Montaniacs... Of celebrities, daughters and daddies who insist on keeping their heads in the sand

Thursday, May 01, 2008 - 12:00 AM

I've got a difficult problem. I hate Miley Cyrus Inc. Don't get me wrong. She's a perfectly nice young lady. What is there to hate about a poised and talented 15 year old? I just hate her branding ubiquity.

I hate her musical style and the fact that she's become a billion dollar pop behemoth based on celebrity surrogacy. She's not an actual celebrity. Miley is a celebrity embryo avatar. She is a generic girl-next-door imaginary celebrity generic talent platform. She's a real kid with a kiddie lifestyle and regular girl needs except for one thing. She happens to be a monster celebrity (Hannah Montana).

In the totally awesome language of Miley Cyrus Inc., the narrative goes like this:

"I mean like, being a teen is, you know, hard enough but what if like you were a monster celebrity on top of it all? I'm so, like intense about all that."

Miley delivers the frenetic joy of what it would be like if YOU were actually a celebrity, yet, with Miley, there's none of those unsightly lapses and paparazzi-hating expletives like you would see on the celebrity-chasing cable shows. Here's a celebrity themed creature that you can pretend is your best pal and no matter how wild the ride gets is still perfectly safe. It's all of the megastardom with none of the addictions and self-destruction. Miley's World, the official fan site for Miley allows you to see Miley's Secret Diary. (A secret diary apparently is a diary that's completely hidden except from people who fill out an online form.)

So I want nothing to do with stories about her photos in Vanity Fair. I don't care if she needs to apologize for letting Annie Leibovitz take pictures of her back. I don't care if she thought they were arty when she took them but now thinks that she needs to apologize.

In Cyrus-speak it's like this:

"I mean if you were just a regular kid who was also a monster celebrity you would, of course, get asked to pose for Vanity Fair and of course you would like say yes or something and then you would have to be polite when everyone is like paying attention to you at the million-dollar photo shoot and your awesome dad is there with you. What could you do? Like, say no or something? Uh I don't think so. But then you would see the pictures in the magazine and it would look like maybe you had your shirt off and some girlfriend says, in a totally friendly way but still, like it's looks like Britney S. I mean you would start crying and get so upset and you would worry about going down the Britney road I mean like that's so gross. You would like totally say you were sorry. Right?"

I care about none of this except for my two nine-year-old daughters. For the first time in my life I can't ignore this stuff.

So for this morning's radio program I needed to go to the source to discover how important this Hannah Montana business is. I held a news conference with my daughters Zoe and Olivia. After reviewing the press coverage of the Vanity Fair photo scandal, my 9 year olds concluded that the photo wasn't bad, that Miley shouldn't be posing like that at age 15 and that she does need to worry about her fans. Zoe and Olivia believe that Miley could be on a road that leads to the Britney land. "That's so gross," they say. But there's still time for her to pull back from the brink.

To my surprise, I discovered three things from my big girls: 1. Zoe and Olivia believe that Miley Cyrus is actually owned by the Disney Channel, 2. Z&O believe that Miley Cyrus sucks compared to the band Feist, and 3. Z&O believe that after 10th grade people stop doing really stupid stuff.

Imagine the things I wouldn't understand if I just stayed in my grumpy, daddy, middle aged cocoon?

Contributors:

John Hockenberry

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Comments [2]

Mary Elizabeth Williams

John, you have an uncanny knack for channeling the voice of a 15 year old girl from Tennessee.

I did my own take on the Miley juggernaut for Salon earlier this year:
http://www.salon.com/ent/tv/feature/2008/02/12/hannah_montana/index.html

And while I'm just a cranky parent too, I do understand the allure. She may be an oversaturated Disney product, but she's also a very charismatic, talented girl. She's that huge because she does, in fact, connect with something in her audience. We can be cynical about the marketing (check!), but when you've been as exposed to Cyrus as I have, you begin to appreciate her talent. Yes, I said talent. It's not Feist, but my kids don't know what a mushaboom is anyway.

May. 01 2008 10:46 PM
David Hollis

As a communications professional of 30-plus years: Miley Cyrus has been turned into (sadly) a product, a commodity, an image, a brand. The pictures in VF damage the Miley Cyrus brand.

As a dad: Miley Cyrus is a little girl who is being exploited, and not just by the VF pix. Shame on her parents for allowing that.

My biggest concern: for the kids who looked up to her or enjoyed her. They ought not to see someone they like/envy/enjoy fall (shoved by adults).

May. 01 2008 12:09 PM

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