Well, Excuuuuuse Me ...

Miley’s Sorry. Really Sorry.

Benjamin Radford
5 min read
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Miley Cyrus, star of the “Hannah Montana” series, is sorry because, um—well … it’s not really clear what she’s sorry for, but whatever it is, it has to do with a series of photos taken by Annie Leibovitz for the June 2008 issue of Vanity Fair. One photo shows Cyrus’ bare back and shoulders; in another, she’s draped across her father, Billy Ray “Achy Breaky Heart” Cyrus.

The horror! Cyrus with her back exposed! For all the furor and media coverage, you’d think a sex tape had surfaced showing Miley in a steamy threesome with Britney Spears and Rob Lowe. This was her response:

"I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about … For
Vanity Fair , I was so honored and thrilled to work with Annie [Leibovitz]. I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs, I feel so embarrassed … Most of all, I have let myself down. I will learn from my mistakes and trust my support team. My family and my faith will guide me through my life’s journey.”

Which spin-doctoring PR flunkie wrote this crap? “I have let myself down"? “I will learn from my mistakes and … my family and faith will guide me through my life’s journey”? Usually when a person apologizes, it’s because they have done something wrong. They cut you off in traffic, were rude to your parents, ran over your yapping dog, something like that. Posing with your back exposed for a famous photographer and a high-class, highbrow magazine isn’t something you’d think would require a public apology.

Yes, Cyrus is 15, and you can talk about early sexualization of pop stars all you want, but the facts are that: 1) the photos showed less skin than most swimsuits; 2) her parents and relatives were with her the entire time; and 3) Cyrus chose to pose for the pics, saw the photos after the shoot and thought they were nice. She wasn’t tricked or coerced into anything, and it wasn’t until someone from the
Disney Channel heard about them that some damage control was in order. Hundreds of photos were shot, and only the "sexy" photos got any attention. Miley was just being like most teens; if parents don’t think 15- and 16-year-old girls like to show some sex appeal, they need to get out more.

It’s not the first time hypersensitive Miley Cyrus (or her father) has offered an apology. In February,
Consumer Reports—of all organizations, in a blog item, of all places—complained that the Hannah Montana film showed Miley and her father—gasp—without seat belts! Apparently fearful that millions of tween girls would notice this brief cinematic faux pas and refuse to wear seat belts in adoration of their idol, the blogger tut-tutted, “Miley, her father and Disney had a perfect opportunity to help influence teens and counteract—rather than encourage—this trend.” Billy Ray issued a mea culpa.

Disney may own the rights to Hannah Montana, but Miley Cyrus is a human being. Sure, she’s a star and a zillionaire and everything, but she’s still a teenage girl. The idea that she must studiously avoid anything that smacks of maturity is ridiculous.

This seems like a tempest in a teapot, fueled by Disney wanting to protect its cash cow. The Hannah Montana franchise is expected to rake in a billion dollars this year. Disney, obviously pissed that someone other than Disney was making money off of Miley’s image and fame, issued a statement suggesting that
Vanity Fair had somehow exploited her: “Unfortunately … a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old girl in order to sell magazines.” (What exactly the “manipulation” was remains unclear.)

Disney’s overreaction is partly because of the “scandal” surrounding a few racy pics of
High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens that surfaced last year. Most were pretty mild—a few in panties, one kissing a girl—but one was a nude photo of Hudgens. The actress quickly apologized, and Disney Channel spokesperson Patti McTeague issued a statement that “Vanessa has apologized for what was obviously a lapse in judgment. We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.”

What “lapse in judgment” did Hudgens make? Having her boyfriend take a nude photo of her? Why is that an error in judgment? Why does Disney employee Patti McTeague sit in judgment of (or have any opinion about) what Hudgens does on her own time, in the privacy of her own home, with her lover? Since when is posing naked an immoral act requiring apology and forgiveness? Hudgens was of legal age; lots of people snap pics of themselves or their partner in the buff. The only person who owes anyone an apology is whoever made the photos public.

I understand Disney getting embarrassed by the pics, but if they want perfection and control over their performers, they should stick to animation. Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens do not deserve to be pilloried for their personal choices.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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