Wednesday, January 2, 2008


A part of me feels guilty for dignifying this story by analyzing it in a blog post, but there is something so unsettling to me about the latest Miley Cyrus "scandal" that I ultimately feel compelled to put in my two cents. Okay, so the story is that sometime around the Christmas holidays, some personal photos of the Disney Channel sensation and another girl were leaked online. The pictures, as one can see, are pretty tame and in all likelihood completely innocent. I'm sure that Miley never intended for the public to see them in the first place and she has defended herself saying that they are no big deal: "They're nothing bad! At first, I was really upset. It really sucks. [The girl in the pictures] was a friend of mine that's a normal girl. [Now] she has to go to school and deal with this crap. It's two girls at a sleepover, and if all of a sudden that's bad, then what is the world coming to?

"What I decided before I came out to LA and started working was the minute I didn't have fun was the minute I go home. I don't want to go home, and I don't want to not do what I do, because I love it, but's Satan attacking."

Pretty much I first found the whole thing totally amusing. It's nice to see that the most scandalous thing about this fifteen-year-old is that she is pretty much just like every other fifteen-year-old. I would be worried if the girl weren't able to let loose and have a little innocent fun. Furthermore, this whole thing has resulted in some pretty hilarious headlines, such as "Miley Cyrus Defends Herself Against Shared-Licorice Lesbian Teen Romp Rumors." I mean, come on, it sounds like something out of fake news or maybe the cover of National Enquirer! And Miley's response itself made me chuckle, with the reference to "Satan attacking" -- spoken like a true evangelical! I know that when I think of what an attack from Satan would look like, Hannah Montana being accused of taking lesbian photos is definitely the first thing that comes to mind. But after I got over the amusement of the thing, there was something about it that was giving me a bad feeling and I couldn't really put my finger on what it was. So I've thought about it a lot, trying to tease out precisely what was making me feel bad about it.

First of all, there's the homophobia inherent in this whole thing. I mean, would people think it's scandalous if there were a picture of Miley giving her alleged boyfriend Nick Jonas a peck on the lips? That would be one hundred times more sexual than these pictures, but I doubt anyone would call it "sexual". So what is so provocative about these two girls? In the past I have analyzed the double standard between same-sex affection and male/female affection. What is so wrong about a little girl/girl affection? Everyone can relax because I'm pretty sure that Miley Cyrus is as straight as they come, and she was just goofing around in this photos. But if she weren't, woul
d we really call these pictures provocative? They are no more erotic than a boy and girl holding hands, or as I said, a peck on the lips. Inappropriate behavior for a fifteen-year-old? Only if the gay thing makes you nervous. And this whole episode is showing me that, clearly, it makes a lot of people nervous! I guess no one wants their kid looking up to a lesbian pop star. But, actually, that's not really the biggest issue for me ...

This isn't the first time that Miley has had to deal with undeserved scandal. Just a couple of months ago, thanks to someone's photoshopping skills, she had to spend some time quelling pregnancy rumors. And reading comments following articles about the teen pop star, one gets the feeling that people actually want her to fail. Following a post on Perez Hilton where the celebrity gossip blogger praises one of Miley's songs, comments follow such as: "She's a skank ass hill billy and needs to get her little white ass out if Hollywood. She is a bad example and I am sure give her a year or so.", " Her father should really watch her with the way she dresses, maybe the next Britney or Lohan" , "Why would I want my children looking up to a spoiled little brat who is probably gonna be the next Lindsay Lohan?"

Yet nothing that Miley has done up to this point has indicated that she is heading in the direction of such former teen stars as Britney or Lindsay. Back in August I wrote about the positive images of young girls on TV today, and Miley was one of those I mentioned. I compared the way she dresses to the dressing style of Britney when she first burst onto the scene at age 15 (the same age that Miley is now). Miley's wardrobe looks like that of Laura Ingalls Wilder compared to the get-up that Britney wore back in the day, yet rather than ripping on Britney I seem to remember quite a few people getting titillated over her sexy schoolgirl gear. Miley has come out and discussed how important she feels it is to keep her clothing on the wholesome side:
"I say what I'm comfortable in and what I like and nothing that's too out there. I like to look kind of like what girls would want to look up to, and their moms and dads will say, 'Hey, that's cool. That's different.' ... I look way young, and that's the way that's more comfortable for me."

Last month I brought my six-year-old sister to the Hannah Montana concert as her Christmas present (yes, I am the best big sister in the world and yes, I am also a masochist), and I have to say that nothing about this girl screams erotic. She projects the image of a young teenager, which is precisely what she is. While I think she's adorab
le on her TV show (which thanks to Emily, I have seen more times than I would like to admit), I actually find Miley to be kind of annoying precisely because she is such a young teenager. She's loud and a little bit crazy (just watch her music video that I posted below) with questionable music talent, she tells interviewers about how she put Ramen noodles in the microwave for 11 minutes and her views on purity reflect the development of a girl who clearly still has much more of the world left to see and a whole lot of her own sexuality left to explore. But those very things that make it difficult for me to watch her on Oprah are the things that make me want her to stick around. She acts precisely the way I think a fifteen year old girl should act! I think that, unlike some other child stars before her, her parents do not seem set on exploiting their child for their own personal gain. According to Miley, she gets grounded when she misbehaves or mouths off and she had her monthly allowance lowered and her credit cards cut up when she bought an expensive Prada bag. And her parents have promised her her own private area of the house if she lives under their roof until she is at least 20. While Miley's mom, Tish, is often at her daughter's side, you won't see her jumping in the spotlight like Dina Lohan or even Lynn Spears. I get the genuine feeling that Miley's parents want her to live her dream, but not at the expense of her integrity.

So I think I am coming to understand why this whole alleged "scandal" bothers me so much. It's like we are witnessing this young girl being sexualized before our eyes. It's like people want this
wholesome, innocent teenager to be way more sexual than she is, so things are blown completely out of proportion. People try to turn innocent photos of two friends into something erotic. A ridiculous pregnancy story spreads like wildfire only because people actually believe that this fourteen-year-old is having sex! Miley goes shopping at Victoria's Secret and the press questions whether it is appropriate. The fact is, of course it isn't inappropriate! She was probably buying underwear or body lotion, not some lacy corset or pearl thong (Heck, I was shopping at Victoria's Secret when I was Miley's age!). But they want to put the story of a young pop princess shopping at a lingerie store out there because some nasty people are going to find something erotic about that. I find it really, really unfortunate. Here I am writing about how refreshing it is to see some positive images of girls that show the world that a young female can be strong and successful and beautiful without being hypersexual. Yet it would appear that the world doesn't know what to do with a pop star that doesn't want to be a sex symbol. That is what disturbs me.

I think that no matter how much she claims to love her job, Miley will only be able to take so much of this before she cracks and moves back to Tennessee. She has stated on several occasions that her parents have told her that as soon as the job stops being fun, the family can move back home. Either that, or she's going to be won over by the subliminal message that she's only interesting if she's promoting some type of sex appeal. Either way, the young girls looking up to her are going to be losing something. So my message is, people, get off of Miley's back! Unlike some people, I actually want my younger sister imitating Hannah Montana and
not the Pussycat Dolls.

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