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Calm Down, Everyone: Miley’s Just Following the Script

Oh, the scandalous horror.Photo: Vanity Fair

This week America has been rocked to its core, and not just because Lo is being particularly nasty to Audrina. No, we’re talking about the Miley Cyrus semi-nude Vanity Fair “scandal,” in which the fifteen-year-old Disney superstar posed for Annie Leibovitz with a bedsheet — er, a duchess satin stole — wrapped around her otherwise naked torso. The world thus got a look at her uncovered back and promptly flipped out. But why? It’s not like she left the photo shoot and drove her car into a tree with cocaine in her pants. And isn’t all this drama just part of the young starlet script?

We understand Miley Cyrus is more than just a girl; she’s a brand. Hannah Montana is a worldwide, billion-dollar television, concert and merchandising industry (we even saw her on a backpack in Egypt). Naturally, corporate parent Disney is intensely interested in ensuring she remains as relatable and fresh-faced as possible, so those adoring adolescent dollars roll in unabated. But Miley has exposed more skin on the red carpet than she does in the Leibovitz photo. Actually, it’s kind of odd: In the calamatious photo, she looks more like a fresh-faced fifteen year old than she does at Disney-sanctioned appearances, where she’s often all spackled up and crammed into a Deal or No Deal–style minidress.

Which is not to say the image in question isn’t provocative. Miley’s tangled hair, the implied nudity, and the just-woke-up aura clearly hint at an awakening of another kind. But the Virginal Teen Star in Mildly Inappropriate Photo Shoot is practically a media rite of passage for famous girls caught between adolescence and adulthood. Frankly, when you consider her progenitors — Britney in her panties in Rolling Stone at seventeen, Hilary Duff posing for Maxim, and LiLo actually topless in Vanity Fair itself a few years ago — Miley hit this milestone with a minimum of titillation. A simple backless portrait taken in the presence of her parents or minders by a respected female photographer — without a single nip slip or sultry licked lip in sight — is practically a Puritanical achievement. Plus, Miley herself isn’t pregnant, smoking crack, tattooing the name of an unwashed rock-star boyfriend on her boob, or licking bananas at a lad-mag-sponsored shindig. The public freak-out just doesn’t fit the crime.

No wonder Young Hollywood is so full of rebellious messes: Miley and her ilk are set up to fail. Disney wants her to be some kind of robot, an unerring kid-friendly role model with parent-friendly values. They demand she act like an adult — attending the Oscars, being articulate and bubbly in the press — but pitch a tantrum when she starts turning into one. Did they learn nothing from Britney’s implosion? No one wants Miley to shave her head or attack the paparazzi with an umbrella, so let’s all take a deep breath and let the girl evolve at her own speed.

Despite the melodramatic squawking about Miley’s apparent ruination, it’s not like she lost anything here. In fact, everyone won. Disney got to disavow the evils of skin-baring (except when Miley’s long legs are strutting a $100-a-ticket concert stage, of course). Vanity Fair should reap huge sales. And Miley gets the win-win of posing for a respected magazine and issuing a wounded mea culpa that paints her as a faith-based, family-first teen angel who got bamboozled — a trick her “Best of Both Worlds” alter ego would appreciate. In fact, with that kind of synergy, Disney ought to thank her. —The Fug Girls

Related: What Top Magazine Editors (and Tina Brown) Think About the Miley Cyrus Pictures
What We and Everyone Else Think About Miley Cyrus in ‘Vanity Fair’
On the Matter of Miley Cyrus’s Bedsheet
’Times’ Gets Kinda Pervy in Miley Cyrus Article [Daily Intel]
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Calm Down, Everyone: Miley’s Just Following the Script