Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Miley Cyrus brouhaha

It’s not one of those art versus pornography debates. Posing bareback while clutching a piece of silk cloth to cover the rest of her body, 15-year-old teen icon Miley Cyrus is a far cry from the sweet and innocent character she plays in Disney channel’s top-rating Hannah Montana. Since 2006, Cyrus has been hitting the boob tube with her portrayal of ordinary girl-next-door Miley Stewart who has a secret life of a pop star in the person of Hannah Montana. The show was an instant blockbuster, thrusting Cyrus further into the limelight. Last year, Forbes named her as one of the top 20 earners under 25 and today, she has earned two multi-platinum records. But along with her rise to fame comes an expected price: a bout of controversies.

In her case, all of them were controversial photos that spread through the internet. There are pictures of Cyrus sharing what seems to be licorice with a female friend, causing rumors of her being a lesbian. Then there are pictures of her wearing underwear with pouting, seductive lips. There are also pictures of her and her boyfriend kissing. The most recent addition to her growing collection of controversial photos was the bareback one that Vanity Fair released, stirring the sensibilities of a culture that witnessed similar precedents. Parents were a bit shocked and grew concerned of their little girls aged 12 to 18, who adore and emulate Cyrus short of kissing her toes. Will Cyrus continue to be a “good” role model? Will she follow the career trajectory of former teen stars Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears?

I started watching Hannah Montana last year and I enjoyed the show for its wholesome and comical nature, which makes it very lovable indeed. Had I been younger, I would have worshipped Cyrus like a goddess. However, I’m way over my teen years and all this hullabaloo over one photo doesn’t affect me at all. In fact, I love the photo. Very artistic and beautiful. Question is, do teenagers think the same way?

After the controversy broke out, I decided to watch Hannah Montana a little more closely. Like most people, the young can easily fall into the trap of thinking that the actress in real life is the same person they see and adore on television. They forget that they are two different persons existing in two different worlds of television and reality. It doesn’t help that the character’s name Miley is the real life actress’ name and the father of the character is played by her real life dad Billy Ray Cyrus. How can we tell the difference between the Miley on TV and the Miley in reality?

I may never know the real Miley Cyrus – the one without the lights, the camera, and the heavy makeup. If the Vanity Fair issue gave away a part of who she really is, I certainly don’t mind. After all, she is 15 and counting. We cannot hold her back from growing up into a more mature person. Whoever she is, I will still love the Miley on TV. If she graduates from her teenybopper role and start taking on more mature characters, well, that’s a different story.

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