James Poulos makes a very strong case for the inexpressible sadness that must accompany any serious reflection upon the dust up surrounding 15 year-old Miley Cyrus and those "artistic" semi-nude photographs she had taken for a Vanity Fair spread. I don’t normally follow the comings and goings of Disney Channel television personalities--mainly because we don’t get the Disney Channel. But one cannot have an eight year-old daughter today and not be at least semi-conscious of the phenomenon that is "Hannah Montana." That being said, this "fluff" story seems much less fluffy. The thing does merit the kind of serious reflection Poulos offers.
I’ve argued before that our problem isn’t honoring the sexual power of young women, it’s in aggravating that power for the purposes of dishonoring it. Miley’s evocative portrait alone doesn’t contribute to this problem. But the premise of the picture, and so much of what brought it into being, does.Just so. It does seem that we build or puff up these pretty young things for the explicit purpose of tearing them down. And it is pathetic. It all stems from an inability to recognize what is truly beautiful or truly erotic in this life. We hold up the example of a young girl who--clearly, no matter what her "experience"--knows nothing of the erotic. But in that, she is just like us. She is the embodiment of our cultural naiveté. Like her, we are all promise and potential and, very likely, no delivery. We are excited and lured by the promise (or the hope)--perhaps as we once were drawn by similar sirens in our youth--and we bet (against the odds and against reason) for a different outcome. We look in all the wrong places to satiate our appetite--we search for something to which we can join ourselves and with which we can create something higher than ourselves. But that proves disappointing. It is easier and cheaper to do this than to do the real work for real satisfaction--or to accept the disappointment. We’re beyond the winks and nods we once allowed for the wolfish side of male nature--and the counterbalancing "over-protectiveness" of good fathers. Those things we now label "sexual harassment" and paternalism. In this change we puff ourselves up with the notion that we are all wolves now--we are all possessed of the power to be "beyond" the old limits . . . but, in fact, we are really just pigs doing little more than rutting.
Miley Cyrus, or her sister persona "Hannah Montana," made a fortune as she seemed to buck the trend of sexualizing childhood. But it was, as Poulos points out by noting a "regular" photo of Cyrus that is equally shameful, only an illusion. Behind the apparent demand for more wholesome fare in the popular culture, lurks more than a few pathetic pigs eager and ready slurp up some more slop. These pigs get rather noisy when they are not fed. If they are ignored long enough, they will even eat their young.