Thursday, May 27, 2010

Miley's Wild Ride

Some of my more conservative friends have been posting grave concerns about Miley Cyrus's new dance video  "I Can't Be Tamed" which shows the tween star in a black feathered bondage looking outfit, dancing in a cage. The MTV style video is filled with gyrating dancers and slick moves that push the Disney singer far beyond her 17 years.

The conservative blog Culture and Media Institute wrote a piece titled "The Miley Cyrus Efffect" - the author notes, "Cyrus’ new music video, “Can’t Be Tamed,” has already received over 5 million hits on YouTube and featured Cyrus in a tight one piece leotard, dancing in a cage along with others similarly dressed. Parts of the dance are suggestive and sexual."

The media - which is normally noted as being open to a more liberal viewpoint - has reacted to Cyrus's new look as well. The Culture and Media Institue continues: "Even the media has noticed Cyrus’ inappropriate dancing. She is set to perform on the popular television show, 'Dancing with the Stars' and reports have surfaced that producers have told her she must keep her dancing G-rated."

But the author also expresses a point that I would like to question. She says, "When girls see Cyrus and their other favorite actresses and singers behaving like that, it normalizes the behavior."

I watched Miley's video. I found it a bit disturbing and not a great showcase of her talent. But I wondered whether or not my 12-year-old would be negatively effected by Miley. Should I hide this type of video from her? Will it ruin her? Will it, as the author above suggests, make her believe that such behavior is normal?

As a parent, should I be concerned about Miley and her cage dance?

I talked to my daughter about it. While she is not a huge Miley fan - we had gone to see her two more recent movies and enjoyed them. I told her about the video and asked her what kids were saying about it. She replied, "Miley is not even talked about at my school. Nobody cares about her anymore."

Sabrina and her friends have moved on past the teen stars that Disney thinks they are listening to. Her Ipod contains songs by singers like Owl City and Taylor Swift. Her tastes are maturing. She is learning to think for herself.

I think that sometimes the influences we adults most fear are not really influences at all. I also think that teens have some ability to separate an artist from her work. For example, just because I loved some of Madonna's songs in the 80s didn't mean that I endorsed every outfit or dance move she exhibited in her videos. I could like the song "Just Like a Prayer" without worshipping Madonna herself. To me these were separate issues.

If our teens are emulating everything a star does and says without discretion, we have a problem with our communication within our own home. A part of being a parent is being able to teach discernment. We need to grow our kids in their ability to move against popular culture - not accept every trend that is presented to them.

I must admit that I am concerned about Miley. To me, she seems to be following in the footsteps of other over-exposed child stars. Their fame seems to be too much too soon. Their desperate search for a new adult identity - apart from the child icon they were marketed as - seems to drive them into inappropriate life style choices. I will continue to watch her as she sorts all of this out.

But I will also keep the conversation open with my own child. What is she listening to? Who does she admire? How can I help her sort through what is good from what is popular?