Small details we noticed in Miley Cyrus' Mother's Daughter video

Miley Cyrus rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way with her antics at Glastonbury 2019, but that was nothing compared to the NSFW music video she was about to drop. A few days after what Independent called her "brilliantly scuzzy set" at the world famous festival, Cyrus released the video for "Mother's Daughter," and it caused quite the stir. If you've seen it, you understand why. The song is meant to be a "feminist anthem" according to the former Disney star, and she needed a director who could make the desired impact with the accompanying video. The final product was a collaboration between Cyrus and Alexandre Moors, who opened up about their creative process in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

"The video is about the woman's body — the right to own your own body and make it free from the male gaze, in any way shape and form," Moors, who has directed music videos for Jennifer Lopez and Kendrick Lamar, explained. "It's a broad message, and we're not trying to be dogmatic. But we're living in difficult times in America, and what I get from this video is that it injects a lot of energy and determination and the right fuel for the struggle."

There was a mixed reaction to the "Mother's Daughter" video on social media, where some users criticized Cyrus for sending mixed signals. It's certainly a sexually charged video, but its core message can be found in the finer details. Here's everything we noticed.

Yes, this video is trying to tell you something

A number of provocative phrases pop up on screen throughout the "Mother's Daughter" video. Blink and you'll miss them, but if you watch carefully you'll notice that a theme begins to emerge pretty quickly. Flashcards that say things like "virginity is a social construct" and "not an object" send a clear message — a woman's body is her own. These slogans pay homage to activist groups like Guerrilla Girls and Femen, who have used similar ideology to push their agendas and make their voices heard. When he spoke to the Los Angeles Times, director Alexandre Moors said that he'd been inspired by the women of years gone by who "put their physical body in harm's way to achieve the goal" of gender equality.

"We wanted to make a tribute to the previous women who fought this battle, because you can imagine how hard it was for the women of the '90s and '80s, when it wasn't even a subject people were bringing up," Moors said. "These women put their bodies on the front lines to fight for what is right, and I have a deep respect and fascination for them." Moors and Miley Cyrus clearly wanted their message to reach international audiences, too — one of the slogans that flashes up on screen is in French. It means "the flesh heroism," Moors confirmed.

Miley Cyrus is ready to break down taboos

"Mother's Daughter" pulls no punches with its in-your-face feminist slogans, but some sections of the video do employ a little more subtlety. Miley Cyrus and director Alexandre Moors try to shatter the silence that still surrounds everyday issues women face using simple, but effective imagery. Moors told the Los Angeles Times that he went out of his way to include "images of breastfeeding, C-sections, menstruation pads — everything [about the female body] that's supposed to carry some taboo, but we should be beyond that."

Cyrus once told Marie Claire that her first ever period was "embarrassing" (it happened on the set of Hannah Montana), but her video for "Mother's Daughter" reinforces the idea that menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of, and the same goes for breastfeeding. "What's so special about this moment is that Miley has shined light on people you never knew existed until now," activist and social media star Melanie Sierra, who breastfeeds her baby Manifest in the edgy music video, said in an emotional Instagram post. "This opportunity will help us help others. WE DESERVE THIS. I represent single mothers, I represent Puerto Ricans, I represent the emotionally disturbed, I represent the underdog, the outcast, the people who are unsure of their place or purpose in this life. This moment is OURS!"

Mother's Daughter challenges gender stereotypes

There's no shortage of suggestive imagery in Miley Cyrus' "Mother's Daughter" video, something that haters have been quick to point out. "Miley u r the worst inspiration to those children's [sic] out there," one angry Instagram user fumed after seeing the video (via Fox News). Would any of this even be under discussion had a man made the exact same video? That's a question that director Alexandre Moors was keen to discuss during his chat with the Los Angeles Times.

"Even the right to be salacious without being judged, if you want to, is encompassed in [a woman's] struggle," Moors said. "If a man were in a video grabbing his crotch, nobody would make a second mention of it because it's expected, and a woman is supposed to be shamed for expressing her sexuality. That's just another component of the political messages that are in the video."

This message is one that Vendela Lindblom (above right) was able to get on board with. The Swedish-Brazilian model appears alongside Cyrus in the "Mother's Daughter" video, which she was incredibly grateful to be part of. "I'm not afraid to be who I am and not who society says I should be as a woman," Lindblom wrote in a passionate Instagram post, adding, "Empower yourself. Even better, let's empower each other. Thank you Miley for letting me be a part of this amazing project."

What's the deal Miley Cyrus' outfit?

Mitchell Lichtenstein's Teeth split opinion when it hit cineplexes in 2007, lauded by the majority of critics while failing to hit the mark with regular movie-goers. This divisive horror-comedy follows a religious teen named Dawn (Jess Weixler), who discovers that her body has developed a viciously effective defence system against anyone that would dare violate it. "What's most important for Dawn is she discovers her vagina is not a curse but a source of power," Birth Movies Death said when it revisited Teeth on the films tenth anniversary. "And in the Age of Trump, that's more important than ever."

That's the kind of message that Miley Cyrus was likely hoping to convey with her controversial "Mother's Daughter" outfit. The singer's red catsuit is reminiscent of the one Britney Spears wore in her iconic "Oops… I Did It Again" video, but this one definitely has more bite — Cyrus' version comes with a silver vagina dentata. It's quite the shocking sight, but this isn't for shock value alone. Folktales of vagina dentata (Latin for toothed vagina) exist all over the world, born out of men's "inherited cultural belief of sexual entitlement," Vice explains. "Respective wars on women around the world are deeply rooted in the persistent myth of the toothed vagina and what it represents."

Mother's Daughter promotes body positivity

Not every issue explored in Miley Cyrus' "Mother's Daughter" video relates exclusively to females, though according to Obesity Action, women tend to experience higher levels of "weight stigmatization." The scourge of fat shaming has been summed up beautifully by plus size female performer, Angelina Duplisea. The model posed nude for "Mother's Daughter" director Alexandre Moors, who captured Duplisea sprawled across a chaise longue à la Rose DeWitt-Bukater. The slow-zooming shot oozes confidence and is clearly designed to encourage body positivity, but Duplisea makes no secret of the fact that she struggles with her self-esteem from time to time. 

"Fat acceptance is based on the notion that all fat people, regardless of health, deserve respect," she said of her involvement in the video (via Instagram). "And it's a battle that is fought every day by thousands, including myself." This battle is harder than ever to overcome in the age of social media, where a toxic attitude towards bigger bodies has been brewing for years. "People just love to leave awful comments on fat folks photos in order to feel superior and I promise you, not one of these commenters actually cares about the health, family, environment or whatever bulls*** reason they give for their vile behavior towards a fat person," Duplisea added.

The 'real star' of Miley Cyrus' Mother's Daughter

Kris Jenner is usually thought of as the most formidable momager in show business, but Leticia "Tish" Cyrus has actually been in the game longer. Miley Cyrus' mom reportedly got "the tiniest bit testy" when Refinery 29 brought up Jenner's name during a 2017 interview, reminding everyone that she paved a path for the Kardashian matriarch. "The reason I know Kris is because she would always call to get tickets for Kendall and Kylie to come see Miley perform," Tish said, though she made it clear that there's no hard feelings between them. "She's a great friend. I adore her and all the girls." 

Tish has produced a number of movies, TV shows, and tour documentaries involving Miley, and while she has traditionally stayed out of the spotlight, in recent years she's been stepping out on her own. Judging from her appearance in the "Mother's Daughter" music video, she's doing better than ever. Miley's mom is pure glam in a blue dress, black over-the-knee boots and an adornment of sparkly Chanel accessories. "It's hard not to notice the real star of the video," said Entertainment Tonightand Miley couldn't agree more. "Momager, producer, interior designer, fashion icon, defies time and age, most badass mom of all f***ing time," the singer and actress said in an Instagram post.

LGBTQ advocacy is a big theme of Mother's Daughter

Miley Cyrus has described "Mother's Daughter" as a "badass, feminist anthem," but what's clear from the song's video is that the singer is also flying the flag for the LGBTQ community. The Golden Globe nominee is married to actor Liam Hemsworth, but she described herself as "a queer person … in a hetero relationship" when she spoke to Vanity Fair shortly after the couple tied the knot in 2019. Pride magazine praised Cyrus for giving cameos to several "LGBTQ innovators," like pro-skater, Lacey Baker. "Taking a stand for the women and queer community in skateboarding has brought me to life in a powerful way," Baker said of her involvement. "It's crucial to create space for marginalized communities every single day, and the platform I have through skateboarding is a perfect vehicle for this."

Trailblazing transgender model Casil McArthur (above) also makes an appearance, and he gave an unapologetic statement via Cyrus' Instagram. "My existence shouldn't be upsetting to people, but if it is, good," McArthur said. "People like me and my community aren't going anywhere." Aaron Philip is another trans model making waves right now, and she was more than happy with how her part in the "Mother's Daughter" video turned out. "Thank you Miley," Philip tweeted. "I love you so much. What a phenomenal video. Not enough words to encapsulate how deeply honored I am."

Miley Cyrus: Warrior Princess

Towards the end of the "Mother's Daughter" video, Miley Cyrus loses the red catsuit in favor of a gold suit of armor — or, more accurately, a few bits and pieces of gold armor. She wouldn't be very well protected riding into battle like that, but the singer looks undeniably badass straddling a (fake) horse and brandishing a longsword (also fake, presumably). This wasn't just an aesthetic choice from director Alexandre Moors. Cyrus is reminiscent of Lucy Lawless as Xena the Warrior Princess in the shot, and that's not an accident. Xena: Warrior Princess is a show that was "forged in the heat of nineties feminism," as The Mary Sue puts it, and according to Medium, it's "still the most feminist show on television."

Much of Xena's success was down to the huge lesbian following that it quickly amassed. Viewers sensed that the titular warrior princess and her female companion (Renee O'Connor's Gabrielle) were more than just gal pals, and when the show's writers caught wind of this, they embraced it. The tides were changing at the time (Ellen DeGeneres had just come out), but while the show was full of hints, neither character was confirmed as gay or bisexual. That didn't stop Xena from becoming a lesbian icon, however, which is presumably why Cyrus is channelling the character as she attempts to start a new movement for marginalized women.

Miley Cyrus' friend Amazon Ashley is back

Ever wondered who taught Miley Cyrus how to twerk? 6'7” burlesque star Amazon Ashley was working at Beacher's Madhouse when she struck up a friendship with Cyrus, who is a regular at the infamous LA variety show according to master of ceremonies, Donny Davis. "Miley Cyrus is a big fan of the Madhouse," Davis said. "She actually hired — or stole — some of our performers for her tour, including Amazon Ashley." The pair worked together for Cyrus' "Malibu" music video, so it was no surprise to see Ashley back for "Mother's Daughter" — she appears in a green and gold get-up, accessorized with a wrestling championship belt.

Later, Ashley posted a still from the video to her Instagram, with the Stars and Stripes (along with the flag of the UK) clearly visible on the belt. This could easily be unintentional, but when she gave a statement on her involvement in the "Mother's Daughter" video, Ashley did throw some shade at President Trump. "Sometimes I feel so helpless and discouraged because there is so much injustice, discrimination and hatred in the world we live in, and now in particular under our current administration this dilemma is magnified tenfold!" Ashley wrote. "However I still believe there is hope! We're living in dark times but 'this too shall pass!!' I pray that goodness will win and darkness won't prevail!!"

Miley Cyrus' Mother's Daughter frees the nipple

The Free the Nipple campaign gained prominence in 2014 when Netflix aired a film of the same name, but the movement was already a few years old by that point. Miley Cyrus supported the idea before it went global (she tweeted about freeing the nipple back in 2013), so when the idea started to take hold, she jumped all over it. The celebrity scion posted a self-censored shot of herself flashing on Twitter, thanking New York for "being one of the few states to free the nipple." But the battle is still being fought across America — In 2019, judges in New Hampshire upheld the conviction of three Free the Nipple campaigners arrested for going topless on a public beach, The Guardian reports. 

Free the Nipple isn't directly referenced during the "Mother's Daughter" video, but the message is loud and clear. Dancer and actress Paige Fralix (above) poses topless (she's the one with the words "I am free" daubed across her chest) with only her nipples covered up. Fralix wrote (via Cyrus' Instagram) that she is one of many millennial women "fighting against an internal force that places passivity over activity and social conditioning over individuality." Activist Trydryn Scott also had her nipples crudely covered for a cameo appearance, which she hopes will help bring about social change. "Women like me, young and old, give me the hope to continue the fight for our freedom as dark skin women in the world," Scott wrote.

The birth of a superhero

Child activist Mari Copeny was already known locally as Little Miss Flint when she suddenly came to national attention. Aged just 8, she wrote role model and then-president Barack Obama, urging him to do something about the Flint water crisis. According to CNN, "cost-cutting measures" left the Michigan city with drinking water tainted by "toxins," and this child wasn't going to take that lying down. "Imagine waking up and finding out the water that you have been drinking is poison, imagine the water giving you rashes and making you and your family sick," Copeny said in 2019. "This has been my reality for the past five years and it's why I fight so hard for my community and especially the kids."

Little Miss Flint now helps people all across the world, having turned her talent for activism to global issues. According to Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, Copeny is the "youngest Women's March Youth Ambassador, National Youth Ambassador for the Climate March, and Youth Ambassador for Equality for Her." The little girl from Flint is a genuine hero in the eyes of many, Miley Cyrus included — Copeny appears in a cape and mask in the "Mother's Daughter" video. "Being able to keep the focus on Flint and Flint kids is always my goal," the inspirational youngster told her local NBC-affiliate news station. "Miley gave me her platform to be able to remind the world that I am here, and I am a real life super hero."