Miley Cyrus Moves into Adulthood Publicly: America Freaks Out

08.26.13

Miley Cyrus gave quite a performance at the VMAs last night. In case you’re unaware (Mom, this is for you), Miley Cyrus has a famous father who has managed her career which began sometime around age 11. She is 20 and her resume is longer than most adults in the neighborhood.

Last night’s performance featured a lot of tongue, dancing that once upon a time was reserved for strip clubs and flirtation with both genders. Much like Emily Ratajkowski (age 22) Miley appeared to be next to naked. The question I have for us all is why do we see Emily Ratajkowski as a sexy lady who stars in a video but look at Cyrus as a child who is melting down in public?

Emily Ratajkowski sexy photo 2 copy

Celebrity is a strange thing and the only thing we like to do more than create a celebrity is to tear one down. Child stars are a whole new animal. With the advent of Nickelodeon and Disney came the ability to create characters, market and distribute them all through one giant funnel. There’s a massive machine behind Hannah Montana that makes Judy Garland and Shirley Temple’s days in the limelight look like 2nd grade class plays.

There is nothing odd or unusual about a sexy 20 year old. There’s nothing bad about near nudity at 20, in fact I’d heartily encourage it. There’s nothing about your body that’s likely to get better at 30. A brain yes, a body no.

I’m not the target audience for MTV so I’m sure they won’t care a bit when I tell you that I don’t think Cyrus’ performance was particularly good. The tongue and the crotch grabbing were decidedly unsexy and some say lewd but we embraced it when Gene Simmons and Michael Jackson did both of those things. Is Miley Cyrus going to make us evaluate what is ladylike and what skanky girls do? Why are boys just being boys and why is Miley being bad?

Miley Cyrus was wearing her shirt and performing live to an audience of millions. She was singing and dancing and interacting with both people and cameras. If you didn’t like the performance that’s fair but picking on her body? Unfair.

miley cyrus nsfw

There’s the obvious explanation here that she’s busy being athletic while wearing something that appears to be like vinyl and of course there will be movement. There’s the fact that most of the free world wouldn’t look as good as Cyrus before dancing. There’s something bigger happening here and if we’re talking about the “imperfection” of a very perfect ass we’re having the wrong discussion. Everyone loves to talk about how we’re not supposed to care about how people look, it’s supposed to be what’s inside that matters. We’re supposed to be all about fat acceptance (for the record I am not) and enough with the slut shaming.

Can we just talk about the fact that a 20 year old has grown up in front of us and we are all extremely uncomfortable with seeing a child mature into a woman. We hate that our Disney kid is a young woman and that not every moment of her life will be lady-like. We hate that she’s a sexual being and lose our minds that an intensely misogynistic song that celebrates rape culture is turned on it’s ear with a performance that has a 20 year old girl taking charge of the 36 year old man who shares a stage with her.

This freaks us out and let’s not pretend like it’s about her.

The women of the video are sexy because we didn’t know them as kids. Maybe we are Miley’s problem. 

 

A Childhood Worth Protecting

02.15.11

It’s only post-Industrial Revolution that we’ve taken our children out of the workforce. Child labor laws were discussed in the early 1800’s. In 1836 Massachusetts instituted a law wherein child workers under the age of 15 had to attend school at least three months of the year.

It wasn’t until 1904 that the National Child Labor Committee formed and even with that it was 1938 before laws were passed Nationally.

It’s only in the last century that we’ve guarded childhood legislatively. All through the ages it’s been “women and children”, but when push comes to shove we like to shove our children into the workforce. They have small nimble hands that are good with a sewing machine or assembling Apple computers, and legs that don’t tire easily. Children are also beautiful, they have glossy hair, bright eyes, white teeth, narrow hips and flawless skin.

I live in a factory town. Unlike towns in Asia we don’t assemble Apple computers here, nor do we stitch together tee shirts. My town’s factory churns out entertainment. The prettiest girls from all over the country flock to Los Angeles in hopes of being the next big thing. They are all beautiful, some are more talented than others, some are brighter than others, a few are simply savvier and work harder. Some will drop out of entertainment and go into Public Relations. They will spin tales of luck and overnight success, ignoring the lost years, the nepotism, the surgeries and the heartbreaks.

Parents become managers and costars, siblings become part of the entourage.

Billy Ray Cyrus gave a fabulous interview to GQ. He says:

“Every time something happened in Miley’s career, every time the train went off the track, if you will—Vanity Fair, pole-dancing, whatever scandal it was—her people, or as they say in today’s news, her handlers, every time they’d put me… ‘Somebody’s shooting at Miley! Put the old man up there!’ Well, I took it, because I’m her daddy, and that’s what daddies do. ‘Okay, nail me to the cross, I’ll take it….’ ” As soon as he begins to talk about all this, anguish builds in his voice; the anguish, say, that any father might feel when he can no longer clearly see the right way to guide a daughter or keep her safe, but the kind that is compounded by a cauldron of celebrity and public humiliation and ambition and avarice and hysteria, so that it’s hard for anyone, let alone someone at its center, to maintain any perspective, to be able to distinguish between sensible concern and panic-stricken paranoia, which may be somewhere close to how Billy Ray Cyrus feels right now.

How do parents slide out of their roles as guardians and into the role of co-worker? Also from the interview.

Q: Hannah Montana probably has brought a lot of families together—just not one…

BILLY RAY CYRUS: “Yeah. I know. I know. I know.”

Q: And do you see the show as a big part of what has made things not work in your family?

BRC: “Oh, it’s huge—it destroyed my family. I’ll tell you right now—the damn show destroyed my family. And I sit there and go, ‘Yeah, you know what? Some gave all.’ It is my motto, and guess what? I have to eat that one. I some-gave-all’d it all right. I some-gave-all’d it while everybody else was going to the bank. It’s all sad.”

Q: Do you wish Hannah Montana had never happened?

BRC: “I hate to say it, but yes, I do. Yeah. I’d take it back in a second. For my family to be here and just be everybody okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I’d erase it all in a second if I could.”

The list of child stars who suffered addictions, mental illness, public humiliations, arrests and death are long: Lindsay Lohan, Brad Renfro, Dana Plato, Todd Bridges, Demi Lovato, Gary Coleman, Judy Garland, Danny Bonaduce, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Scotty Beckett, Robert Blake, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Tatum O’Neal, Leif Garrett…. (this list could go on forever)

Lief Garrett from Teen Idol to junky

Leif Garrett in the 70's and after a herion arrest

I can think of one exceptional child star, Ron Howard. That is all.

There are names you will never hear, there are kids being pulled out of class right now to go on auditions for shows they will never land. There are well meaning parents who swear up and down that they’ll be different, and that as soon as it stops being “fun” the kids won’t be auditioning any longer. Those kids suffer too. There’s a lot of rejection in Hollywood’s Factory.

I don’t know what will become of blogger’s kids, but I assume that they too would prefer to not be working. I understand that asking your child to pose for a picture at home, or participate in a video isn’t the same as tromping them all over town (or all over the country), but it does chip away at their very brief childhoods.

It’s fair for kids to want to be kids.

It’s fair to want to make your mistakes in private, particularly when you’re young.

It’s also fair for kids to help out in a household that needs it. After school jobs are a great thing for teenage kids. After. School.