getting that sweet gig at the local Kroger. She's off to college in a year, and the only way Miley gets to come along for that ride is if Miley's's singing the club banger that's playing at the house party/frat/bar she snuck into with her roommate's ID. If Cyrus isn't doing that, the only way she's making it onto campus is as nostalgic, late-night "Hannah Montana" episode or as an ironic joke in a party playlist.

The olds will bristle at the fact that Cyrus mixes it up with Sinead O'Connor and makes jokes about Amanda Bynes' mental health. Those are both great ways to help Cyrus' transition. Sinead is a dog whistle. If you know who she is and why she's famous, you're already over 30 and out of Cyrus' key demographic.

Cyrus and many of her fans weren't even born when O'Connor scored her biggest hit with Nothing Compares 2 U in 1990, was threatened with a kick to the posterior by Frank Sinatra for refusing to perform if The Star-Spangled Banner was played before her show that same year and tore up a picture of the pope on SNL in 1992.

Miley's fans don't know who O'Connor is, don't know Jan Hooks' SNL impression of her and, frankly, don't care. She's a tool in Miley's kit, as was Cyrus' own appearance on SNL -- you know, that late-night show her fans used to be too young to watch.

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