Here's an interesting piece (thanks Super Dee) about How Karl Marx predicted Hannah Montana would go nude.
Here's my Tribune column from a couple of weeks ago on the matter:
The picture said it all. In fact, it said too much. Miley Cyrus, the 15-year-old billion-dollar Disney franchise glanced from the pages of Vanity Fair hugging a satin bed sheet to her not yet formed breasts. Her back is exposed, goose pimples pepper her young skin. The light shines on her face, her lips, a bright blood red, contrast with the sepia and bluish tones of the rest of the portrait. Her hair is tousled into the kind of style that can only be described as “just been f***ed hair”; damp and messy. There’s a knowing smile too, and an accidental glint in the eye, “look what I just did.” Cue moral outrage.
Miley Cyrus is Hannah Montana, a Disney star with a TV show, endless merchandise, concerts where she earns $1 million a week on tour, and soon, movies. When she decided to do an interview with Vanity Fair, the magazine drafted in their favourite snapper Annie Leibovitz to take the shot. The one she chose is the one that has shocked America. Disney say Leibovitz took advantage of the teen star whose main audience is the fastest growing and incredibly lucrative demographic, the tweens, worth around €200 billion in money spent on products in America a year.
There is nothing America loves more than a good old – hypocritical - moral outrage. Think of the world almost stopping that time Janet Jackson showed her pierced nipple at the Superbowl, or when Paris Hilton’s sex tape leaked. These stories often get more air time than war, the economy and politics put together on the week they break. The American media reacts like The Simpsons’ Reverend Lovejoy’s wife, running around hands in the air screaming “won’t somebody please think of the children!”
The moment Disney realised that the Vanity Fair shoot was going to get a bad public reaction, they went on the defensive. They don’t want to be lumbered with a Nickelodeon-type shame that burdened the station recently when their Miley Cyrus – Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of Britney – announced she was pregnant aged just 16. And a already this year, Vanessa Hudgens, the star of Disney’s other mammoth franchise – High School Musical – was busted sending naked pictures of herself on her mobile phone to her boyfriend. Oops, they did it again.
We want to pretend that Cyrus has been manipulated by an evil old photographer trying to sexualize her, but Leibovitz wasn’t doing that. Leibovitz is probably given too much credit as a photographer. The most interesting thing about her photography is the access she is granted to top celebrities. In fact, as gossip blogger Perez Hilton pointed out earlier in the week, the controversial Miley photograph is extremely similar to a shot of Diana Ross that featured on a 1989 cover of, you guessed it Vanity Fair, shot by, yep, Annie Leibovitz. Cyrus, as a 15-year-old girl in 2008 (how long before we start saying 15-year-old ‘woman’) is already sexualised. She knew what she was doing, and she didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. During the shoot, her parents and teacher were on set. They knew what they were doing too. Cyrus called the photo “artsy”, she liked it. It seemed like a natural shot to take for a girl who dresses and acts like she is in her twenties anyway, and certainly has a career and a branding model far more suited to someone well on in their showbiz career.
Cyrus thought that this photo was ‘artsy’ because in her world it is. In a world where actresses, musicians and other celebrities resort to pornography to publicise themselves (indeed, Lindsay Lohan recently posed naked for New York Magazine, and getting out of a car with your legs spread so the paparazzi can get a shot of your genitalia is seen by many young starlets as a surefire way to get your name in the tabloids the next day), then sitting only kinda naked on a bed in a post-coital pose is ‘artsy’. In the interview, she named checked ‘Sex and the City’ as her favourite programme. Disney aren’t happy with that either. It’s hard learning the truth about your child stars.
Meanwhile, Disney huffs and puffs, flaunting their morals while they are happy to use Cyrus’ sexuality to build her franchise, to sell her TV programme, CDs, clothing line and merchandise, but the minute a photographer gets the shot that accidently sums up this exploitation then, well, they go all Mrs. Lovejoy on us.
If you look at the photograph for long enough, a sort of sadness creeps in. Cyrus begins to look vulnerable. Despite being bombarded with sex – as all 15-year-olds are in their consumerist world, which has gone from sex sells to everything sold must be sex – she doesn’t really know how to work it, sexily. Her back is hunched, at odds with the usual exhibitionist pose of shoulders back and tits out. Her fingers grip the sheet, pulling it over her breasts indicating that she is, hiding, not showing. But I guess, she’ll learn.