Are Miley Cyrus and other Celebrities truly happy, or is it just a Façade ?

Clare O’Hagan-Period 3. What is true happiness? Everyone’s answer differs. Some say it’s having a huge house with a private jet, others say it resides in the laugh of their child. Happiness is subjective, but in most cases is what makes people smile and feel content. Aristotle believes that happiness is much more than all of these things.

According to Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, happiness is a complete and sufficient good. This definition means that everything one does should be aimed towards the ultimate good; basically “the end is the good.” The ultimate good must also be in line with virtue, which means people should use their strengths and talents to obtain the ultimate good and remain virtuous as well. Aristotle’s definition of moral virtue is “a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices.” In relation to material happiness, Aristotle believes that certain goods like food and health are necessary to happiness, but others, like wealth and fame, are just luxuries. [1]With this in mind, my question is: if an actor/actress’ talent is acting, could that aim towards the ultimate good despite being attached to wealth, fame, and physical beauty?

Miley Cyrus, daughter of famous country singer, Billy Ray Cyrus, got her start on a wholesome show called Hannah Montana in 2006 on the Disney Channel. She started on the show alongside her famous father when she was just thirteen years old, and portrayed a typical American teenage girl named Miley Stewart who also happened to be a world-famous pop star. Miley won over millions of hearts with her American sweetheart persona, beautiful voice, and hilarious personality. Girls all over the world dressed up like Hannah Montana for Halloween, knew the words to all the songs, and tuned in every week for the hit show. Hannah Montana became a household name, and so did Miley Cyrus. Miley was who every little girl aimed to be, and who every boy wanted to date.

At such a young age, Miley Cyrus was exposed to Holly wood and all of the pressures and critique that goes alongside it. Despite all of the negative influences, Miley maintained her squeaky clean image for the most-part of her Hannah Montana career. She appeared to be completely happy and a great role model for little girls and teenagers alike. Then in October of 2012, she released her Party in the USA music video, which showed the world a different side of Miley Cyrus. She sported daisy duke shorts and provocative dance moves, shocking millions of die-hard fans. At her later concerts she would dance on a stripper pole, and again, wear inappropriate attire, which was the start of her transformation from America’s sweetheart to a rebel. Miley later completely altered her image with the release of her most recent CD, Bangerz, and transformed into a rebellious, scandalous, and disrespectful artist displaying inappropriate messages and profanity in her dress, music, and overall attitude.

Many die-hard fans of the young singer and actress were devastated when their once pure and innocent Miley turned into a wild and crazy performer, cutting her long brown locks into a platinum blonde edgy pixie cut, sporting revealing clothing, and singing about topics completely different from the lyrics of Hannah Montana and her earlier CD’s. Parents were outraged, seeing who their daughters used to admire and look up to completely change. Many fans stuck with Miley throughout the transition, and helped make her new album successful. She has continued to be a household name, and flooded with media, making a statement.

Although Miley seems to have gone crazy, she claims, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life.” and “The most important thing is being a really good person, and that doesn’t depend on what you do on stage, that depends on how you treat people when you’re off stage, and I know how I treat people.” [2] Miley states that she is the happiest she has ever been, despite her new controversial image. She has stated many times that this new image has been and will always be her true self, and that she needed to be true to who she is. Miley stated, “I guess I kind of realized that my whole life isn’t one giant press junket. I don’t have to be smiling all the time and always have the perfect answer. ”[2]The real question is: if she is being true to herself, and claims she’s acting morally and using her talents, is she working towards her individual greater good?

Hollywood is a very difficult place to be truly happy due to all of the exploitation, obsession over self-image, addiction, lying, cheating, etc. People that are born and raised in that environment often have a hard time of finding their true selves because they are constantly trying to please others. It is also difficult because, in Hollywood, there are so many people whose jobs are solely focused on trying to ruin other people’s reputations. If a celebrity gains five pounds, it makes the front page of a magazine, but normal people do not have to deal with that humiliation. It is also difficult to maintain a virtuous lifestyle with all of the temptations being so easy to obtain. Many stars turn to drugs and alcohol in order to escape the stresses of the spotlight. In many extreme cases, celebrities will even take their own lives to escape the pressures.

In the Hollywood industries, image, physical beauty, and wealth all play a huge part. A celebrity’s overall image as portrayed to the masses is just as important as their acting and singing talents. They have publicists and managers, and are instructed on how to answer questions during interviews, how to treat their fans, and overall how to act in order to become popular with the crowds. When the celebrities are acting a certain way simply in order to become more successful, are they really being themselves? They are putting on a façade of what the people want them to be, but very few put forward the true versions of themselves. Although they can buy anything they want, and have all of the resources available to them, many of them remain unsatisfied. So, if Miley Cyrus is putting forth her true self, despite what the people want, and remaining a good person despite wealth, fame, and image, is she truly happy in the Aristotle sense?

According to John Stuart Mill in Utilitarianism, utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. He also says that happiness is pleasure and the absence of pain. [3] If people still enjoy Miley’s music, if she is promoting happiness within herself because she is being true to herself, and she is producing pleasure, she is in accordance with the Utilitarian approach on happiness. Some would argue otherwise, because she’s caused feelings that are the opposite of pleasure for other former fans with her new music. On a greater scale, Miley is simply trying to promote happiness and be herself, having genuine fun on the stage and with creating her new image. Although she has made controversial choices in the process, and offended many, her ultimate goal is happiness, which is in accordance with both Aristotle and John Stuart Mill.

Although there may not be a definite answer on whether or not Miley Cyrus and those in the Hollywood industries are truly happy or not, many of them seem to use their talents towards their individual end goal of happiness. Although many stray away from the true versions of themselves due to being “trained” on how to act and perform, Miley Cyrus has reinvented herself to an image that appears to make her happy, which, although some might disagree with, is in accordance with the true definition of happiness.

Foot Notes:

[1] Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[2] Rouse, Wade. “Miley Cyrus: ‘I’m the Happiest I’ve Ever Been in My Whole Life'” People Magazine, October 7, 2013.

[3] Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. Raleigh, N.C.: Alex Catalogue, 199.

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