In fact, the tone most stories have taken towards Lady Gaga’s admission is sympathetic. The People report is representative of how most outlets have chosen to cover the news, closing on a positive note with Gaga’s plans to overcome her “addiction” and a hopeful quote from the Z100 interview: “I do put that pressure on myself; I have to be high to be creative. I need that, that’s an error in my life that happened for over 10 years. Can I be brilliant without it? I know that I can be and I have to be because I want to live, and I want my fans to want to live.”
Of course, there’s a difference between lighting up in front of an international audience and smoking a joint — or 20 — in the privacy of your own home, and clearly Cyrus courted the publicity that followed her EMA performance. If you actually still believe that marijuana is more harmful than the alcohol and cigarettes kids see their idols consuming on a daily basis, you could even argue that her onstage indulgence makes Cyrus a singularly poor role model.
But the fact is that the media was losing its shit over Miley smoking weed in Amsterdam — where, lest we forget, it’s legal — long before she did it in front of MTV’s cameras. Back in September, everyone was all wound up about the idea of her spending seven hours in one of the city’s famous coffee shops. (What, have they never lost a whole night in a bar before?) And earlier this month, the tabloids were chasing the rumor that she smoked a blunt at a Halloween party: “Only Adam Lambert really knows for sure if that lit cigar he passed Miley Cyrus at his Halloween party contained the devil’s weed,” TMZ teased in a post bearing the hilariously overblown title “NEW CLUE IN WEED MYSTERY… Courtesy of Adam Lambert.”
There’s just one reason that the press is simultaneously hyperventilating over Cyrus’ enjoyment of marijuana and sympathizing with Lady Gaga’s self-described addiction to it, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the relative seriousness of each woman’s drug problem. Like just about everything else that falls under the dubious heading of “celebrity journalism,” it all comes down to how each star plays the media game, and the press’ complicity in constructing and maintaining these identities. Lady Gaga is a paragon of control, and when she wants to discuss her drug use, she does it in an interview that allows her to shape a narrative of addiction and redemption. Miley Cyrus is (or, more accurately, has become) a provocateur, pushing buttons to keep her name in the headlines. Don’t believe everything you read about either one of them.