Man. Just shoot me now, because not only am I about to blog about Miley Cyrus, I’m about to defend her.
Yup, that’s right. I, as a parent of a girl about to be a teenager, am willing to go on record and defend the already infamous photo shoot which has been characterized as the result of villainous Vanity Fair exploiting a minor to sell magazines.
What in the world can I be thinking?
Well, for starters, her parents and other advisors were on the set with her. There’s another picture from the same shoot that’s also drawing a lot of ire — one person I read described it as a “disturbingly erotic photo…like one of those old Calvin Klein ads, except with incest” — showing Miley reclining on the lap of her father, Billy Ray. I’ve seen the picture; I think it’s disturbing, but not because it’s somehow evoking incestuous thoughts. No, I just don’t like Vanity Fair’s visual style; they have this uncanny way of taking normal people and making them look alien. They reduce people to cold, otherwordly icons, rather than capture whatever it is about them that makes them human. All the kerfuffle about this picture is, in my mind, predicated on the growing bias and backlash towards males, the same socially acceptable prejudice that allows airlines to reseat male passengers who are sitting next to unaccompanied minors.
He’s her father, y’know? By all accounts, he’s a damned good one. He’s involved with her career; he’s got a good reputation for not just being a co-star on her Disney show, but for being a parent. I’ve never even heard a whiff of accusation against him before now, so why is it all the sudden acceptable to characterize a picture of a father and daughter as “incestuous”?
Oh, that’s right. Because this particular teenage girl is owned by Disney. Shame on Miley for being a growing young woman who is just 3 years away from being a legal adult. Shame on Billy Ray and his wife for actually being strong parents who feel entitled to make decisions on Miley’s behalf even if they don’t always correspond with Disney’s interests. Don’t they know that they should have just ceded control of her career and future over to Disney? Disney would have preserved her in amber to make sure she never displayed even a hint of sexuality (with one or two exceptions noted below) until the day she turned 18. That strategy has worked so well for so many other Disney youth — Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Hayden Panettiere come to mind. They’re all healthy young ladies who have a responsible outlook on what it means to be an adult in an industry that promotes people based on their inner qualities.
And let’s be honest — Disney doesn’t appear want its stars to have any healthy sense of sexuality at all, even when they’re older than 18. Look at the recent kerfuffle with Vanessa Hudgens, who was 19 when she had pictures taken that Disney disapproved of. This smacks of outright hypocrisy on Disney’s part; they’re aiming squarely at the tween and teen crowd, and you can bet that “I want to be just like ______” is a large part of their planned market appeal. Ever taken a close look at the Lolita-ish designs of the Hannah Montana clothing lines? Ever heard a group of tween girls giggling about how some Disney boy is so “hot”? (I have.) Heck, ever watched Miley’s stage show? The choreography is blatantly sexual. This does not match the “clean-cut” appearance that Disney seems to want its actors to portray so they can play the “family friendly” card, but somehow, nobody at Disney publicly protests these displays.
I’m betting that the genesis of Miley’s apology was just after Disney’s PR people saw the Vanity Fair photos and freaked. By all reports, Disney lawyers earn their pay; they write tight contracts. I don’t even pretend to have inside knowledge, but I’m guessing that Miley and parents weren’t “embarrassed” by the photos until Disney informed them that they were displeased and that Things Must Be Fixed. Is Disney really outraged on behalf of Miley, or are they worried about her earning potential somehow being diminished?
Now, having said all that, would I allow my daughter to take those pictures? At 11, not just no — hell, no! At 15, probably not. But then again, I wouldn’t let my daughter get up on stage and dance some of the routines that Miley Cyrus dances, either. Is the Cyrus family wrong to let Miley do it? Tough question, but the answer is ultimately theirs, not mine. I’m not Miley’s parent, I’m Treanna’s parent. My job as a father — and from all reports, Billy Ray seems to have this one figured out pretty well — is to teach my kids how to be healthy, responsible adults. As humans, we learn best from a combination of positive and negative reinforcement; some of our best-remembered lessons come from our failures. As my kids grow older, if I can’t extend them increasing amounts of freedom and larger opportunities to earn and display responsibility, I’m doing something wrong. I can’t protect them from consequences, but I must do my best to teach them about consequences before they learn them the hard way — and then if they make the wrong choices, I have to let them take those consequences and meet them appropriately. I suspect Miley’s learning all sorts of unintended consequences from this photo shoot, one of which is, “Don’t cross Disney.”