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Janice Harper Headshot

Miley's Tongue and Other Reasons I'm Starting to Like Disney

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I've never been a Disney fan. But after watching Miley Cyrus's minstrel hip-pulverizing, tongue-thrusting, simulated sex and teddy-bear parade, I wanted nothing more than to turn back the hands of time and find comfort in a small, small world where childhood is the stuff of wonder, and where one doesn't need to wonder what in the world Hannah Montana is doing this time.

I remember Hannah Montana, the squeaky clean, little-bit-hip and oh-so-cool teenager that my pre-pubescent daughter once idolized. Hannah made my eyes roll back then with her Disney image, but not in an entirely bad way. I sort of liked her -- she was the hip girl that made mothers smile, the twenty-first century's answer to Gidget, with a touch of sass thrown in.

But I'm a realist. I know squeaky clean girls either grow up to become Sarah Palin, or they run the other way. And life as a gazilllionaire teenager in the celebrity spotlight is not just hard, it's insane. I get it. But enough is enough. If there's anything the Miley Cyrus VMA spectacle should teach us is that it isn't "slut shaming" to say what was televised is not okay. No one, male or female, should be having sex on stage for a show that children and families watch -- even if they do keep their latex underwear on while they go at it.

It's not because I'm a prude who thinks sex is something children and families should hush up about, that her adolescent butt-thrusting exhibitionism turned me off. It's because I want my daughter to experience and enjoy her own sexuality that such a flagrant travesty of sexuality and womanhood leaves me rattled. How has it come to be a marker of conservatism to seek limits and controls over the hyper-sexualization of women (and increasingly of men) in the public sphere? Is there no room among liberals for social controls over our bodies and how they are displayed?

Parents, whether conservative or liberal, have every right to be disturbed when turning on a television show means there will be sex in the living room. Actresses have every right to be disturbed if having a career means they must show their breasts (or more) to the world, no matter what the script. And children have every right to be disturbed if watching their teen idols having simulated sex while dancing with teddy bears confuses them.

It's high time to reconsider why it was that Disney was so near and dear to our hearts once upon a time so long ago. It provided a safe refuge from the realities of the adult world where vulgarities ran rampant. Make no mistake, I'm well aware of the underbelly of Disney that has brought us a lily-white version of the colonized world, and I could write for hours on all that's wrong with the corporation and the concept. But the one thing it got right was the romance of childhood and how short-lived it really is.

We don't need any more Gidgets and we don't need any more Donny and Maries. But we don't need any more porn masquerading as pop in order to promise our daughters a world where they can own their own sexuality and take pride in who they are, and what they feel, and what they want to feel, inside and outside their own skin.