Popular among the passages from Cruising Utopia celebrated in the wake of the untimely passing of its author, José Esteban Muñoz, were those where Muñoz laid out his insistence on thinking of queerness as an ideality that is “not yet here,” as well as his urgent call for thinking of queerness as collectivity. Less popular, if not entirely absent, from these hagiographies was the slim chapter “Just Like Heaven,” where, in an attempt to mark out “a queer aesthetic dimension,” Muñoz turned to the work of Herbert Marcuse and the myth of Narcissus in order to stress the vital importance of self-reflection in queer utopian world-making. “Gazing into the reflective surface is more than just self-appreciation,” Muñoz wrote, “…it speaks of a critical imagination that begins with self-analysis and a vaster social critique of how the world could be and indeed should be.” I would like to use my Miley Cyrus Super Queer curation as an opportunity to evoke this other aspect of Muñoz’s work in order to provisionally sketch out the possibilities of a queer aesthetics, and ethics, grounded in duplicity and her sisters: duplication, doubling, copying, faking, texting, appropriating, reflecting, masturbating; an aesthet(h)ics of self-feeling, self-seeing, and self-tasting that might abide us in our attempt to claim Miley, a seemingly privileged, cisgender, straight, white, skinny pop star, as an avatar of queerness.
I offer the below as starting points for a discussion on the ways in which Miley Cyrus appears as a flagrant, narcissistic harbinger of queer duplicity:
Lyrical duplicity – “Miley Cyrus” and “Hannah Montanna” are self-rhyming couplets. Along with a handful of redundant lyrics and cheating rhymes, this nomenclatural doubling-up is one way by which Miley narcissistically self-duplicates.
Ontological duplicity – Miley’s self-touching and self-tasting have made her an object of derision and adoration. Her public displays of self-feeling frame the “I” and the “You” of intersubjective exchange within the duplicitous “supplement” of masturbation.
Familial duplicity – Miley’s “Cyrus” is a palimpsest on her father’s, conjuring the doublings inherent in programs of kinship. As a second-generation celebrity, Miley skews from the imperative to be “original” that dominates contemporary pop music. Identical duplicity – Miley appropriates; blackness, boyishness, bootyness, Madonna. Her refusal to authentically represent herself, rather than being blunt evidence of a colonizing white privilege, might instead be read as an ecstatic, oddball desire for the not yet here.