Thursday, May 1, 2008


Apologies are coming from all camps involved in the production of a Vanity Fair cover photographed by Annie Leibovitz. OK, so they’re not really apologies, they’re, well, what do you call it when the public is told it has misinterpreted the inappropriate “classic” pictures of a young actress? Rationalization for selling magazines perhaps? Leibovitz should know better. Vanity Fair should know better, and Billy Cyrus should know better. Denying knowledge after the fact, just isn’t on. And Miley? She probably knows better, but being taken advantage of when you’re underage provides legitimate excuses. So, what’s better?

Some of us have to sell magazines and take advantage of the social acceptance that sex sells and is therefore a valid marketing agency. This exploitation rationalizes the bizarre ads we see running during early evening TV news while preparing dinner, including those selling us the makes-you-dance-in-the-street-like-an-idiot joys of sexual marathons available to anyone without heart problems who can swallow a pill. A majority of magazines colorfully embellishing newsstands carry pictures of young women variously undressed, if dressed at all, on their covers. These aren’t men’s magazines we’re ogling. We’re being teased with magazines supposedly targeting the 16 to 25 year olds. Even girls as young as five years old are big fans of Hanna Montana’s well cultivated character presented by Disney as a grounded, pleasant, studious teen, enjoying life. Are teenagers and five year olds making these sex-sells-magazines-and-ad-space decisions? Hardly.

There is nothing innocent about an adult magazine portraying a 15 year old pretending to be naked, hair tousled, wrapped in a bed sheet. Ms. Leibovitz comprehends eroticism, and there are no adult customers misinterpreting her intent. Her body of work is ample evidence. This is a transgression on Miley and an abuse of the trust that the millions of young kids, ages 5 to 15, who are her ardent fans, don’t deserve. Miley isn’t responsible, but the decision makers such as Vanity Fair’s editor and Ms. Leibovitz absolutely knew what they were doing. Their conscious business decision paid off in spades. Their web site supposedly crashed from the overload of millions trying to get a look. Vanity Fair has captured headlines the world over. Too many companies, their executives and boards are side-stepping doing what is right, common sense.

Don’t our daughters and granddaughters grow up just a little too fast as it is? Do we need to objectify and sexualize them, slamming them into adulthood while still underage? They copy what they see on television and in magazines, from hairdo’s to modes of dress. Ten year olds with bare mid-drifts don’t understand what showing off their bodies really means, other than getting some attention. The adult attention they attract isn’t on the healthy side of any equation. Their problem, and Miley’s, is that they don’t understand it. It may not be an overstatement to say that young women do not grasp the difference between looking sexy and looking sexual, or worse.

Of course, Miley and her parents are free to do and say as they wish, however this speaks more to publications, and other modes of entertainment doing what is right rather than implementing the expedient and evidently profitable knowing it is wrong. It is about not objectifying young, innocent and willing participants, using the skilled artful method of convincing. There are enough adult actresses ready willing and able to be persuaded by the artistic method. Society has witnessed increased evidence of disturbing inappropriate sexual behavior in children. Leave the kids alone, allow them to be kids, and stop their sexualization. They can do without the harmful effects and anxiety such willful conduct by esteemed adults proffers on them.


  1. I agree. I modeled when I was about 15, and I got caught in a similarly bad position. At the time, I did it because it was a reputable photographer and I figured that I couldn't be doing anything wrong if he said it was okay to do. I totally blame Annie Leibovitz for this fiasco. She obviously did it on purpose, and shame on her!

  2. Children have parents and the responsibility of the parent is to protect their chidren from being manipulated by other children behaving as adults and other adults. T think that it is unfortunate that you believed that at 15 it was ok to take offyour clothing for an adult but onthe bright side you were not convinced to do more than that. As a parent a I still say that the photo was distasteful. Vanity Fair and R.Kelly need to hook up if this is the type of work they want to be known for.