I had never heard of Miley Cyrus before preparing for this week’s blog topic. My niece has a poster of Hannah Montana in her bedroom, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I have thus never heard Miley act, sing or dance, except of course, for her now infamous display at the video awards show.
I don’t tune in much to popular culture, so possibly I am taking a very broad brushstroke when I say that I wasn’t so sure why this one performance attracted so much attention (although I was surprised that within this attention, Miley’s whiteness against her back-up dancers’ blackness went mostly unnoticed – I noticed that quite a bit). The show was vulgar and lacked artistry, yes, but the outcry around sexualization? This seems a matter of fairly slight degree. How is it so much different from other skimpies gyrating onstage? And didn’t some other girl also put her tongue to good use once with Madonna when she needed to move from teen to adult celebrity?
So I’m assuming the fuss must stem from a populace, or more accurately the parents of that populace, who perceived a role model in Hannah Montana only to see it crushed under Miley’s platformed running shoes at the VMA. I don’t know what to say about this exactly, except that investing emotionally in a pop star is like seeking guidance from Snow White. It’s fitting that Hannah Montana aired on the Disney Channel, because the show is probably some kind of modern day fairy tale (but I can’t say for sure because I’ve never watched it).
Just as an informed parent might talk about character portrayal in traditional fairy tales (why are the meanies usually stepmothers? why are the fathers spineless or absent? why are the rewarded good girls so passive under tyranny? why is the reward marriage to a prince?), parents might do well to talk about the modern day fantasies that air on television. Is Hannah Montana real? What do you think Miley Cyrus is like in real life? Why is she performing this way? Is real sex like that? Why is the sexual focus on Miley and not the man she performed with? Who are the black dancers on stage and why are they there?
You can avoid most of Miley-type scenes by not just unplugging, but not bothering with television at all. It’s true, we don’t have one in our house, and it’s wonderful. But you don’t need to toss the TV to avoid its pitfalls – just talk about it. Miley gets a lot of attention and has lots of money, but she’s got nothing on a basic media literacy education for children. If they’ve got this, no one needs to fret when a public display goes one shade darker on the spectrum of distasteful. The question won’t be “Who is Hannah?” or “Who is Miley?” but rather, “Who cares?”