Parents: Pull plug on Miley/Hannah

Scene: The 2008 RALPH Awards, held at a highly secret location somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. On stage, at the brightly-lit podium, bathed in a glow befitting of their celebrity, stand two nameless extras from “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” After the applause dies down, one hands the other an envelope … (ripping sound) … she smiles, leans into the microphone and says, “For parental inattention beyond mind-boggling with a 15-year-old, Rosemond’s Awfully Ludicrous Parenting Honor goes to … yes!…LETICIA and BILLY RAY CYRUS!”

As Leticia and Billy Ray leave their chairs and make their way to the stage amidst a standing ovation, a disembodied voice intones “Leticia and Billy Ray recently allowed their daughter, Miley, known to millions of young fans as Hannah Montana, to be photographed wearing nothing but what looks like a sheet, her back exposed, looking seductively over her right shoulder. The photos, taken by famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, can be seen in the May issue of Vanity Fair.”

Trainwreck in the making?

All kidding aside, is this the beginning of yet another female child star trainwreck? When the photo in question was taken, Ms. Cyrus told Vanity Fair that she thought it was “artsy” and praised Ms. Leibovitz for taking a “…like, beautiful shot, and I thought that was really cool.” Now, however, she claims that she is embarrassed by the photographs and has apologized to her fans.

This same embarrassed 15-year-old recently appeared at the 2008 CMT Music Awards in Nashville wearing a dress that plunged to her diaphragm, giving the world a peek at the progress of her development. Several months back, Cyrus and a girlfriend were photographed while frolicking on the floor of a hotel room. Some people, including yours truly, think the photos are sexually suggestive, but Miley/Hannah maintains they aren’t bad and that controversy over them is “Satan attacking.” Within the past few weeks, candid photos of a young girl who looks a lot like Cyrus and that prudes, myself included, would call “inappropriate” have circulated the Internet, including one in which said young girl is draped over a guy who looks several years her senior.

Cyrus can apologize to her fans all she wants for the photos in Vanity Fair. The fact is, she saw them in advance and approved them with enthusiasm. Her parents, reportedly present at the photo shoot, presumably saw them and also approved them. The problem is, there’s a pattern here, and the pattern suggests Cyrus isn’t receiving adequate parental supervision or guidance, and history tells us that child celebrities need a good deal more than Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public’s kids. I certainly accept that it’s not possible for parents to provide constant oversight, but while that caveat may cover the hotel room frolicking, it doesn’t apply to the dress or the Vanity Fair photo. Before she is a star, Miley Cyrus is a child. Fame has not accelerated the maturity of previous child stars. Quite the contrary. From Judy Garland to Britney Spears, the all-too-common story is one of a young person spiraling downward into a chaos of immaturity.

Somebody needs to pull Miley Cyrus back down to earth before she joins the club. Her parents are the only people who can do this, really, but they seem a bit preoccupied at the moment (counting the money?). In the meantime, I propose that the parents of her young fans pull the plug on Hannah Montana; that they confiscate all HM merchandise, including clothing and recordings, and explain to their kids that until Ms. Cyrus begins acting like she is deserving of being a role model to prepubescent girls, that her image, in any form, will not be allowed in the home.

Someone needs to take a stand here. If one girl’s parents won’t, then the parents of many girls should.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.