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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

Seriously? Viral Controversy: Vanity Fair vs. Disney

The web is buzzing. There is an interesting controversy brewing between Vanity Fair and Disney concerning the recent photo shoot of Hannah Montana star, Miley Cyrus. The shot, taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz shows Miley, 15, sporting tousled hair, red lipstick and wrapped in nothing but a bed sheet.

There has been strong reactions from all involved.

Disney was furious at the highly-sexualized portrayal of their young and innocent teen icon. She’s valuable. Very valuable. The article states:

Hannah Montana is the Disney Channel’s current crown jewel: its ratings for its target audience, kids ages 6 to 14, are second only to American Idol’s.

Cyrus also has two multi-platinum records to her name (well, one to Hannah’s name and one, a double album, co-credited to Hannah and Miley) and is the youngest performer to have two No. 1 albums within 12 months.

Her recent concert tour sold out 70 dates across North America and caused an uproar when tickets started being scalped for thousands of dollars, in some cases. (Try getting that for your spare High School Musical: The Ice Tour ticket.)

The subsequent cash-in film, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, released in 3-D, set several records, including highest-grossing release on a Super Bowl weekend ($31.1 million) and highest per-screen average ever ($45,561); those numbers are either because of or despite the fact that tickets to Cyrus’s film were sold at the inflated price of $15, on average.

Indeed, the Hannah Montana empire is estimated to bring in an annual one billion dollars in revenues for Disney.

The New York Times quoted Patti McTeague, a Disney spokeswoman who seemed to point the finger at Vanity Fair saying “Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.”

Vanity Fair was quick to fire back, pointing out that Miley’s parents and handlers were on set and were able to preview the digital pictures right on site. Everyone seemed to like them.

Yesterday, Miley released a statement apologizing to her fans for the “embarrassing incident.” Still, it wasn’t enough to quell the fury ignited on certain sites of the blogosphere, with a few sites calling for a boycott.

My Two Cents:

First of all, despite insistence that the shot was going for a “natural portrait,” there is something very creepy about the picture. I mean she is fifteen years old.I consider myself a huge liberal, and am quite laid back in general, but looking at these pictures really appalled me. It’s not the bed sheet that bothers me so much as the expression on Miley’s face. We expect these young girls to remain children forever and then shove them into a world inhabited by adults. How many more teens will have to self-destruct in the spotlight before we get it?

Ultimately, I place the blame on Miley’s parents. At fifteen you can’t fully understand the ramifications of fame. Billy Ray Cyrus in particular has used his daughter’s fame to try and relaunch his own failed career. He’s the one that needs to grow up.

Comments: 1

  • Myl

    June 19, 2008

    I’m only 16, and I just turned that age, and to me this picture makes her look like a little girl. The expression on her face, her hair, her lack of clothes. To me it looks like a little kid, walking around in a towel, who’s maybe scared or doesn’t want to get dressed. Maybe it’s because I’m a straight girl but I don’t see it in a sexual way at all.

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