Miley, Jamie Lynn, and Gandalf

Miley, Jamie Lynn, and Gandalf

Posted by Sean Stangland on Wed, 04/30/2008 - 16:34

The destruction of the American child apparently continued this week with Miley Cyrus's Vanity Fair photo shoot, an admittedly strange portfolio from Photographer to the Stars Annie Leibowitz that shows the erstwhile "Hannah Montana" with a bare back, covered only in a bed sheet. Oh, the outrage. You mean to say an underage starlet from the Disney stable has been made to look sexy? My word, this has never happened before! (Oh, wait; let us not forget 17-year-old Britney Spears in the "Baby One More Time" video, and its ensuing Rolling Stone spread. You know, the one that had everyone saying little Britney already had breast implants.)

No one was upset about Miley's bare
back in this photo.

Associated Press, 12/12/07

Another Spears from the Nickelodeon gallery of stars just went through this kind of public scrutiny. 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, star of kid favorite "Zoey 101," famously revealed late last year that she was pregnant by her longtime boyfriend. After the initial prurient interest, the story across all forms of media became a twisted version on the consumer watchdog report: How are parents supposed to break it to their children that "Zoey" is pregnant in real life?

I answer with another question. Why do the kids have to know?

One has to wonder if some in the mass media (particularly the 24-hour news networks) are arrogant enough to assume that even children are watching their every move. I think it's reasonable to say that many kids -- particularly the sort of kids who turn to Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel for entertainment -- could have avoided or been kept from both of these stories. If little Timmy and Jenny don't know that Miley Cyrus appeared in some racy photos in Vanity Fair, why should they?

I invoke the name of the White Wizard in my blog title today because of an AP report telling us Ian McKellen will be reprising his Oscar-nominated role as Gandalf in "The Hobbit" and its as-yet-unnamed sequel, which "Pan's Labyrinth" director Guillermo Del Toro will begin shooting this summer. Gandalf is a beloved character in "The Lord of the Rings" that many American children have been raised on, first through J.R.R. Tolkien's books and now in Peter Jackson's and Del Toro's films; he is an icon that transcends generations and media. But no one ever did a story on how parents are supposed to break it to their children that Gandalf is (GASP!) gay. McKellen has for decades been an openly gay activist -- and has also said plenty of nasty things about our government -- but no one is interested in "protecting" children from him. (And I'm certainly not saying they should want to protect their children from someone just because he or she is homosexual.)

Shockingly, Gandalf's drug abuse went
unmentioned, too!
/ New Line Cinema

This is either progress -- which is what I'd like to think it is -- or it's that old sexual double standard that women and girls have seemingly been living under forever.

None of this really matters to me. When I was a young Padawan, I knew who Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill were, but I had no idea what they were like in real life. And I didn't care. Perhaps the question, which I pose to you, is this: Are these stars "ruining" our innocence, or is the consumer celebrity culture (24-hour news, hundreds of cable channels, Internet gossip sites, insane Paparazzi) doing it for them?

I'd love to hear from younger parents; I'm 29 and childless, so maybe this all sounds awfully naive. Have you had "the talk" with your kids about Miley, Jamie Lynn, or anyone else?

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