I woke up this morning concerned about the world food shortage and Korean defectors attempting self immolation in protest of Beijing and was astonished at the amount of attention a young woman named Miley Cyrus was getting for a topless, or shall I say backless, photograph in Vanity Fair.
Just to connect the dots, I too have weathered a recent bout of hysteria over a supposed topless, or shall I say strapless, photograph in a magazine. In my case it was an understanding that the photo in question be shoulders up regardless if I was wearing a suit of armor, chastity belt, wet suit, strapless bra or nothing. It is, was and will always be irrelevant and only became an issue when it was publicized as "topless". All the nipple loving/leering people wanted to know...was it true? Kids I know asked their parents and me if I had posed topless. Saturday Night Live in a funny parody alluded to it as well as the efficacy of Activia yogurt and we all had a good laugh and it sold magazines and it is/was over. Now this.
Apparently young Ms. Cyrus has apologized for something she was told would be artistic and now feels embarrassed about. I feel for her. Of course she is embarrassed. She is a young girl. She shouldn't have to deal with any of this. I don't feel that she was duped. I know the integrity of Ms. Liebovitz and the magazine and I know there were people present at the shoot that should have been looking out to make sure that this didn't happen. In the offending photo she looks tousled and soft and vulnerable and yes...even sexy. She is fifteen after all, and the word sex is starting to come up. I seem to remember a fourteen/fifteen year old Brooke Shields commenting that nothing came between her and her Calvins. There would be no problem if Ms. Cyrus doesn't represent something that is counterintuitive to that image.
In the article in the New York Times Business Section, a Disney executive is quoted, saying "For Miley Cyrus to be a 'good girl' is now a business decision for her. Parents have invested in her godliness. If she violates that trust, she won't get it back." In the world of constant scrutiny how can a young person not violate this and develop a mind, body and spirit of their own? Look at the '50s and the idols of that time. Many gay men with beards...sham marriages. Young stars trying out their sexuality secretly. My own mother (pre-show business) was married at 14 to be able to explore her own passions.
Today's generation of performers have had to navigate the treacherous shoals of adolescence in full frontal viewberty of the peering voyeurism of the media and it's voyeuristic participants. We have watched them as they stumble out of the safety of childhood, not that being a professional actor as a child is safe, but that is another blog, into the glare of celebrity, rehab, prison, teen pregnancy and now this, a backless shot of a young girl. It was called "artistic'. If we keep a young person's natural sexuality in check during their performing years what happens to it? It has to come out. Daniel Radcliffe is starring in Equus which includes nudity and parodied his natural urges (hilariously) on Ricky Gervais' EXTRAS. He has had to carry the weight and morals of Harry Potter and Warner Brothers and can now, as Harry has grown up and the series is nearing its end, tread lightly into adult fare and explore his art.
When these young people get all dressed up for award show red-carpet events don't we all comment how beautiful, stunning and grown-up they look in their strapless/backless dresses and heels and tousled hair? None of this is new. None of this should be news. But it is news because it is a business. It is all Business. It is called Show Business. Show Abyss-ness! I call it Show-OFF Business. You throw a child into the jaws of a business and they will get eaten.
I know how Miley feels. I too was a little embarrassed by my recent topless "scandal" and the subsequent parodies, but I am an adult woman. I protected myself during the shoot and I can take the heat. I only wish that her guardians had protected her.