Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's A Familiar Pattern

We love to do this. We, meaning the media. We build up a young entertainer by showering them with publicity; we follow their every move. We chronicle their most mundane activities - walking down the street, shopping, having lunch. Then we find or create a flaw, trumpet it as news, and tear them down.

Then we repeat the cycle.

Britney. Madonna. Marilyn (Monroe, not Manson!). The names change, but the story’s the same for so many young ladies. It’s a bit different for men, but times change and the torch passes, from Sinatra to Presley, Presley to Jackson, and on and on. Sometimes, you can even mark the moment it happened. Some would say that the Video Music Awards ceremony in 2003 was the symbolic passing of the torch of queendom from Madonna to Britney Spears, with the famous open-mouthed kiss.

Now, entertainers can attain huge celebrity status and pile up untold wealth at a much younger age, because of the explosion of media. Monday night, the Teen Choice Awards annual event was televised. Miley Cyrus presented Britney with the “Ultimate Choice Award”. Miley’s 16; Britney is 27. Cyrus proclaimed Spears to be “her idol”.

For those who don’t have young daughters and don’t follow this stuff closely, Miley Cyrus, daughter of country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, was known in a former life as “Hannah Montana”. Just a couple short years ago, parents shelled out ridiculous amounts of money, 300 dollars and up, to get a seat at a Hannah Montana concert for their daughter to see the Disney Channel star.

Last summer, she released an album (“Breakout”) which symbolically and musically broke her from the Hannah Montana-Disney Channel-squeaky clean role. Around the same time, she did the notorious soft-core-porn photo shoot with her dad. It was on all the TV morning shows.

Now, the next step has been taken in the advancement of her career as a pop star. At the Teen Choice Awards, Cyrus performed her new song, “Party In The USA”, dressed in black hot-pants and biker boots, doing a pole dance. A teenage stripper.

At 16, she’s got to move that career past the pre-teen girls who adored her, to the high school girls who will adore her. So she must change her image. Instead of a cowgirl, she must become a stripper. Gotta follow that trail blazed by Britney, her idol! Apparently the next steps will include having a child or two, going to rehab, and forgetting to wear underwear.

I can’t remember the program or the network that carried it, but a few years ago a reporter in Baghdad asked a man on the street why he was so leery of the American presence in Iraq. The man spoke pretty good English, and there was no mistaking the meaning of his clear, one-sentence answer:

“Because we don’t want our daughters to grow up to be Britney Spears”.

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