Monday, May 5, 2008

An Open Letter to Miley Cyrus

Around here at the Pop Culture America studios, I'm usually the one who wants to avoid all the silly trumped up tabloid controversies. Dave likes those. I'm far more comfortable going on and on for days and days about a 41-year-old LP record album.

But as Pop Culture Americans are too well aware, the rigamarole surrounding Miley Cyrus and her not-terribly-revealing Vanity Fair photo spread continues. Scroll down a tad to see a sample from the shoot. Just the other day, Miley released the following statement regarding the pictures:

"I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."

Bearing all that in mind, I'd like to address myself to Miley now. I know for a fact that she reads this.

Dear MC (that's my pet name for her; she calls me "Uncle Johnny"):

Did you see what happened this week at the Kentucky Derby? Pretty awful, huh? They ran that filly Eight Belles into second place and then both of her front ankles broke and she had to be destroyed right there on the track. It was horrible.

You might have missed that story with all that's been going on in your life this past week or so, though. I saw the Vanity Fair shots. Annie Leibovitz did a tremendous job with them, I thought. She really captured the vulnerable girl behind the bubblegum and ballyhoo. You might not want to hear this, but you look every bit the naive 15-year-old that you are in them, and that's what makes them such good photos.

But I see from your quote that you don't agree. And then your friends at the Disney Corporation issued statements that accused Vanity Fair and Leibovitz of taking advantage of you, exploiting you. So clearly, they don't agree with me either.

That's okay. I'm used to being the lone voice of reason in a maelstrom of irrationality. It feels like home.

I'd like for you to do something for me right now MC. Would you look at the person to your left, then look at the person to your right, please? You're always surrounded by people, so I'm sure there's someone on either side of you. Take a good long look at each of them.

Do you know what you just saw? You just saw two people who are exploiting you. Right now. Even as you sit there and read this. And I don't care if the person to your right was your father and the person to your left was your BFF. They, like everyone else in your life (except for dear ol' Uncle Johnny), are out to profit from your success.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Everybody likes to make a little cash and, truth be told, if I could figure out a way to make our relationship pay, I'd do it without thinking twice. Of course, Uncle Johnny isn't smart enough.

But lots of other people are. The problem is, they don't want the flow of legal tender to end, and that skews every dealing you have with them. It means that they won't tell you the things you need to hear. And this Vanity Fair nonsense is only the most recent example.

So I'm going to put this mess into perspective for you. You may not like what I'm about to say, but it's the non-profit truth.

MC, you are not an artist and you are not an actress. Maybe some day you will be those things; 15-year-olds grow up to be all sorts of things in this great country. But right now, you are neither.

You are a commodity. You are a walking, talking strategy for selling hunks of lead-covered Chinese plastic to 12-year-old American girls. And everyone around you knows it. Everyone around you looks at you and sees little dollar signs spinning around, just like in a cartoon.

Annie Leibovitz did you a great service by displaying you as a real human being. It's the first time I've seen a picture of you that didn't scream "Marketing Department."

The people who surround you on a daily basis, family, friends, the Disney gang, are going to ride you the way that jockey rode that poor horse at the Kentucky Derby. They'll tell you what they think you want to hear, all the while pushing you as hard as you can go. When the ride ends -- and one day it will -- they'll dump you without a thought and move on to the next tween sensation. Somewhere in a Disney boardroom, even as you read this, someone is already mapping out a post-Hannah strategy and preparing to groom the next show pony.

I guess what I'm trying to say, MC, is don't fall for the illusions. This is a dangerous time for you; just look at all the other young stars whose lives went off the rails when they entered their adulthoods. Most experienced shock when they discovered that when the success dried up, the love did too. I don't want that to happen to you. I don't want to read about you knocking over a video store.

Annie Leibovitz's photos of you are artistic. And the fans that you care so deeply about will abandon you and jump at the next thing the Disney promotional machinery rams down their collective throat. There's no reason to apologize. Enjoy the ride at your own pace.

Uncle Johnny

No comments:

John and Dave talks Oscar nomination predictions