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Miley Cyrus' new video: Too sexy too soon, or par for the course?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  May 12, 2010 12:00 PM

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I watched Miley Cyrus' "Can't be Tamed" video the other day, mainly to see what all the fuss is about. My older kids are too old for Hannah Montana, and my little ones are too young, so I was going on my impression of Ms. Cyrus from a few years ago, when the Disney show was in its heyday.

The video? Let's just say it's no feel-good "Party in the U.S.A." Which was a little off-putting itself, come to think of it -- how much "movin' my hips like yeah" should a 16-year-old be doing in short-shorts and with her bra straps exposed anyway? But "Can't be Tamed" makes "Party in the U.S.A." look like it was produced by PBS.

Some critics have warned that Miley is set to become the next Britney Spears, breakdowns and all. "You might want to go back and review Britney’s timeline of events after sacrificing her girlhood innocence on the sex-sells altar of fame and fortune," advises Vicki Courtney on her blog. "She’s been there, done that. Barely lived to tell about it. Literally."

Except... not exactly. Britney Spears' downward spiral began while she was dating Justin Timberlake, sure, but it became public with her 55-hour marriage to a childhood sweetheart in Vegas when she was barely 22. It accelerated after she married another man she barely knew six months later and had two kids in two years. I'd argue that her problems were less about over-sexualization than they were (are?) about mental instability but, in spite of all that, she is currently the eighth best-selling female recording artist in the U.S. ever, and is the top female recording artist here for the past decade. Cristina Aguilera -- another Micky Mouse Club veteran -- was far more blatantly sexual than Britney and she's turned out fine. Not to mention Madonna.

I understand Miley Cyrus' desire to reach out to a new target audience -- though her Hannah Montana character is in high school, the show's fans are mostly 8 to 10 year olds. Her naked-except-for-a-sheet 2008 Vanity Fair cover was part of that plan, too. And, as a former 17-year-old girl myself, I also understand her very normal teenage need to be seen less as a child and more as an adult.

But I also think that Miley and her uncomfortably orgasmic latest video is more the symptom than the problem itself. For every teenage star desperately trying to reach out to an older crowd (and be taken "seriously" as an adult), you have scores of little kids whose parents encourage them to do things like this:

These little girls are amazing dancers, but are the moves -- not to mention the outfits -- appropriate for kids who haven't even hit double digits yet?

So, whose to blame? The parents who give their permission? The adults who come up with the choreography? Or society in general, for clamoring for more?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at  and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.

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26 comments so far...
  1. My reaction when I saw that Single Ladies video the first time?

    All they are missing is the pole.

    And these kids are what 7, 8 at the most.

    I get teens Miley's age pushing the envelope -- we did too -- but this is too much. Beauty pageant class too much.

    Let's let little girls be little girls again.

    Posted by Susan Getgood May 12, 10 09:48 PM
  1. I love this column. Always an interesting take on things like this.

    When I was 17, if I could have made a video like this, I totally would have. When I was 8, if I could have done a dance routine like that... I would have run, screaming.

    The kids aren't the problem. The parents are.

    Posted by Maya May 12, 10 10:24 PM
  1. One of the things I love about the dance studio where my daughter dances is that the costumes, music, and moves are all age-appropriate. The director has horror stories of competitions where other studios had entries similar to the one in the video above - and one where a 14-year-old girl actually *had* a pole. Yikes!

    When my kids have the opportunity to watch iCarly, Hannah Montana, and the like, I'm often disgusted by the behavior of the characters on the shows - they are far from role models, and the kids that watch the show are too little to learn any positive lessons. High School Musical is a perfect example - the little girls idolize Sharpay, who is glamorous, and gloss over the fact that she's nasty and doesn't have any real friends. I think it's all part of the problem - kids are bombarded with stuff that's not age-appropriate, and they want to emulate it without understanding it.

    Posted by akmom May 13, 10 07:03 AM
  1. Honestly, no matter what age, I wouldn't be caught DEAD dancing on a pole! At what age is dancing like a stripper appropriate? At least 18, legal age, I would say. But what self-respecting woman would do that? In public? On stage?! I don't think the age is as big a factor as the actual pole dancing. It is scandalous at any age.

    Young girls need a better role model that Miley, but if parents make them dance like that, I don't know where else they can turn for good influences. I hope people come to there senses soon.

    Posted by summa! baby bumma! May 13, 10 11:43 AM
  1. Wow, that video with the little girls is insane. Great dancers, but the moves and outfits?!?!

    The Miley video is also absurd! Is she trying to be Lady Gaga? I agree with everything akmom said about the Disney shows. Everyone tells me they are "harmless" programs, but they are not! How can it be harmless for kids as young as three or four to idolize Sharpay? And Miley isn't a much better example, with her attitude. I think it's amazing how even parents who don't particularly like these shows act like they have no choice in the matter. My kids have never seen High School Musical (which none of my friends can believe or understand) or most of the Disney shows, and they are fine!

    I would think that Miley isn't going to get very far going down the trashy/sexy route, since adults won't particularly care for her, and she'd be too risque for the current base of Hannah Montana fan. However, unfortunately, I think again, that too many parents will continue to let their pre-teens kids emulate her. Soon, we'll be seeing kids walking around with the big wings and leotard! ha, ha

    Posted by mom2boys May 13, 10 12:50 PM
  1. It seems as though society, pop culture, and heaven help us the moms who are reliving their teens... all work against us. One mom in town dresses her barely pubescent daughter like a hooker. She (the mom) is currently dieting in an effort to weigh less than her 13 year old. At a recent b-day party, the kid wore a dress that barely covered her butt with 5 inch stiletto heels. After this outing, the mom bragged about the kid looking "almost as hot as me". Why can't 13 year olds just be 13 years olds? Why can't their moms just be a mom, rather than a sluttish older sister?

    Posted by 2kids2dogs May 13, 10 01:19 PM
  1. Remember when Britney Spears was a virgin? Miley's on the same track. Too bad.

    Posted by deb May 13, 10 04:53 PM
  1. I laughed out loud when I saw these little girls just busting moves. You all are just too jealous that YOU can't dance like they can. The moves that could be implied as "outrageous" or "filthy" are just not done often enough or slowly enough to make it bad. These little gals have obviously worked their buts off reherssing this routine and boy did they nail it! Good job little ladies. That was awesome!

    Posted by tim6119 May 13, 10 10:34 PM
  1. This was such a good tie-in to yesterday's Globe article on moms and teens sharing the same "crushes". And I think the answer lies right there.

    I'm 35. I don't feel 35, most people don't believe I'm 35. I still get carded (in seriousness) for beer and occasionally, smokes. Hell, I don't act like my mom did at this age. But the thought of trying to out-sexy my daughter when she gets older (she's 2 and frankly, she has me out-cuted in every way possible and I love it!) makes me a little nauseous. OK. A lot nauseous.

    I've tried to read and like Harry Potter. I've looked into the hooplah around the Twilight Series. I find both lacking for me, but I can see their appeal to teens. If I was a teen, I'd probably be all over it. But while I may be immature and cocky, I am not a teen and I do draw the line.

    Parents that allow their kids to watch these Disney shows (a friend of mine has a 4 y/o into Hannah Montana and iCarly and claims I'll have no choice once mine starts pre-school with other kids who are into the same. I disagree. I do have a choice and I'll be the bad, un-trendy mommy) and don't stop them from emulating or even encourage it are probably the same parents who would fight their own daughters for a chance to date one of the Twilight vampires. It's a sad commentary on how we prepare our daughters for their future.

    Posted by Phe May 14, 10 09:04 AM
  1. I'm no prude, nor am I going through my adult life (almost 40, 3 kids) with my head in the sand, but that video of those young girls dancing was one of the most disturbing things I have seen in recent memory.

    Posted by cod3 May 14, 10 09:12 AM
  1. It seems to me that she's growing up. You can't expect her to be a sweet, innocent girl until she's 50, right? At some point she's going to move on and he audience will be a different cross section. That point is here.

    Posted by Todd May 14, 10 09:40 AM
  1. Not my kids, not my business. Yeah it's kinda sick to see those little girls gyrating like that, but you don't have to watch. You don't have to deal with their issues as they're growing up. Shake your head and be disappointed, but don't try to parent anyone but your own children.

    Posted by Beyonce May 14, 10 10:52 AM
  1. It is interesting the 2 who think it is okay are Todd and Tim but I wonder if they are dads. My husband would flip out on me if my daughter went to a dance studio that allowed this outfit and dance. Yes, they are awesome dancers but the outfit is inappropriate at that age. And Miley is only 16, come on! Shame on her dad! I don't get men who want people to look at their daughters that way. And believe me, I'm not jealous.

    Posted by RTmom May 14, 10 10:57 AM
  1. Seriously?

    Let's just reprint all the articles from 1999 and substitute Miley's name for Britney.

    If you don't like it, teach your children to be different.


    Posted by C May 14, 10 11:22 AM
  1. American public enterainment continues to push the envelope with sex and violence everyday and we continue to guzzle it down like a can of Red Bull. Tastes alright... feels exciting but by the end you feel like a peice of crap. Our tolerance levels just keep raising for trash like this. I'm no conservative... in fact I'm an artist myself but even I agree that little girls in can-can stripper outfits goes too far. The choreographer thought they were being geniously crafty with this one and he/she got the publicity they wanted. Nowadays its anything to bring in a buck and lets face it... SEX SELLS. Its a damn shame.

    Posted by Casicko May 14, 10 12:01 PM
  1. My 2.5 YO boy never watched any TV. He is only allowed to watch specifically selected movies for 30-40 minutes at a time once a week (twice only if the weather is really bad). I was told that he would be 'left out' of what the other kids like because of my decisions. I was so confused that my decision to keep him limited on TV was considered a 'bad' choice. He is a happy, active, very verbal little guy. I can handle being the 'mean mom' in this case.

    Posted by ncd112 May 14, 10 01:49 PM
  1. Does P-E-D-O-P-H-I-L-I-A mean anything to the parents of these children? I thought there were laws against this?

    Posted by Concerned parent May 14, 10 03:31 PM
  1. The outfits the dancing girls were wearing were no more troubling than what little girls are wearing at the pool or on the beach. The part that made me very, very upset was the dancing itself, it was too sexy and provocative for girls that age. Sure the parents are to blame for letting the dance instructor come up with that act! And then backing the instructor up with their checkbooks!!!

    Posted by Another Mom May 14, 10 05:36 PM
  1. She is ugly

    The music sucks

    She is obviously lip singing

    She is relying on sex to make up for a lack of talent.

    Posted by Jim May 15, 10 01:30 AM
  1. Formula. It's a formula.

    Posted by mmennonno May 16, 10 07:50 AM
  1. AKMOM, that is ridculous, it is a MOVIE. unless ur little girls are now walking around singing songs like Sharpay and acting like her ordering your other kids around, then you need to lighten up. And all you other moms on here that are freaking out over disney channel programs, you need help and you need to learn your kids have minds of their own, and that they KNOW it is T.V, not real. I agree Mileys new vid is waaayyy to over the top, and those girls shouldn't be dancing like that, and RTMOM, Miley is 18 btw. Serilously guys, let your kids be themselves and stop controlling what they are wearing and watching.

    Fearlessly Fab


    I have seen HSM, it is perfectly fine, nothing inapropreite or anything so lighten up.

    Posted by JJ May 16, 10 12:47 PM
  1. JJ,

    Maybe you should get a clue. It is more than a "MOVIE", it is (or was) a phenomenon. It's comical that you say to let our kids "have a mind of their own" and "be themselves" when the exact opposite seems to happen with the kids that watch all this influential television with these shallow characters! Do you think kids that mimic Miley, or whomever it may be, and wear all HSM clothes are thinking for themselves? I suppose you have your own Justin Beiber shirt, too?

    That's o.k., you can let your kids waste their time watching all the nonsense and dressing like Miley, and someday they might be lucky enough to work for my kids.

    Posted by mom2boys May 16, 10 04:14 PM
  1. It's beyond disturbing! I will try like anything to protect my 3 year old daughter from the culturally accepted oversexualization of little girls and pray that this country gets a clue how damaging this stuff is.

    Posted by letgirlsbegirls May 17, 10 08:40 AM
  1. JJ, what you fail to understand is that little kids DON'T get the difference between tv/movies and real life. HSM is fine for kids who are in elementary school, but not for preschoolers. Hannah Montana and iCarly are sort of OK for tweens and up, but not for the little kids who seem to be the most interested in watching them.

    I don't 'control' what my kids watch and wear, but here's a newsflash - it's a parent's job to, well, PARENT their children and teach them to make good decisions. When my kids watch stuff that has questionable content, we talk about the 'bad' parts. I do control what they wear to some extent - I refuse to let my eight-year-old daughter look like a hooker. She's got plenty of room for self-expression, believe me.

    Posted by akmom May 17, 10 09:46 AM
  1. Hey JJ --

    What's the problem with setting some standards of quality for children? Children should not be expected to raise themselves. That's supposed to be what parents are for...

    But then again, sticking them in front of a tube and letting them raise themselves must be soooo much easier for you. "Stop controlling what they are wearing and watching....", are you serious?

    Posted by 2kids2dogs May 17, 10 04:07 PM
  1. There's a great discussion going on at Yahoo's Shine about the little girls in the dancing video:

    I think the girls are fantastic dancers. But there's no need to tart them up in child-sized lingerie. Their skill is obvious... their not-yet-sexual bodies shouldn't be. Of course these little girls are innocent, but what about the people watching them?

    Posted by LMA May 19, 10 12:55 PM
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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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