My fellow blogger, Melissa May, recently wrote about Billy Ray Cyrus' admission of regrets concerning how he allowed his daughter, Miley Cyrus, to grow up. A few days later, my daughter and I were at Barnes and Noble when I saw a magazine with an article on the topic ( I'm not entirely sure, but think it was US Weekly; and while these are not exactly the same photos, you can get the general idea). I opened it up and, while I didn't read the article, the photos said it all. Considering I was with my ten year-old daughter who has seen Miley Cyrus' show, Hannah Montana, I decided to take advantage of a "teachable moment."
The four or five photos depicted the progression of Miley Cyrus from innocent-looking Disney star to the pop icon she has become. The first one is of her standing demurely on a Disney set, then each one gets a little more risque until we arrive at the final photo of her on stage singing while being held up spread eagle by two men, her skimpy underwear exposed. The progression was complete.
Despite this being an offensive photo, I decided to show the series to my daughter. My two daughters (unfortunately, the twelve year-old wasn't with us) no longer admire Miley Cyrus because they have already recognized on their own that she has gone down the wrong path. But they are susceptible to being interested in the latest child or preteen star. I often hear them (and their friends) saying things like, "So and so is actually a really good girl. She even has a purity ring." (This is often followed by the question, "What's a purity ring?")
When I showed my daughter these photos, I told her to take a good look at these because they showed what will invariably become of nearly every child star. For the industry can be counted on to make a big deal about a girl's innocence when she first arrives on the scene. Why? In order to commodify her virtue. It's as simple as that. When it comes to making a child a star, every aspect is up for manipulation and utilization. And if you are smart enough to make a big deal about a girl's virtue (whether or not she has it), then whatever happens to her, romantically speaking, becomes fodder for the press. And as we've all heard, there's no such thing as bad publicity. So the handlers feed her to the public as a girl of innocence and virtue, but then as her outfits and roles become more and more immodest, the public picks up on this and starts discussing it. And then, when, say, she loses that innocence, it's a jackpot. Maybe, if they are lucky, it becomes a scandal. Ideally, the lost innocence will also involve a male child star, like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake (more on that later).
Often times, the stories aren't even true, but the handlers know full well that sex, especially the exploits of a young and seemingly innocent girl, sells. Take, for example, the case of Britney and Justin. A few years ago Britney's mother came out with a book that included the detail that Britney had lost her virginity when she was fourteen years old to a local football player. (A deflowered child star, of course, would never make for a good start in Hollywood, so they spread the story that she was a virgin.) But when it came time for the handlers to move her from innocent girl to sex symbol, they leaked the story that Justin Timberlake was the one who took her virginity. To make your stomach turn even more, the mother of Britney admits that she knew it was false and that she willingly let Justin be deceived (not that I'm crying a river for poor Justin).
Yes, yes. The parents are to blame for allowing their children's virtue to become a commodity to be used and abused, bought and sold, all for the sake of lucre. But the industry itself is also sick to the core. (And yes, it has always has been about sex, even way back when, with Sandra Dee.)
How many more girls will we see go through this racket? How many more parents will be duped into thinking that their girl will be different. ("See, her agent wants to promote the fact--or fiction--that she is a virgin! This is going to be different for us.") And how many of us consumers, young and old, will continue to fall for this sordid gimmick?