Jeremiah Wright? Who’s he?
If you are referring to Barack Obama’s no-longer-controversial-because he’s now-an-ex-pastor-millstone-around-the-neck-of-his-campaign misanthrope, I will let others say what’s been repeated ad infinitum about the situation. After my PJ Media piece yesterday, I have little to add to the discussion although I was mighty tempted to do a connect the dots post on the notion that the two old friends cooked the whole thing up and staged this little break up for the press. Both are now chortling over how they put one over on whitey and Wright is already writing the invocation for Obama’s inaugural.
So if it Wright you seek, you must go elsewhere. Instead, we have a moral crisis in America with which we must deal – a crisis where money, sex, rock ‘n roll, and one 15-year old megastar of a little girl who has been shamelessly exploited by her parents, her handlers, her corporate daddy, and an industry where “morals” is a word uttered with contempt and derision.
Miley Cyrus is a cute-as-a-button little girl who plays the wildly popular Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel. It’s a neat concept; Miley Stewart is a mild mannered, typically awkward high school kid by day and rock star Hannah Montana at night. She has all the typical problems of a young girl developing the first flush of womanhood; boys (non-sexual, almost platonic yearnings), food, shopping – in short, everything that the target audience of 9-13 year old girls look forward to and dream about when they fantasize about being a teenager.
The complication of being a rock star also plays to these little girl fantasies involving acceptance and glamour. In short, the show is a relatively harmless piece of fluff that also stars Miley’s father, one hit wonder Billy Ray Cyrus (“Achy, Breaky Heart”). He is a buffoonish but loving dad who, of course, doesn’t understand teenagers.
The show has spawned a financial empire worth more than some small countries. Records selling in the millions, a Best of Both Worlds concert tour and movie, a clothing line, dolls – the whole Disney treatment. Let’s not forget that this is the company that took a non-descript little mouse and made him into a worldwide icon, beloved of billions of children and adults.
Last year, little Miley raked in $17.2 million for herself – not a bad haul for a 15 year old kid with marginal talent. And what makes this story so incredible is that the guys with the green eyeshades at Disney believe that her career hasn’t taken off yet, that it is the next two years where the Miley Megamarketing Bonanza is expected to detonate on the American cultural landscape and a mother lode of money descend upon the corporation like manna from, well, Montana. For Disney, a troubled company in recent years, Miley Cyrus has been a godsend.
There’s only one small problem with this happy picture; the entire Miley enterprise rests precariously on the boney shoulders of a 15 year old girl and an absolutely, impossibly squeaky clean image of the star and her family. Like an upside down ziggurat balancing on a knife’s edge, one wrong move – one slip – and the whole edifice can come crashing down around their heads.
An overstatement? Earlier this year, Consumer Reports Magazine noticed that Miley and her father did not buckle up after getting into a car during the filming for Best of Both Worlds. In a blog post “Note to Hannah Montana: Seat belts are a necessity, not an accessory,” the consumers group criticized Miley for not setting a good example for her legions of fans by not buckling up.
The news nets picked up the story and ran with it. CNN, MSNBC, Fox, all devoted an entire news cycle to the “controversy.” Social scientists weighed in. Traffic safety groups had their say. Billy Ray actually felt compelled to issue an apology blaming the press of film making for his egregious error.
Disney execs fretted that the porcelain doll image of their little creation would take a hit. And while there was plenty of criticism from the busy bodies of the world, the seat belt controversy quickly died for lack of oxygen. After all, how long can you milk a story about absolutely nothing? Even the geniuses in cable news were hard pressed to come up with anything original to say after two or three days.
But there is trouble in Mileyland today as the young lady finds herself embroiled in a very grown-up controversy. And the issues raised by this imbroglio go to the heart of American morals, American culture, and the increasing sexualization of children to gratify adult desires.
A photo spread of young Ms. Cyrus in Vanity Fair turned into what can only be called a porn shoot. The shocking picture of little Miley in the altogether wrapped in a bedsheet to hide her breasts has thrown the muti-billion dollar Disney company into a panic and has angered parents groups, child welfare organizations, feminists, and millions of parents who saw the all-American image of Miley Cyrus as a godsend – a counter to the raw sexual images their kids are bombarded with every day.
Disney tried some immediate damage control with a statement from Ms. Cyrus:
“I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed,” Miley said in a statement. “I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.” The most controversial of the images, which appear in the June issue of Vanity Fair, is the classic, “Guess what I just did” pose, showing Miley apparently topless, with a silk bedsheet gathered around her chest, her hair and lipstick mussed. In other shots, Miley is draped languidly across the lap of her father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
The link to the Time website shows the offending picture. As for the others, you can find them yourself I’m sure. I don’t usually link porn at this site but this is a special case.
And pornography it is – child pornography as defined by statute. It is the deliberate posing of a minor to elicit sexual feelings in adults. The photographer – the award winning, brilliant and creative Annie Leibovitz – can tell us her photos of Cyrus represents “art” from now until the cows come home but that won’t change the reality of how those photos are viewed by the law.
Leibovitz will probably skate because of her reputation. But it raises the question; where in God’s name was her father? Her Mother? Her handlers? Surely anyone with half a brain would have seen enormous trouble with the publication of these photos.
It turns out, the Miley camp is spinning a tale of serendipity where the photo was set up and shot while everyone else was looking the other way or manged to be somewhere else. Miley herself is a little more sensible, issuing the statement of apology above (no doubt drawn up by fainting executives at Disney).
We’ve all seen the clothes little girls are wearing these days; the bare midriff tops, the skin tight jeans, the obsession with showing as much skin as possible. Why this is so goes to the heart of the culture wars – the idea that children are not impressionable beings with ill-formed social and intellectual gifts but rather just little adults.
Kids as young as 11 or 12 take part in sex parties where sexual acts are performed as a game. “Hooking up” – sex among friends without strings – is popular in teen circles. And why not? This is the culture to which they are exposed. Romantic ideals of sex and relationships are replaced by a soulless view of sex as some kind of release or duty.
No mystery. No emotional attachment, which some experts believe actually harm young women, some of whom will have difficulty in forming lasting relationships later in life. The question of when or if this madness will end is irrelevant. In a free society, it is the people who determine the limits of such things. And we have, as parents and concerned citizens, abandoned that responsibility and put it in the hands of people who have dollar signs in their eyes and exploitation on the mind.
To the skin masters of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, it really is a question of dollars and cents. And if parents of young girls don’t care enough to keep their kids from being caught up in this cultural cesspool, then perhaps we should stop blaming the purveyors of this crap and start pointing a finger at adults who are either too tired, to lackadaisical, or too cowed by their kids to put their foot down.
No one has covered these issues more regularly than Michelle Malkin:
The adults surrounding Miley Cyrus shamelessly abdicated their responsibility to protect her best interests. Mom and Dad got caught up in the Vanity Fair glam. Vanity Fair didn’t see a 15-year-old girl. They saw magazine sale dollar signs. And Annie Leibovitz saw skin, skin, skin and another notch in her belt.
The parents, grandmother, and teacher are not alone in shouldering blame. Shame on Liebovitz and the pretentious left-wing editor of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter.
“Artists” and “literary magazine editors?” Nonsense. They’re the elitist version of Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis and his video camera operators, coaxing girls to take it all off–just with more refined tones and high-minded pretentiousness.
It is a constant, draining battle for parents to monitor their kids intake of everything from junk food to internet content. I sympathize. But giving in to your kid’s desire to fit in with the crowd by allowing them to walk out of the house dressed like a streetwalker is the wrong decision under all circumstances.
What happened to Miley Cyrus will not hurt her image – much. But by allowing their child to be exploited in such a public way, the parents of little Miley deserve all the disapprobation that comes their way. And I suspect that there are quite a few confused kids and parents out there right now, wondering whether the carefully constructed image of Miley Cyrus will be tarnished from here on out or whether the young lady can roll with this blow and come out unblemished in the eyes of her millions of fans.