Contemplating Miley Cyrus

Because I've been sitting on the couch for two days I've had a lot of time on my hands to do some serious thinking.

About Miley Cyrus and her Vanity Fair pictures. I read over comments on the VF site yesterday — everything from 'you should be ashamed, my 11-year-old daughter looks up to you' to 'these are beautiful examples of art' (my representation of quotes). Tim Goodman's Chronicle column today tackles the issue, charging Cyrus wasn't upset until her parent company (not parent), Disney, was.

The Cyrus outrage is emblematic of the paradox that is American moral compass. Americans idolize celebrities, obsess over their outfits, critique every spot, bulge, and dress they wear. Americans also like to call the same people just lifted to the pedestal sluts, tarts, and bad role models. Huh?

Miley Cyrus isn't so different from predecessors who came from the Disney machine into huge popularity but are teenagers, kids developing their identities and sorting out who they will be as adults. I teach 9th and 10th graders. Come to a high school dance and see how students interpret "mature" when they dress up. Often mature, for girls, translates into low cut, slinky, or sheer.

Cyrus's Oscar dress, red, low-back, is not a teenager's dress. The outfit is too adult: in color, in cut, and accessories. She flaunts a look that starlets know works for photo shoots — come hither.

We see a similar expression in the Vanity Fair picture below. The difference between the Oscar outfit and her VF shot, however, isn't whether she knew what she was doing or not. Nor is the issue a matter of skin and how much is showing. It is in the implication. Her tousled her hair and slightly smudged lips imply sex. Yes, Annie Leibovitz took a beautiful photo. Cyrus is a lovely ingenue.

In the photo, however, her look, her hair, her mouth, imply lust.

I find it difficult to believe that her handlers and parents, who were on set, were surprised. The photo on the right suggests she was prepping for a shoot in a blanket, enjoying herself.

But, did anyone realize that the outdoor shot (right) would translate to the come hither Lolita shot on the magazine cover (left)?

I think we expect our children to stay children forever, but we know that they don't. We also know that kids today grow up faster than 20 years ago. Adults lament this change in society while surround ing them with images of sexy teens in sexy clothes that focus on their bodies and their garments.

I don't feel sorry for Miley Cyrus, but I do understand the predicament of wanting to play grown-up, something she is asked to do at every turn when she's not on her Disney show, yet retain her little girl-ness. Is she so different from earlier girl stars like Brittney and Christina, both who were simultaneously lauded for their style and cash draw and lambasted for looking slutty and not being appropriate role models.

Perhaps we the people should strongly reconsider what role models we offer to our children. Perhaps we the people should reflect on the values we are teaching our children. Please, remind me what it is about Miley Cyrus that makes her a role model?

Contemplating Miley Cyrus

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