I always thought I was pretty open minded about things, and I still think I am, but seeing Tom Barlow's recent post on WalletPop about Miley Cyrus' much ballyhooed photos in the latest issue of Vanity Fair made me think, "Huh?"
I like Tom too much to be angry at him for calling the photos "art," but "art" was the last word I thought of when I saw the picture on various newscasts.
I should ask him if he's a parent, particularly if he's the father of a daughter. (I have his email. I could have asked or written him my opinion directly or simply put my thoughts down in the comments section. But it's much more fun to rake him over the coals over WalletPop.) As the father of two young daughters, who are four and six, I can completely understand what all the fuss has been over the photos.
The Miley Cyrus photos are not art. Actually, forget that point. Maybe they are art, and maybe they aren't. Art is in the eye of the beholder, really, and I don't really want to try to win that argument. But the photos are also commerce and being used to sell magazines. (I'm sure I'm helping to sell some issues right now.) And I'm tempted to even go all 1950s on everyone and call the picture of Ms. Cyrus giving that come hither look, in the buff under a blanket, smut.
But that may be going over the board, too. After all, it's not the photographic image that shocked anyone -- the jolt was over Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana's image. I think parents are weary of seeing their daughters get excited over a wholesome role model and saying to the kids, "Yes, fine, here's the money; go buy her T-shirts and records," and, "Yes, watch her shows, see her movies; here's the money," and encouraging, endorsing or at least not standing in the way of their kids' tastes in pop culture role models -- and then suddenly, a 180 degree turn is made and suddenly this winning 15-year-old girl of this Disney Channel sitcom, Hannah Montana, who you didn't mind in the least your child looking up to, is now promoting her sexuality.
This type of thing has been done enough that I'm half wondering if there's a handbook or guidebook that tells preteen actresses how to become rich and famous teen actresses.
1) Start off with Disney TV shows or movies (Britney Spears and the 1990s show, the Mickey Mouse Club; Lindsay Lohan and The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday and Herbie Rides Again).
2) Be charming and winning and convince parents that you're about as perfect a role model as can be.
3) Then change tricks and show kids how cool it is to drink, pass out in cars and on and on.
Who would have thought that turning on a kids' show for your kids would be, as Robert Preston in The Music Man sang, "the first big step on the road to the depths of degradation"?
Before I had children, maybe I would have read all of this and thought, "He belongs back with his own kind in the 1930s." But things are different now. When my daughters are teenagers, I'm going to be more than just busy beating off the teenage boys with a stick and making sure that my girls have absolutely no interest in drugs and drinking. I'm obviously going to have to make sure that they never audition for a Disney movie or TV show.
Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale). He's pretty sure he's just destroyed any chance of Disney wanting to make a movie out of his book.
Miley Cyrus: The photos may be art, but they aren't worth defending