The blogosphere is in an uproar, and not because the guy who sang Achy Breaky Heart is (still) famous. I don’t know that much about Miley Cyrus, beyond the fact that she has a hit show on Disney, Hannah Montana, and an IMAX movie that mega-outsold U2’s recent IMAX movie (at least at our local planetarium), which is plenty of reason right there to mistrust her. One has to be negotiating with dark forces to upstage Bono. I think she also sells clothes at Walmart, or maybe that is Mary Kate and Ashley.
At first I wondered why Rocks in My Dryer and Musings of a Housewife were so indignant. I agree that a 15-year old appearing topless in a magazine is cause for outrage, but I can’t see that it’s cause for surprise.
Unless you rejoiced in the relative wholesomeness of Hannah Montana and bought into her image, her family-friendly vibe, and her insistence that you can have “the best of both worlds,” as her hit song proclaims. The best of both worlds being, one assumes, stardom and a Christian, down-to-earth family life. I think it’s safe to say that one can have anything one wants, but not everything one wants, as my dad says his brother Herb always said.
It’s interesting to see who bloggers and commenters think is to blame for the photo. Is a 15-year old responsible for her own choices? Should her dad have made a different decision for her? Is it Vanity Fair or the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz or Disney who most exploited a child? Billy Ray’s heart is probably achy breaky tonight, knowing that he’s definitely winning the blame game, especially in Shannon at RIMD’s estimation.
But one thing about the handwringing bothers me. While I can only imagine how hard it is to have to explain to young sons about topless photos, I think we might miss a great teaching moment as parents if we approach it as Shannon seems to, angry that there’ll have to be an “unpleasant conversation in our house tonight, about modesty and decision-making and growing up too fast.”
Now that I’ve figured out what I want my kids to learn from this experience, I’m almost regretful that Sally, at 7 1/2, hasn’t shown enough interest in the Hannah Montana DVD Grampa sent for Christmas for a lesson on modesty and decision-making and continuing-to-make-good-choices-no-matter-what-our-age to be relevant. My almost-tween still likes Dora and Curious George and Arthur. And guess how eager I am for that to change? Right.
First of all, the conversation could be pleasant, I think. When we’ve talked about modesty with Sally and Susan, it’s been in the context of that other great Disney invention, the Disney Princess. We talk about how we can like Ariel and Belle and Jasmine even if we don’t like what they choose to wear. We can love the person and be happy for their good choices while recognizing that they might make some bad choices or choices that aren’t right for us. It makes viewing a Disney movie a little bit more complicated, but the lesson of the complexity of people — loving them, being happy for their good choices while choosing not to imitate their bad choices, translates well into real life.
But I think the greatest lesson to be learned here is about peer pressure, and how it can trick even parents, even sophisticated (one imagines), fame-experienced grown-ups. This is what Miley said originally about the photo:
I think it’s really artsy. It wasn’t in a skanky way. Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought that was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie. She’s so cute. She gets this puppy-dog look and you’re like, ‘OK.’
Saddest words I never want to hear out of my daughter’s mouth: “you can’t say no to Annie.” She’s famous, she’s intimidating, she’s emotionally manipulative (puppy-dog look?). Miley’s dad Billy Ray had a chance to be a real hero on that photo shoot, to stand up and say, “No. In our family we don’t take off our clothes in public.” And then to his daughter, he could have said, “Honey, you can say no to ANYONE. You never have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and if anyone ever asks you to, I hope you’ll come to me for help.”
If he wanted to get real mushy, he could’ve added, “Miley, you and me, and your mom (and sisters and brothers). We’re a team. We decide what’s right for us, and no matter what anyone else thinks or does or says in the world, we can do what’s right for us.”
But I’m jaded about the Cyrus family business. I’m afraid they’re probably more concerned with spinning the blame and soothing fans to spend time correcting their daughter’s erroneous belief that “you can’t say no to Annie.”
Yesterday my 7-9 year-olds Sunday School lesson was on following the commandments. When I asked the kids for examples, one boy suggested traffic laws like “stopping at stop signs.” I started listing the 10 Commandments and got stuck on number two, explaining what an idol is. Another boy said, “Like American Idol?” and I said, “Oh no, like a statue that you worship instead of God.”
But the next minute I wondered. And now I wonder more. Who are our idols? I think God wants our children (and us) to have good role models, to look up to people who do amazing things and magnify their God-given talents. And those people don’t have to be perfect. We’re not perfect. Of course. But this photo is not the best of both worlds. The best of both worlds would be the opportunity to share one’s talents AND encouragement/support from one’s parents to always make right choices.
Show me that best, and my daughters and I will enjoy more from Miley Cyrus than just a great object lesson in the perils of peer pressure.
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