Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Hannah and Her Sisters

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.

Poulos argues:

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.

Discussions - 8 Comments

"And it is pathetic. It all stems from an inability to recognize what is truly beautiful or truly erotic in this life."


I am a father of three young female fans of Disney Channel fare, yet I am total baffled as to what the heck Ponzi or Poulos is trying to say.

Are you faulting the adult handlers here because they have heretofore failed to present the young Disney girls in a more "truly erotic" fashion?

Uhhh . . . no. (?!) I am faulting an empty culture that is so blind to true eroticism that it seeks to find it via venues like the Disney Channel. I am faulting fathers who decline to protect their young daughters out of a fear of being called "paternalistic" or because they prefer to exploit their children for money. And I am faulting piggy photographers and magazine editors who think they're on to something really "edgy" and artistic when, in fact, what they are doing is lame, easy, predictable and reflects a total misunderstanding of the thing (eroticism) they are publicly revered as knowing more about than anyone else. It is worse than second rate. It is just trash.

Doesn't this sort of thing make mock of the distress people claim to feel about the Texas FLDS girls at "Polygamy Ranch Estates"?

"Hannah Montana" is the stuff I miss by not having TV in my house. My daughter (15 years old, too) is probably aware of Miss Cyrus, but has not brought her home to us. And yet....
My daughter has been distressedly telling me about her 12 year old cousin, attending public school, who is debating becoming sexually active because all of her friends are and she feels "dorky" in her resistance to the trend. This is a small town school. Not that the size of the school should make any difference. Girls can't just be girls anymore. It is hard work and costs us to allow our 15 year old the freedom to be a a child. No, that is not quite right, as there are nearly adult behaviors we press on her, like responsibility, hard work, polite behavior and we are not uniformly successful with those. Still, to hear her worrying how to help her 12 year old cousin remain chaste feels like a little victory in the circumstances.

I am faulting an empty culture that is so blind to true eroticism that it seeks to find it via venues like the Disney Channel.

Ok, but you had said, "Miley Cyrus, or her sister persona "Hannah Montana," made a fortune as she seemed to buck the trend of sexualizing childhood." These two comments confuse me. I mean, I wouldn't be allowing my three daughters some Disney time if they were NOT finding that trend being bucked!

Suffice to say, a few pigs from truly digusting adult venues like Vanity Fair have managed to dirty even the nice, bucking, youth venues like the Disney Channel, in your mind.

Tsk, tsk. I don't plan on letting the pigs ruin some nice erotic-bucking entertainment for my kids. Disney stays in my house. Harrumph!

p.s. So long as they keep bucking, that is. :)

It seems the depressing trend for this young women is to be:
a. popular as a child star
b. in the teen years have a controversial photo surface
c. in young adult (21+) to become "mature" and next thing you see is another child star to take her place.
It is almost like a worksheet in school-fill in the blanks with the next name.
I could have easily predicted this journey for young Miss Cyrus. It is not our society, it is money. It is willing to do anything to sell a photo, story or idea.
It is a live of no standards what so ever.
She can protest, apologize all she wants and I still will predict the same outcome. I will cheerfully say "Ouch I was wrong!" if it doesn't happen.
Miley will have the money to live the strange life that celebrities have, the ordinary girl will not. There is the pain of these events.

Doesn't this sort of thing make mock of the distress people claim to feel about the Texas FLDS girls at "Polygamy Ranch Estates"?

Yes. The culture really does not have a ground to stand on when condemning the sect. It is only a distant memory, something remembered vaguely. I am all for this memory, but it won't be long now before it is completely lost...

...and then what? A resurgent Christianity (only a miracle of history), or more likely, a ground ripe for something like Islam.

Until another strident Christian apologist comes along and saves Christianity from not only others, but itself.

The only issue is who, when, and will it be in time.

MSL: I'm not condemning you for having the Disney Channel or for letting your daughters watch Hannah Montana. We don't choose to get it (for a whole host of reasons--mainly to do with lack of interest, time or money)--but I certainly do not think the Disney Channel is the focus of evil in the modern world. I have never supported Disney boycotts either. On balance, I love Disney. There are some things I choose to edit out in our home, but in a world with so few options for wholesome family entertainment Disney is more to be praised than blamed. I agree.

Personally, I have always been ambivalent about Hannah Montana. I've never "banned" it, but I don't encourage it either. If it happens to be on the Saturday morning line up and we're not otherwise occupied, I'd never say, "NO! You can't see that!" (I know how to pick my battles.) But I think there is much to what "don" says in comment 5--so I was not surprised to see this trajectory take hold with Miss Cyrus. I said nothing to my daughter about what's happened with her and she doesn't watch television news as a matter of course, but she came home from school yesterday brimming with an eagerness to report it. This is what I find so irritating about such episodes. I don't recall ever having to contemplate such a thing when I was eight!

But beyond all the controversy, isn't it rather vacuous to sell young girls the idea that becoming a "rock star" is the height of all accomplishment. I know there's more to the show . . . but there's not much more to it. It's main vice, in my view (like so much of television), is that it is a massive time suck unworthy of the time. I know that makes me some kind of a snob in the eyes of many . . . but then, so be it. Hannah Montana, High School Musical (which, you will recall, featured yet another young thing on the fast track to "maturity") and other brain dead frivolities will thrive despite my preferences. Most of them will not be banned in my house, but neither will they get my money or my endorsement.

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