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April 30, 2008

Miley Cyrus is Not Your Kids’ Role Model


By Dan Calabrese

Hannah Montana is on in our house more than I care to acknowledge, but such is life when your wife, er, I mean, your seven-year-old is a manic Disney Channel fan. It’s actually a pretty funny show, although it doesn’t hold a candle to Cory in the House. (You just can’t beat White House chase scenes with Benny Hill-style music.)


But this show could not have turned the now-besieged Miley Cyrus into a teen-pop phenomenon, and thus a “role model” if viewers of the show – and I mainly mean parents – could keep the whole thing in perspective.


Fifteen-year-old Miley is catching heat for posing in some rather suggestive photos by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, including one in which she is topless but covering herself with a sheet.


Yeah, I said she’s 15. What do you think will happen when her father, erstwhile mullet legend Billy Ray Cyrus, finds out? Oh yeah, that’s right. He was there for the photo shoot. He was even in a couple of the photos. That’s one American parent who’s not beside himself over it. Unfortunately, he might be the only one.


Miley is all the rage because her TV show is all the rage, and it has created a persona so powerful that it inspired parents on her recent concert tour to pay scalpers upwards of $2,000 for tickets. Supposedly, kids can’t get enough of Miley. Then again, maybe it’s that parents are so bought into her G-rated image that it’s they who can’t get enough.


It’s true, it appears, that if you watch TV long enough you will perceive fantasy and reality turning each other inside out.


Here’s the premise, if you’re uninitiated: The character Miley Stewart, still a year or two short of her driver’s license, is an ordinary kid by day, but lives the secret identity of pop star Hannah Montana by night. This is all managed by her dad Robby Ray (played by the ubiquitous Billy Ray), and only a tiny number of people know Miley’s secret – school chums Lily and Oliver, brother Jackson, her grandmother, “Aunt Dolly,” on-again, off-again boyfriend Jake, redneck Uncle Earl . . . Come to think of it, who doesn’t know she’s Hannah Montana?


Well there’s always that annoying social studies teacher who lives in his mother’s basement.


The purported appeal of all this is that Miley continues life as a “normal” kid while also living the life of a superstar. “What a role model!” American parents exclaim. She doesn’t lose her grip on what’s real.


But real-life parents have. See, the problem with all this is that one of Miley’s TV identities is real and one is not – and the real one is not the one everyone is in love with. She’s a good actress, so she can convince you that those normal-girl high school hijinks are reflective of her real life. But they’re not. Someone wrote them for her. It’s not the way she lives.


The real Miley Cyrus is Hannah Montana without the blonde wig. She is not a role model for your kids or anyone else’s, because she is a music superstar, and your kids are not. And they won’t be. They’ll be accountants or Taco Bell employees. They’re not going to pack arenas and they’re not going to have anyone to write lines for them so they can pretend they’re normal kids.


So when parents get upset because Miley poses for completely inappropriate photos at the age of 15, because she’s a “role model,” their premise is as much a part of the problem as she is. A similar controversy erupted during her tour when someone figured out that a body double was used during a brief moment when Miley and “Hannah” were on the stage at the same time.


People were actually upset, because, you know, “Our kids look up to her.”


Good grief.


Miley Cyrus may or may not be going the way of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. I certainly hope not. She has her dad nearby to guide her. Then again, she has her dad nearby to guide her.


But as a parent, you have to know it’s a possibility. So if your kids like Hannah Montana, by all means, let them watch it and watch it with them. That little twerp Rico is hilarious. But tell them it’s a TV show, it’s not real and Miley is not a “normal kid.” Then when she disappoints them, they’ll be able to bravely soldier on.


As for you, well, you can always wallow in Macaulay Culkin nostalgia. Actually, never mind.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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