This morning, we received an email from NYC strip club Scores, condemning Miley Cyrus' "indecent, underage behavior," since no one asked. Houston, we have a problem.
So, as we know, Miley Cyrus pole-danced at the Teen Choice Awards. Or, rather, she leapt up onto an ice cream cart with a pole in the middle and executed a single shimmy, obviously pole-dance inspired. Then she got down.
The dance itself wasn't that big a deal; yeah, it was completely inappropriate for a show that targets kids (because I think real "Teens" have moved on by this point), but not especially more so than her minute booty shorts or the parade of scantily-dressed dancers grinding behind her. It was, as the Examiner blog points out, a whole lot less raunchy than the pole-dance 'Fire Burning' number co-performer Sean Kingston indulged in.
Kingston is only 19, three years older than Cyrus, and he had not one but two poles. He also had two very scantily-clad ladies dancing around those poles with moves that were much more provocative than Cyrus's one shimmy. So why then is only Cyrus getting called out her inappropriate dancing and for using a pole in her performance, whereas no one is blinking an eye at Kingston's very sexy, very racy stage outing? Double standards, anyone?
Well, sure - and Scores doesn't seem to be clutching its pearl G-string over his two-pronged approach - but it's also true that Cyrus made her name as a good girl, has very young fans, and has recently started a spate of deliberate provocation: far from the remorse she espoused after last year's Vanity Fair fracas, now Cyrus is defiantly making her mark as an older entertainer, posing on the cover of magazines in overtly sexy getups and, yes, thumbing her nose at us fogeys with that half-assed gyrations.
Yes, she's just a kid. There were choreographers who put it together and parents who sanctioned it and managers who thought it was a good move, or at least trusted a 16-year-old's judgment. She doesn't deserve anyone's hate mail or the blame for society's ills. Maybe people are pissed off about it because a) it's August and people enjoy histrionics and b)now it feels deliberate. The Vanity Fair thing, most of us didn't mind: whatever, she was in over her head, it was Leibovitz, weird call on dad's part but really what's the big deal? But now, she's trying to throw off the yoke of exactly what made her famous, and while I understand chafing at Disney's stranglehold, it also feels, well, unfair to those little girls who look up to her. And she's playing deliberately with the clean Hannah Montana image that made her big. Says Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory,
That's some potent imagery: an emblem of childhood (an ice cream cart) juxtaposed with a symbol of modern young womanhood (a stripper pole). Looks like her managers are following the Britney Spears sexy-virgin path to success — or self-destruction, depending on your perspective.
Was the dance a big deal? Not in itself - it's short, not especially sexy, and frankly the song she was caterwauling was unlistenable. But will it negatively influence little girls? Frankly, I seriously hope most little girls weren't allowed to watch it, because it sucked, and the entire show was completely inappropriate. I maintain that girls are smarter than they're generally given credit for being, however impressionable their age, and that the behavior of one already-tarnished TV star isn't going to change the course of their lives.
But it does kind of depress me, because this is obviously what Miley Cyrus and her handlers/parents want for her, and for her career. I'm depressed for all the usual reasons - sexualization and cheapening and objectification and growing up too fast, and the lack of wholesome role models - but I think it's something more. I'm offended on behalf of little girls. Being a role model whom younger children look up to is not second-class. It's not a necessary minor-league servitude before the big leagues. It's not less important than attracting their older sisters. (It's certainly not less renumerative.) No, being a role model, someone who has the influence to touch and influence younger girls at a formative age, is an honor, and it's not an honor a lot of people are accorded. When I saw Miley Cyrus on that crummy pole, my heart sank a little: because, once again, she was saying that what she does, and her market, isn't important and she's eager to leave it behind. I get that for a young girl playing to kids doesn't feel sexy or glamorous, and it's natural to be rebellious. It's why kids shouldn't be in the public eye, arguably, in the first place - they have no control over what they're getting themselves into, and then, inevitably, they resent the pressures. That's sad for a lot of reasons, but not least because it plays havoc with the young girls whom Miley's growing up and abandoning, rather than the other way around.
(Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's what "Ed Norwick, General Manager of SCORES, the legendary NYC gentleman's club" had to say: "While Miley did show off some skills, we at SCORES cannot encourage this kind of behavior for women under the legal age. If she'd like to come try out in a couple of years, our door's open!")
Miley Cyrus: Too Young To Pole Dance? [Salon]
Miley Cyrus Vs. Sean Kingston: It's A Stripper Pole Dance-Off At The Teen Choice Awards [Examiner]
"Party In The USA" At The Teen Choice Awards (FULL VERSION)(HQ) [YouTube]