Miley Cyrus: Vanity Fair or Vanity Foul

Art or ExploitationUnless you are living under a rock you’ve heard of the latest Miley Cyrus broo-haha. She posed recently for Vanity Fair magazine with her Dad (Billy Ray Cyrus). The very famous Annie Leibovitz was the photographer.

Leibovitz is renowned for her celebrity photos for Vanity Fair. Demi Moore’s famous pregnant nude comes to mind. If you browse around the blogs and news feeds and read some of the comments from other readers you can see the very wide divide between those that see the photo for what it is and those who are so desensitized by modern culture they lost their clue. Half are shocked and concerned and the rest see it as tame and no big deal. Here’s my opinion on the subject.

First and foremost Miley is 15 years old. In the eyes of the law she is a minor. Now granted there is no overt nudity in the photo, praise God, but still it is a provocative pose which paints her in a very adult light. In my opinion it objectifies and sexualizes her in a very inappropriate manner for someone who can’t even drive a car by herself.

Now I have to say as an artist having taken nearly every art history class possible in college, this is indeed a very classic pose for artists and photographers. However, it is not an appropriate pose for a child of any age. It is meant to be a demure and vulnerable pose. There is a subliminal sexuality to it. It actually has a very adult theme behind it if you do your research.

The biggest problem I have is not really with the photo itself but more with the damage it does to the subject in the photo. Miley is a very vocal Christian. She has on numerous occasions on national television professed her faith and belief in Christ. She claims she wants to be a role model to young girls. She wants to be an example to other young Hollyweird starlets. She’s had recent problems with Internet photos of her being leaked and then comes this photo. Honestly it damages her credibility in a major way. Not only her credibility as a role model but her witness for Christ suffers as well.

Now we’ve all been teenagers and we’ve all done really stupid things we regret. Even as a Christian teen I myself did some REALLY stupid things. But i was never in the public eye and never claimed to be a role model. This is one problem I have with this particular move in her career.

The other problem I have is that with all the adults involved in this photo shoot (including Miley’s parents) no one appears to have stopped and said, “Whoa is this appropriate?”. Apparently not. This just bothers me because our society seems to have become desensitized to the objectification of young girls.

Pop culture has so distorted the perception of what a teenage girl should look and act like that it seems the tween years are completely skipped even though it is a major demographic. Seems girls are escalated from Webkins and Barbies to clubbing and being sexy literally overnight, skipping the awkward tween years where most girls feel awkward about their self-image as it is. They are relentlessly pounded with shopping, fashion, accessories, boys, teen idols, music, etc. Actually it starts even earlier than early teens. The new children’s book where a four-year-old is having her mother’s plastic surgery explained to her is a symptom of this objectification of girls. Being cool is being pretty. Being happy is being pretty. Being popular is being pretty. It’s truly disturbing.

With all that being said, Miley has issued a public apology not only for this photo but last week’s batch of uh-oh pictures. Chalking it up to “bad choices”. I can understand this and I hope it is sincere. We’ll have to wait and see. I like Disney’s press release calling the photo an exploitation of a 15 year old girl to sell magazines. I have to agree with that. While it was still Miley’s choice ultimately, when you are surrounded by adults of Leibovitz’s reputation and critical fame it can be difficult to discern things clearly. Vanity Fair said that Miley and her parents saw the photo right after is was taken and thought it was nice. Of course I doubt they saw the final product and the article to go with it right there on the set. Having done Photoshop retouching and art techniques to photos, I can guarantee that what Miley and her parents saw is not the photo going to print in Vanity Fair.

Of course I’m the parent of two small girls so I may be a tad hyper-sensitive about this. For some reason this whole thing just really bothers me. Maybe it’s because my daughters adore Miley. Maybe it’s because there are no true good role models for girls these days and the single decent one seems to be on the edge of slipping into the mouth of the Hollywood chipper/shredder. Bottom line… it was a bad choice on Miley’s part and her parents for not seeing it for what it was. With everything she claims and professes she truly needs to conduct herself accordingly. Triple-thinking every decision would be a start. Now that she is about to be a billion dollar baby the paprazzi are going to hunt her like sharks with fresh blood in the water. Yes she’s a teenager but she’s no longer a typical teenager and teenage antics will only play with her fans for so long.

I truly hope that this is the end of her ‘oops’ moments. The world is full of skanks, tramps and drug addicts. We don’t need another failure for our kids.

But then again… maybe it’s just me?

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2 Responses

  1. Its’ not just you. I agree with you completely. I think what disturbs me the most is that her parents thought it was ok. I am so amazed at what parents allow now days! I know some people have literally said, “we figure he is going to do it any way.” And so the kid has had his girlfriend spend the night, smokes pot in their house, and who knows what else. It absolutely amazes me!

  2. Great post! To be honest, I’m desensitized often. It’s good to be reminded about what’s appropriate and what’s not. We get used to Hollywood girls posing inappropriately and forget that they’re just 15 years old. Look at the damage it’s had…Brittany Spears.

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