Some of the defining shots include Miley rocking a giant teddy bear backpack, a hand that bleeds pink paint and a skull made of French fries. Luckily, director Diane Martel opened up to MTV News about working on the statement-making visual, revealing the origins of several key scenes.
"The teddy bears my art director [Aramis Israel] found, and I knew they had to go on the twerkers' backs," she said of one scene that appears as though the giant bears are dancing. Martel said she and Israel looked to their favorite blogs for inspiration. "I'm really into kid's culture these days and this is the audience I play to, gotta keep 'em happy!"
Some ideas were more spur of the moment, including a scene where a partygoer rubs white bread all of his face, and that one where someone pretends to amputate their fingers, spewing pink paint everywhere. Martel explained, "The bread and the fingers I made up during a location scout in the kitchen."
While on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" this week, Miley added that the bread actually means something as well. "Got to get the bread! A little bit of money," she explained. "And also that it's kind of weird. A trippy moment. We thought it was symbolic for money."
Perhaps one of the standout symbols is the French fry skull, created by visual artist Christopher Chiappa, who Martel says "rules" for the contribution. While it gets smashed, Miley calls the art piece "a cool-ass skull."
"To make that, we had to try McDonalds and In-N-Out, and In-N-Out works best," Miley said. "It's nothing too deep."
And while many dreamlike moments made the final cut, Martel couldn't squeeze one image in. "I'm really sad that we didn't have time to shoot these floating wigs I have been trying to shoot for a while," she said. "These are in the creative graveyard and will be resurrected sometime soon."
Among the video's many eye-catching scenes, perhaps the most surprising is when Miley and her crew get into a brawl. Martel, who has worked with pop stars like Beyonce and Britney Spears, explained why it's so significant.
"That fight scene is awesome. What female artist lets themselves get their ass kicked in their own video?" she said. "This is what I mean about her, Miley is my hero."
But in the end, Martel noted, "We set out to make something we would love and we did! Youth culture today is pretty hard to shock, isn't it?" she said. "I don't see this video as shocking, it's creative."
Miley mirrored that sentiment while on "Good Morning America" Tuesday (June 26). When asked about the critics who have called the clip racy, Miley replied,"They haven't been to a good party in a minute. I was excited when the song came out but I really wanted the music video to come out because it shows exactly where I was in my life when we started working on 'We Can't Stop.' "