The sexy costumes, the recent song “Can’t Be Tamed,” pole dancing at an awards show, drinking in Spain, a viral video of her smoking, what she said was salvia, from a bong; at fist glance it appears Miley Cyrus is going the way of other pop icons, Britney Spears, Linsday Lohan, Cristina Aguilera. Some pointing out Miley too shaved her head. Of course like other young Hollywood stars, she is no stranger to controversy; early in her Hannah Montana days critics called her role model, good girl image tainted due to photos that surfaced of her in a sleeveless tank top and sports bra. Her image was further tarnished by photos from the same batch of her and a boy, similar in age, laughing goofing off, her sticking her tongue out for the camera. Next came the shock of her Vanity Fair photo shoot, a then 15 year old Miley bare backed shrouded in just a sheet; parents screaming she was no longer a roll model for their daughters, others wondering where were her parents, still others coming out in support of the glamour shot for what it was. However then came her latest album, the video for “Can’t Be Tamed” showing the sweet Hannah Montana star in heavy makeup, suggestive clothing, doing even more provocative dance moves. After that it was a barrage of seemingly bad decisions on the part of the star pole dancing at the Teen Choice Awards viewed hardly appropriate for her age or the audience. Lyrics found in her album coupled with the new look of 16-year-old Miley an obvious case of too much too soon. Now 18, Cyrus has crossed over from troubled to a casualty of the child star business in many minds citing her drinking and hitting a bong.
Yet on closer inspection one can at least support the argument Miley Cyrus is not only not the next Britney Spears, but not going wild at all, just growing up. First and foremost early problems with the star were non-issues blown out of proportion by tabloid press, hyper vigilant star watchers, parent advocates and child experts known for doling out advice on morning shows; the sports bra photos were not racy, sexualized, inappropriate. In fact millions of women and girls jog in such attire daily; not to mention she would have shown more skin in a one-piece bathing suite visiting any public beach. Also clear is her and the boy in the photo are friends, acting like children, goofing off, playing being in no way sexual, no kissing, no signs the two were dating. They were likewise family photo caliber shots, probably done by Miley herself, friends or family; meant for, at most, an innocent Facebook posting about her tan, personal shots of self showing Miley just being a regular kid, not something intended for all the world, something that shouldn’t have garnered such reaction. Second Miley’s family and positive adults have always been present in her career and her life, unlike the Lohan’s who appear to use their children as income, spend so much time fighting amongst themselves they don’t pay attention to their kids, project the idea they care more about their own fame than the happiness and well being of at least Lindsay. Miley has never been separated from her family for long periods of time, as was Britney Spears in California while her family was at home in the south, during the collapse of her marriage, battle for her kids, and an absolute paparazzi blitz, family being told they could not see her by her, turned out to be predatory, manager.
Miley’s father was present on the set of the Vanity Fair shoot, saw every shot but that one, done at the last minute, as a glamour shot, not to be confused with a spread in Playboy. You see her back nothing more; she is wearing makeup but again does not look sexualized; ironically children participating in beauty pageants wear more makeup and are intentionally dressed to look older resulting in them looking sexualized, whether they are meant to or not. From a parental standpoint Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana was never for your 5 year old and what 5 year old is looking at Vanity Fair? Concerning the tween population, the show’s target audience, parents and adults raising such a stink over an unrelated photo spread in a magazine targeting people over 25, guaranteed it was going to be Googled, sought after and seen by the very group, those opposed to it, thought shouldn’t see it. In contrast High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens took completely nude photos to be used for some private purpose that were then leaked to the press. Irregardless of the reason, the fact remains Ms. Hudgens voluntarily took the pictures creating the issue as opposed to Miley Cyrus participating in a clearly non-sexual photo shoot for a mainstream magazine, neither a teen periodical nor one distributing porn. In fact the glamour shot shows how you can do tasteful photos without looking like you belong in an X rated rag, showcase that part of yourself minus sex tapes, ala Paris Hilton, or sexting to a boyfriend or large portions of your high school to gain attention, popularity.
Addressing more recent trouble signs surrounding the star; media and public alike should remember when her latest album, “Can’t Be Tamed,” and her racier, drastically more adult image began she was not only 16, 17, now 18, but Hannah Montana is currently in its final season, indicating she is trying to transition from child star to adult musician/actor. A similar case, Daniel Radcliff, of Harry Potter fame, distancing himself from being type cast by the boy wizard, raised eyebrows staring in the Broadway play Equis, a part requiring full frontal nudity. While he received some backlash for the role, its content and his age at the time, most took it for what it was, an actor moving up, honing his skill, refusing to be defined by a famed role, highlighting an obvious double standard present in both Hollywood and the public mindset. Another popular male star whose latter roles could have caused controversy but didn’t, Rupert Grint, also of Harry Potter fame, stared in the movie Cherry Bomb which included at least one intimate scene of him shirtless with a girl, but when that picture floated around the world popping up on Potter fan sites it was to alert about his next project not a referendum on behavior. So why is it every time a female star goes for more mature work she is viewed as too provocative, almost a slut; why is looking as old as you are, even when it’s older than people think you are, a bad thing? Incidentally her new album, song and dancing style did not go over well with the young tween and teen crowd; they just didn’t like it; could that be because it wasn’t for them but an older teen early 20’s audience? Young buying power making their own choices while adults seemingly worried over nothing.
Answering fears about drinking, drugs, potential addiction and a cry for help experts citing her parent’s divorce, industry pressure, again it comes down to remembering she was “caught,” photographed with a drink in her hand during a visit to another country; nowhere was she seen intoxicated, disoriented, showing signs of being falling down drunk, passed out or in any other way out of control. It will no doubt shock most Americans that the legal drinking age in Spain, where the photo was taken, is 18. Glossed over and ignored by the media are two other distinct pieces of information regarding what her father referred to, in a recent interview, as “drinking gate:” one- she was not trying to hide the single drink held in her hand and two- she was equally not flaunting her drinking. She wasn’t wild, obnoxious, destroying property, displaying excessive emotion, as is common with some individuals when drunk. The shot shows her with a group of people, drink in hand, that’s it, perfectly legal in the country in which it was done. Related to that, the bong incident took place in Ms. Cyrus’ home; video predictably shot by a friend via cellphone, posted to the web presumably to make them look cool. Assuming Cyrus is telling the truth and it was salvia in the bong, there is no evidence proving she lied; despite its reputation for making people paranoid, delusional, violent, mentally compromised, salvia is legal in California where she lives. Never once have people seen Miley looking, acting drunk or stoned, she appeared to have no reaction to the contents of the bong, whatever it was, contrasted to both Lindsay Lohan who has repeatedly been photographed passed out in the passenger seat of a car, photographed and videoed looking either exhausted or stoned, seen in clubs staggering around dazed needing to be carried out by her body guards and personnel, and Britney Spears infamous for going places without underwear, displaying her lack there of, talking in foreign accents, seen out at clubs often partying well into the early morning after putting her young children to bed. Interestingly enough, Spears got better almost instantly after being removed from the paparazzi front line, allowed to walk down a street without cameras in her face, and once a restraining order was filed to keep her manger, accused of dosing her food, away from her. Miley Cyrus proving a stark counter point to celebrities behaving badly, having never been arrested for drunk driving, drugs, public intoxication, disturbing the peace, having yet to fall into any of these traps and showing no signs of heading for them. She has her own home, a career and spends less and less time in the spotlight.
Instead of practically pining for sweet little Hannah Montana, what we should be asking ourselves is why we are paying credence to a media culture who appears to be actively looking to destroy positive images of girls, looking for anything they have done to tarnish their perceived reputations? Returning to Ms. Hudgens, it doesn’t matter why she took the pictures; it only matters that she was 18, legally capable of taking whatever personal pictures she wised, they were private and made public by a salacious press. Parents and adults everywhere need to come to the realization stars, especially young ones, get into the entertainment business to fulfill their dreams not to be role models. Further expecting 10, 12, 13, 15, 18 year olds, still finding who they are, susceptible to teen angst and rebellion to be role models is ridiculous. What we likely see are typical growing pains, teen experimentation played out in the public eye, something to be watched by those close to her, discussed with parents and their teens and tweens if they don’t want their children engaging in identical activities, going down the same path. We need to stop holding to the expectation people, celebrities in particular, be perfect, be personifications of morality. Truth be told, Hollywood’s elite making mistakes proves they are human, not above or immune to the law and that it’s not the end of world, you can come back from your most embarrassing moments. Miley Cyrus is a perfect example to present to adolescents on overreaction, media distortion of reality.
People sounding off on the subject of role models need to stop automatically assuming children will do what a celebrity does because they do it, that a young adults can’t take positive aspects from Miley Cyrus’ former image or that of any star they chose to imitate. Anyone who deals with kids, teens or tweens knows well how fast their tastes change; today they like this tomorrow they like something else. The best thing mentors and others can do is find out what are actually getting from the TV they watch, celebrities they see, because it might not be what you think; there is a reason groups popped up all over the internet supporting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, stating they didn’t care if he smoked pot, because it was independent of his athletic ability, and not the sum of him as a human being. There is a reason Vanessa Hudgens still has a career, because publicity savvy young people, along with some older ones as well, very astutely grasp the stranglehold media has today and believes there are things that are none of the public’s business. Miley Cyrus is no different doing legal things in places it’s legal to do them growing into an adult; sadly everyone has to make that into something it’s not.