This Article Is Miley Cyrus Link Bait
Actually, this article is more of a commentary on collective mental illness, exploitation and mountains made of molehills—no, that’s not a boob joke. It’s also about invented controversy for the sake of ogling eyeballs and links at the expense of a teenage girl who will be lucky if she’s not in rehab on her 18th birthday.
Billy Ray Cyrus and I are from the same place, a little area tucked away in the northeast corner of Kentucky—the same place that produced the Judds and Chuck Woolery, you’re welcome—but I can’t speak for him. I’m not sure where Destiny Hope lives these days, or if she ever hangs out in Flatwoods at all. Destiny Hope is Miley’s real name, just so it’s clear Dad and Disney sold her out from the beginning. The hearing to legally change her name, according Wikipedia, is today, actually.
When the now infamous Annie Leibovitz photo of Destiny Hope appeared in Vanity Fair, the world lost its mind. I was hipped to the controversy because the Today show insisted on showing me what was, by the way it was described, something nearly pornographic.
And gasp, they even showed it unedited right there on national television in broad Eastern Time zone daylight: a 15 year-old girl’s back. I blinked and went about my morning business, thinking it the latest in network "news," and pausing only to wonder how that was different from every trip to a beach or swimming pool growing up, or how it was different from seeing my stepson’s prom date in her backless prom dress on Saturday. She was only 16. Does that make it okay to see someone’s back?
But Destiny was covered by a sheet, not a bikini top or chiffon (or whatever fabric they wear to prom). And that means…what, exactly?
Something dirty, it would seem, even if that dirtiness never crossed my mind (heck, I barely noticed) until every news website, entertainment blog, splog, and "news" channel in the world dubbed the photo a "topless" one of Miley Cyrus. It was dirty because the media sold it as dirty.
And the audience bit, big time, and swooped in for the feast. Rewind the clock at Google Hot Trends to Monday’s top gainers and you’ll notice a theme—a saturation of search query variants for the photos. I’m not sure when the photo was posted online, but the spike seems to correlate with television coverage, which is the norm for search query bursts. By Tuesday and Wednesday, searchers had forgotten about it and had refocused their swarming around American Idol and a rumored Jimi Hendrix sex tape.
Hitwise reports today that VanityFair.com traffic spiked by a factor of 20, that searches for the Leibovitz photos doubled the searches for Lindsay Lohan’s for-real topless pics in New York Magazine. Hitwise Director of Research Heather Dougherty says 98% of Vanity Fair’s traffic was comprised of visitors who had never visited the site before.
From a publicist’s standpoint, from the standpoint of anybody in the business of creating pop starlets or selling magazines, the photo shoot, through some nice manufactured outrage, was a smash success. TV ratings, web traffic, and buzz were all up, up, up. And one day, when the seemingly insatiable public is actually satiated, they’ll pick another girl to use up, up, up.
Just like they told us on South Park.
Destiny Miley said she was embarrassed in the aftermath. Of course she was. What teenage girl wouldn’t be embarrassed about everybody making such a fuss about pictures she thought the day before were "pretty, natural and artsy?" If anybody should be embarrassed, it’s Billy Ray for allowing his daughter to be the next Hollywood virgin to be sacrificed, and the media for creating smut where previously there was none.
Sometimes the word "billions" can cloud your judgment, I guess.
Though undoubtedly good for the franchise in the long term, Disney joined in with feigned shock. It’s the appropriate PR move in this situation, and unfortunate timing given certain billboards popping up in Beijing.
But in the end I have to ask you which is dirtier: a teenage girl’s back or cashing in on it?