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Miley Cyrus Has a Solid Case of the Emperor's New Clothes

10/05/2013 09:49 EDT | Updated 12/05/2013 05:12 EST

It's been quite the few weeks for Miley Cyrus.

From her bizarre performance of "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke, the terrifying teddy bears, a foam finger and her tongue at the Video Music Awards in late August, to her split with fiancé Liam Hemsworth, subsequent meltdown on stage, posing naked on a wrecking ball for a video and semi-naked for photographer Terry Richardson and on-stage in September, many hoped she would follow the advice of scores of PR professionals and millions of average folk around the world and just lay low for a while.

Yet here we are, only a few days into October, and Miley has engaged in a war of words with Sinead O'Connor and Amanda Bynes, and the mentally ill are collateral damage.

In case you missed it, the 46-year-old Irish singer, who made a huge name for herself in the 1980s and early 1990s as much for her behaviour as for her music, reached out to Cyrus for her recent escapades both on-stage and off, cautioning her about the dangers of lurking within the music industry.

Cyrus immediately shot back, using tweets O'Connor -- who speaks openly about her bipolar disorder -- sent out two years ago while in the midst of a mental health crisis; dragging fellow former teen queen Amanda Bynes, currently living in a California treatment centre while she deals with mental health issues of her own, into the fray.

Which led to O'Connor threatening to sue, mental health advocates lambasting Cyrus for her flip attitude toward mental illness, and the child formerly known as Destiny Hope responding with her own "oh snap" message, pointing out she will be the guest host and musical act on SNL this weekend.

In the ensuing furor, there's a pretty unsurprising division of loyalty. Anyone over the age of 35 I've come across sits squarely on O'Connor's side, urging Cyrus's family and handlers to reign in pop's wild child, while the youth who grew up with Hannah Montana have sent O'Connor a loud and clear message that they appreciate her advice to Miley Cyrus about as much as appreciated as the Vatican appreciated O'Connor's appearance on Saturday Night Live those years ago.

"Sinead's the instigator here guys! Sorry but Miley wins this one," wrote Ashley D. on the website fishwrapper.com, one of many sites to deconstruct the war of words between the two artists. But here's the thing: It was Cyrus who brought O'Connor into the equation in the first place, by evoking her image in the "Wrecking Ball" video.

Perhaps O'Connor felt a kind of kinship with Cyrus, and wanted to reach out to a young artist she felt was going down the wrong path, as many are wont to believe. Or maybe she saw the opportunity to get her name back into the papers and seized it, as others have accused. Since I don't have the inside track to O'Connor's thinking, like everyone else, I'm left to speculate on her motives. But I'm inclined to think that O'Connor's experience has, at the very least, made her wary of the industry that chewed her up and spat her out while she was young and fearless, like Miley Cyrus is today.

I'm not shocked that Cyrus is trying to rid herself of Hannah Montana once and for all, and is doing all she can to distance herself from that squeaky clean image. Like her alter-ego, Cyrus grew up in a fishbowl, was the primary breadwinner for her family, and has been "pimped out" (O'Connor's words) in one way or another for years. Just shy of her twenty-first birthday, she's looking to gain control of her life any way she can. I'm certain that most of the choices she's making are not in her own best interest. But here's the thing: I'm not a 20-year-old multimillionaire in Hollywood whose every romance, stupid comment or haircut blows up the Internet. I'm a middle-aged mother in a small Ontario town with the benefit of a quarter century of life experience over someone who has scarcely entered womanhood, no matter how grown up she purports to be. My average income and entirely normal upbringing prevent me from being interesting to anyone other than my family and friends. And that's something for which, I might add, I am profoundly grateful.

And here's another thing: I made mistakes when I was 20. Lots of them. One of the advantages of living a life of relative anonymity is that it allows you the privilege of having only your family and friends to mock you mercilessly throughout your life for your youthful misdeeds.

Miley Cyrus craves the spotlight. Fair enough; she really doesn't know a world without it. She is a stunningly beautiful young woman (I'm one of the few who prefer her with the short hair) with an incredible voice and plenty of charisma who doesn't need to resort to shock tactics to sell records.

But like Britney and Madonna and Cher and all those who went before, she hasn't realized that yet. She thinks to be famous -- or perhaps infamous, given some of the comments made in Rolling Stone about fame, drugs, the fame drug and even Sinead O'Connor -- means being this outrageous caricature of herself when all she needs is the big heart and the big voice to win over the world.

If, of course, that's what she really wants to do. To paraphrase O'Connor's The Emperor's New Clothes, how could Cyrus possibly know what she wants when she's not even 21?

Miley Cyrus does seem entranced by her own global domination. Such is the vanity of youth. She has no interest in hearing what someone whose career peaked before she was born -- and is the same age as her mother -- has to say.