One Last Thought About Miley

I agree with Alyssa here:

But for young white women whose early careers were carefully controlled by large corporations like Disney, there are some remarkable similarities about their dalliances with bisexuality and ratchet culture, which has its own crossovers with gay male culture. Eager to shake off the squeaky-clean images they believe are holding them back creatively, and often the management and creative collaborators and managers, including their parents, who they believe are standing in between them and creative freedom, these young women light out for unclaimed territory, rebellion the only compass they’ve packed for the journey.

The urges for artistic independence and self-actualization are admirable ones. But when those impulses are combined with a disinclination to take advice, bred by years in systems that have better track records of making profits than producing mentally healthy or creatively recognized artists, the result can be work that’s both artistically bankrupt and does cultural harm in many directions.

The VMAs have sparked entirely legitimate critiques of Cyrus as a cultural appropriator who doesn’t have to carry the weight of any of the tropes she flirts with.

But I also want to address an additional thing I’ve seen where moms are writing about Miley’s performance as if she did something wrong because of her young fans. And I just want to say this. To me, this is similar to the Two-and-a-Half Men issue, where parents make decisions for kids for most of their careers, the kids decide that they don’t want the type of career that’s been laid out for them, and the public acts like the kid has “changed his/her mind” in some unfair way. All the people who had come to count on the kid are being let down by the young adult who can make his/her own decisions.

When you or your children watch a child performing–whether it’s on TV or on stage–and that child is making a lot of money, it is very often impossible for the child to actually consent to be there. Contracts have been signed. Parents are brought in to keep the child on-goal when necessary and shuffled off when they seem to be sticking up too much for what is best for the kid. And the money kids make is often the only source of income in families where it’s all too common for parents to decide to be their kids’ managers.

On top of that, Disney and Nickelodeon very carefully craft the images of their underage stars.

When your kids were watching Hannah Montana, they were watching a persona crafted by Disney. Miley wasn’t “deciding” to be someone your kids looked up to. The idea that, once the contracts were signed and the checks started coming, she, as a child, could really decide much of anything about how she was presented to your children is laughable.

But it’s gross that you think she now owes something to your children, because they enjoyed being entertained by her cultivated persona.

Being pissed at someone because they’re not still the person they were contractually obligated to be when they were a child is really, really weird.

And as much as it troubles you about Cyrus, perhaps it should trouble you about what you and your kids are contributing to when you dump money and ratings onto these child stars.


10 thoughts on “One Last Thought About Miley

  1. “Being pissed at someone because they’re not still the person they were contractually obligated to be when they were a child is really, really weird.”


  2. Are these people equally pissed that Justin Timberlake isn’t exactly suitable for Disney any more? I’m just asking….

  3. Haven’t yet heard any criticism of the 36 year old husband and father who was grinding a 20 year old woman on national TV. If we’re being charitable I guess we can assume he didn’t know it was going to happen and was too shocked to avoid it, but having seen his recent music videos I just don’t get the feeling that’s what happened in this case.

  4. Every story I hear about child performers, even ones with decent parents, makes the life sound like a bad idea for a kid. They have money to live on, which is great, unless you’ve also developed a cocaine habit or crushing mental issues from being a walking commodity that the money fuels but can’t erase. I wouldn’t particularly mind if most or all movies or TV shows just didn’t have kid actors, or used CGI, so that actual kids didn’t get fed into the machine before they were too young to know any better.

  5. W., but that’s the weird thing–of course he knew it was going to happen. They had to have at least a couple of run-throughs to make sure that the cameras are in the right places, that all the performers wouldn’t fall off the stage when they did their thing. I mean, it simply had to be choreographed.

    Emjb, I agree.

    NM, no, people seem cool about Justin.

  6. The double standard is charming, isn’t it?

    I’m going to disagree about child performers, though. I can think of too many of them who turned out just fine. Brenda Lee, Jodie Foster, Stevie Wonder, Ron Howard, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, the kids from the Harry Potter movies, and that’s just off the top of my head. Even Justin Timberlake. I will point out that Disney in particular has a wretched track record at nurturing. But that doesn’t mean that everyone does.

  7. The Justin Timberlake comparison here it totally apt for another reason: This developed like the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake superbowl “wardrobe malfunction” where Jackson was demonized and Timberlake’s role was ignored. This situation is almost identical.

  8. Pingback: Other folks’ children | Slatterns and Hooch

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