Because Belle Grows Up To Be Miley

August 28th, 2013

Okay, first off, a few disclosures.  I didn’t watch Miley Cyrus’ outrageous/disgusting/raunchy/pick-an-adjective performance at the VMAs.  I didn’t actually know what VMA stood for when it started appearing all over my newsfeed.  I have no idea what “twerking” is.  And I’m okay with that.

But I’m blogging about Miley today because her performance ties into some of the other posting I’ve done about the Disney princess culture.

Spurred by a Little Mermaid flashback, I had relaxed the fatwa against the princess pantheon in our house lately – even going so far as to buy Buggie the Sleeping Beauty doll he so desperately coveted – but it still sits uncomfortably with me at times.  This is one of those times.

The problem is this: Disney Princesses are a gateway drug.  And they lead places I do not want my little girls following.

It starts with Belle.  She’s beautiful.  Wholesome.  Refreshing.  Non-threatening.  Sure, there are problems with the portrayal of women in the Disney movies, but honestly, look at her.

 Belle Pic

Then, once little girls “age out” of the Disney Princesses (which they are doing earlier and earlier – now by about age 8), they slide seamlessly into Disney’s real-girl programming thanks to aggressive marketing by our friends at Disney.

So Belle morphs into Hannah Montana.

Hannah Montana

Which still doesn’t seem all that bad.  Average teenager by day, wholesome rock star by night?  Moms, what’s not to like?  Look at her bright smile, remarkably restrained makeup, and lack of cleavage.  So we embrace our friend Hannah and allow our daughters to fixate on her…

Then one day we wake up to this:

Miley Cyrus VMA 2

Oh dear lord.  Hannah Montana, what on earth went wrong?

Let’s assume our little girl was eight when Hannah Montana burst onto the scene in 2006.  She fell in love with Miley and we let her because she seemed harmless – a good role model, even.

Well, now our little girl is fifteen and her idol is prancing around on stage practically naked.

Houston, we have a problem.

The problem is, those little girls have been tracking right along with Miley.  They’ve been learning lessons (whether they/we intended them to or not) about what it means to be a girl, where their value lies, and how they should approach their sexuality.

And I, for one, do not want this girl teaching my daughters anything about their sexuality.  Thanks.

Miley Cyrus VMA 3

As parents, we wind up dealing with the fallout of the Miley disaster all because Belle is so enchanting when she sings about seeking adventure in the great wide somewhere.  I’d love to believe that Miley Cyrus were the exception to the rule, but history clearly teaches us that she’s not.

I don’t know the answers.  I’m not ready to completely ban the princesses from our house.  And it’s easy to sit here and say that I won’t let Miss Mouse and Birdie (or Buggie) start watching the real-kid Disney shows, but I don’t know what will happen when my kids come bounding home from school, all aglow over the Next Awesome Girl.

I try hard to fill their heads with positive messages and images and to teach them that girls are so much more than a pretty face and perky boobs.

I just wish Miley and her foam finger weren’t out there sending the exact opposite message every day.



13 responses to “Because Belle Grows Up To Be Miley”

  1. Anna says:

    My agreement stems from the fact that this pattern has been in place for quite awhile now. I was not surprised when I heard about the whole Miley thing. At least not surprised by Miley. I was surprised by other people’s apparent surprise.
    I also appreciated someone who posted a response to the coverage on, who pointed out that we do not respond this way to certain other artists who basically do the same thing. That person was not so alarmed by the fact that it was Miley, but by her treatment of her backup dancers, all variations on “brown”, as sexual objects.

    • Kate says:

      Yes, it’s definitely been a pattern with any number of other child stars.

      I’ve been reading some articles today about the racial implications of her performance. I will admit that my own white privilege is solid enough that I honestly didn’t even track on that element until I started reading articles about it. Pretty disturbing.

  2. Jenny says:

    Being a parent in the US – or UK –today is virtually a counter-cultural endeavor. It was 30 years ago too when I had little ones and, yes, you are right to dread the influence of peer pressure. A lot of my young friends here in Italy actually moved here from England to get away from the Disney.Miley culture. Though, I have to admit, you can’t completely shake the princesses or Hello Kitty even in rural Italy!

  3. karol Crosbie says:

    Kate — Fabulously written. One of your best. Send it to a parenting mag.!

  4. Jo Burkhalter says:

    Great one, Kate. But factor in that your own girls, as they grow up, are fully capable of identifying — and repudiating — crappy behaviour from girl stars they once liked. My Josie, who loved Hannah Montana, had given up on her long before her pitiful display at the VMA’s. Ditto Justin Bieber, who Josie used to like. “Fame wrecked them” is her view. She knows that drugs and stupid sex and desperate need for attention come with the teen star thing, and it makes her sad and mad. That’s too harsh a lesson for your little gals, but its been a good one for my 16 year old.

  5. Jaclyn B. says:

    I also have no idea what “twerking” is, and did not see her performance. However, I have read many articles post performance regarding all aspects of it, and was disgusted.
    I do allow C & B to watch the Disney Channel. I originally tried to ban it, but they were so fascinated by the idea of what I “banned” that they thought the content must be mysterious and exciting, and begged and begged to watch.
    Now, instead of banning the channel, I allow them to watch it, but we talk about “TV Land” as a place that is “not real.” For example, people do things in TV Land that are not okay, and not part of what we can do in “real life.” They understand that the people in the show are actors, and aren’t “real.” We talk about how it is funny to watch people do weird stuff on TV, and then talk about what would really happen if they did that in “real life.” I haven’t really talked much about the actors themselves, and their potential to do stupid stuff, but I will certainly have this conversation with C & B when I feel they can understand the concept.

    • Kate says:

      I worry about that very thing – that fully banning something only makes it more enticing. And as our kids get bigger, they will be outside of our direct control/influence more and more. I don’t want my kids to prefer spending time at their friends’ houses rather than ours as they attempt to consume “forbidden” media. I think your approach is a really good idea – to watch with them and talk it through. Very proactive.

  6. Jon Crosbie says:

    So Jo actually brought up what I was going to ask.

    It occurred to me that the only comments that I’ve seen about Miley have been outraged parents. Has anybody actually seen what Miley’s target audience thought of it?

    Here’s the thing – if the majority of young ladies thought that Miley looked like a $2 hooker and thought it was disgusting and don’t want to act like that, then Miley actually did everybody with a daughter a huge favor.

    (That was a little sarcastic)

    But seriously, what do 13-17 year olds actually think of it because nobody is really talking about that. I think I’m going to start a conversation on Facebook about this.

    On a day where college football is not being played.

  7. Cindi Frye says:

    Just read this, then going back to bed…I did not see the show either, neither did I know what the initials stood for. I saw a few flashes of her performance on the today show, for instance. I actually looked away so I didn’t have to ever deal with that crap in my brain. I can tell you from experience, they will pretty much want what you forbid them to do. Just last night my youngest daughter told me that she and her sister would switch on the forbidden radio station as soon as I went to bed. Since she is 22, we were all laughing about it. I was a fanatic about a bunch of stuff. No secular music, (now I listen to it and enjoy it, if it has a good beat) I will say I manage not to hear the lyrics for the most part. Until my husband is singing along with them, and I am like “WHAT?” That is what that song says? Ha! But back to the subject at hand. Dean did tell me that twerking is what you get when you tweet. It’s a tweet received or sent, I guess? So, take it real easy on the forbidden, I would say. That daughter, Laura is a wonderful, strong Christian young woman. She listens to all kinds of music, has a voice like an angel, has a strong Christian boyfriend and they lead a small group together from our church. So she survived the forbidden just fine. I never stopped trying to be a good Mom and live before my children (for the most part, lol) the way I wanted them to live. My kids are all wonderful adults (what would you expect me to say) but it is true. No drug problems, they drink moderately, have loving spouses, wonderful children of their own, try hard to live right, graduated HS and two college, and one of them law school. So, in conclusion, just do your best. Pray for them, and enlist others to do so with you. Talk to people for advice, and especially older, wiser adults when you can. Be honest and give them reasons why. Sometimes it’s because I said so!!Order your life by what the Word of God teaches, and most of all love. Love them as you do!! And love others as well. Then you have fulfilled the great commandment. And Jesus took care of all the rest of the laws that we couldn’t live up to, Himself on the cross. Whew!

  8. Karee says:

    I have been an entertainer and musician for the better portion of my life.
    I would never consent to this display of trash ever in my life and I can not
    believe Ms. Hannah’s parents let her go through with this performance.
    Well if that is what you were doing was wanting me to take the time like everyone else to comment and talk about of this display, good job. The negativity you have portrayed here all over the world of little as well as young girls hearts here is dispicable.
    I am disgusted and would be devasted if either one of my daughters ever wanted to buy or purchase anything with Hannah Montana/Cyrus’ name on it. It’s an absolute let down to our nation and our country, this is why we have to be ashamed and embarrassed of how we may have chosen differently in raising and disciplining and instilling a foundation of Faith of some sort in our children.
    She feels as though she has no fear nor consequences for her outrageous behavior and that is sad. Society may have formed the stigma but it’s upto us as parents to be sure it does not carry through into overindulgence of our and our children’s actions.

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