Monday, April 28, 2008

Miley Cyrus "Topless" Photos: Media Manipulation and Puritanical Frenzy

Puh-leeeze! I know I will get backlash for my opinion but have you seen the Vanity Fair photo that the media has labelled "topless"? Get real! I've seen more skin on 5 year olds at the neighborhood swimming pool! The media has sold us a bill of goods and now all of us lemmings are up in arms.

Have we learned nothing? Go back as far as fairy tales like Snow White and Rapunzel (and countless others) where teenage girls are shut away or "killed" because of their burgeoning sexuality. Read "Raising Ophelia" or "Queen Bees" to see modern day examples of parents in fear of their daughter's sexual maturation. It is a difficult time to be sure, but there is nothing any parent can do to stop it short of parenting them the best that we can.

Lin Burress who writes a great blog entitled, Tellin' It Like It Is, believes these photographs taken by Annie Liebowitz are offensive and illustrate the decline of parental moral values. A rash of vitriol broke out amongst her commenters arguing over whether or not our children are going to hell in an overstuffed Bratz-filled hand basket.

In Lin's defense, I do agree we have a huge problem with the premature sexualization of our children as she reports so well in this post; but I do not believe the VF photos are a symptom, a cause, or in any way relevant to that argument.

I don't think it was the best image choice for today's teenage "IT" girl but I think it was purely that - a matter of choice. Miley Cyrus is, at this point, one of the only if not THE only teen idols not yet besmirched by drugs, alcohol, late-night partying, sex, and teen pregnancy. Do we really think this merits the same lambasting as Paris, Lindsay, and Britney? At this rate, we'll never find a true teenage idol- idol should not mean idealized. No true teenager could stand up to that standard - we do not live in the age of Sandra Dee and Gidget.

Give the girl a break. Do you think it's easy living your young life in the spotlight? It's destroyed many before her. So she's got boyfriends, many girls her age do, they just don't have cameras and reporters following their every move. Can you imagine? Have you been to a high school campus lately? And if you think that supports the argument against Miley's photos just think back to your own high school days of make-out sessions, midriffs, short shorts and god knows what else you were doing that you didn't want your parents knowing about. A bare back is not the reason so many of our kids are screwed up.

Miley's got talent and moxie (yes, I said moxie) which sets her apart and is the reason for her success. She lives in a fast world where sex, drugs and money are the norm. She is rushed each day by corporations and individuals wanting something from her be it an autograph or a bite-sized piece of the Hannah Montana pie. Disney does an amazing job in this fast-paced, global culture of appealing to our hip kids while helping us keep our children children for as long as possible. I think we need to give them and the Cyrus family a bit more credit.

Maintaining innocence is not an easy job these days, apart from this bit of poor judgment, they're doing it better than anyone. As a parent who has reluctantly watched almost every episode of Hannah Montana, not to mention the Suite Life of Zack and Cody and others, I am thrilled that my children prefer Disney Channel to Nickelodean where shows like Drake and Josh endlessly portray kids in search of make out time and in one episode actually used the word scumbag twice. (That brought the show to a close in my house.) Where were the critics for Full House or other "sweet, family" shows from the '80s? This iconic show of a loving family teaching loving, family life lessons has in it more kissing and sexual innuendo than any episode of Hannah Montana I've seen to date.

I don't love that my kid's idol has been seen flashing her bare back and tummy but who is the audience for Vanity Fair (she's NOT on the cover!) and YouTube? If you let your kids read or watch either of these they can find something way more offensive than this. Sure, now I'll have to have a conversation with my kids about these photos because they're "out there" but I had a much harder time talking to them about Jamie Lynn's pregnancy and Britney's maternal wake of destruction.

Mistake? Poor choice of Miley's? Yes. Debacle. End of childhood as we know it? Definitely Not.

The First Amendment is here to stay people. We must deal with these issues in the home. It's our responsibility as parents to supervise what they have access to and to explain the world as it is to our children not shelter them from it. It's a universal culture out there, countries and cultures that existed for us in textbooks and pictures are real and accessible to our children through the internet. Teach your children how to handle all the information that's thrust at them, embrace the technological revolution and all the messy stuff that comes with it.

You have no choice - your kids are going there with or without you.


Dawn said...

I feel sorry for Ms. Cyrus that she has to deal with this nonsense.

The photograph is gorgeous and she has no reason to feel ashamed.

This is ridiculous. We're not prematurely sexualizing our teens; what we've been doing is trying to hide or somehow stop biology by pretending our teens aren't sexual beings.

We let them become "mature" before they're ready, but then when they should be becoming mature we try to keep them kids.

I agree that this whole issue has been blown out of proportion and it's ridiculous.

Jan said...

You're not the only parent of pre-teens blogging about this today - there are plenty of mothers out there who are absolutely up in arms over this. Many are saying they will never let their children watch the show again.

All I can say is I'm glad my kids are all too old to give a damn.

merlotmom said...

Jan- could you tell me who's been writing? my usual suspects have not so i'd love to read other opinions - though i believe not letting your kids watch her show is extreme.

slouching mom said...

Yes. I agree 100% with you. Such a wise post. Especially this:

At this rate, we'll never find a true teenage idol -- idol should not mean idealized.

Anonymous said...

she wears a bikini on her tv show that shows far more than what the vanity photo shows. Why is a back and shoulder causing a rise when shes half naked on her show? seems to me that this is all for publicity and disney and cyrus are both cashing in. this will only make her more popular

merlotmom said...

anonymous: thanks for commenting but i don't think miley cyrus needs anymore publicity, particularly negative. i disagree that this was a ploy on the part of disney or the cyrus family.

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