Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I remember doing a "Christopher Closeup" TV shoot in Los Angeles about 5 or 6 years ago when one of our crew members talked about working a show (a rehearsal actually) at which Britney Spears was performing some very sexual song and dance. He then recalled seeing her offstage and was stunned at how different she seemed. Britney came across as sweet, polite, charming and even a little innocent. Regarding the sexual nature of her act, the crew member said Britney was just doing what her handlers and the people around her told her to do. Our crew member concluded that she was being manipulated.

That story came to mind in light of the current controversy about Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana), the idol of millions of tween girls, who did a Vanity Fair photo shoot that seems inappropriate for a 15-year-old. I have no special knowledge of this situation outside of the fact that I met Miley's Dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, a few years ago when he was on "Christopher Closeup" and he struck me as a humble, friendly and gracious man who sincerely cared about his family. That being said, let's indulge in a little speculation.

If there's any real fault here, I'm inclined to lay it at the feet of the Vanity Fair people. Supposedly Miley's parents had left the shoot by the time the controversial picture was taken and photographer Annie Leibowitz talked Miley into doing what she considered a tasteful portrait. Was Miley aware that this photo was of a slightly more adult nature? Probably. But what 15-year-old doesn't want to be seen as more adult? Was she aware that it was somewhat sexually suggestive to pose like that? Probably. But considering how over-sexualized our culture has become for teenage girls (suggestion: read "Girls Gone Mild" by Wendy Shalit), it isn't likely that Miley is completely immune from that influence and may have given into it a little bit.

Never having been a teenage girl myself, I can't speak definitively for Miley's thought process. But I was a young boy at one time who wanted to be like Fonzie so I'm aware of pop culture's effect on kids and teens. (And yes, I had a leather jacket. I was a total nerd but I had a leather jacket.)

Miley Cyrus may be a mega-star but she's also only 15-years-old. That's not an age when your judgment is all it should be. Therefore it's the responsibility of the adults in whose care Miley was at the time to watch out for her. Her parents may have been naive in leaving her unattended before the shoot was finished, but the magazine folks likely knew exactly what they were doing.

Then again, considering how oversexualized our culture has become for young girls, the magazine folks may not have even been deliberately trying to exploit Miley; they were just doing what they see everybody else doing without giving it a second thought. However, exploiting young girls has become the norm so somebody has to say "Enough."

Hopefully, Miley's parents will be more aware of what's going on and realize that, even though their daughter is a huge star, she's still a young woman who needs adult guidance to steer her in the right direction. Otherwise, the sweet, polite teen may follow in the footsteps of the other young star I mentioned at the top of this post. I don't think anybody wants that to happen.


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