Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Road Before Miley Cyrus (Sharks Dead Ahead)

The advent of TMZ, a 24/7 media cycle and a public desire to know it all has doomed a lot of these young starlets who are growing up and making mistakes. It really started in the 80’s with Drew Barrymore but it’s got worse with Lindsay Lohan, the Olsen Twins, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie.

And now we have our latest candidate: Destiny Ray Cyrus aka Miley Cyrus aka every teenage girl's role model. Sweet 16 and growing up before our eyes for better or for worse. For every hit she makes, she takes two more for something stupid she does. And then of course you have people taking hilarious shots but for no reason (Jamie Foxx and Co.)

Is it any surprise then that she is being set up to fail? Why else are we seeing all these questionable photos of her (as well as see her regain her name with these award show performances). But the road before this little guppy at 16 is already troubling thanks to her forbearers and this transforming pop culture of sharks aka the Paparazzi.

I can only imagine what Drew Barrymore would have gone through now. By the time she was 15, she was a Golden Globe nominee who went through drug and alcohol addiction, rehab, club-hopping at Studio 54 all under the glare of a watchful media. And this media was gossip magazines, Entertainment Tonight and word of mouth. Imagine if TMZ and Perez Hilton were out chronicling every step and gave her no room to breathe. Especially given her last name?? She was Paris Hilton before Paris Hilton minus the sex tape.

And let’s not forget Dana Plato and Todd Bridges from Different Strokes. They darn near flamed out together, but fortunately Bridges recovered. Plato, unfortunately, did not and succumbed to her demons in 1998. (and on a sports note, Jennifer Capriati's glorious rise, fall and rebirth)

If that happened now. Drew would have no chance at redemption because the 24/7 paparazzi pretty much wants to see your next misstep, not your recovery. Why? Because they’d be out of a job. They subscribe to the journalist ethos of following the story although they do it with no sense of honor or decency. They also know that the public loves a good tragedy more than an uplifting story so they need more bad news to get that exclusive shot of trouble.

It’s why I thought Britney Spears was going to never recover. She went from the biggest selling pop star from 2000-2003 to the biggest free-fall I’d ever seen. No need to list them all here but from the shot-gun wedding to introducing us to K-Fed to shaving her head, she literally grew up and screwed up for the world to watch. Just when you thought she hit rock bottom, she went lower. Thankfully she recovered to make two comebacks (one failed) and is running a Circus around the country.

But worst of all was the paparazzi. They suffocated her and in turn, squeezed every last drop of her soul for the world to watch. I remember telling people that it was like a slow, painful public execution and if she died, I would hold the paparazzi just as accountable as her actions. They're like a pack of wolves that smell blood. Welcome to Shark Week - the Human Edition.

Even on a smaller scale look at Lindsay Lohan. My generation remembered her first from “The Parent Trap” (on that note, R.I.P. Natasha Richardson who played the mom). Then she got new life from “Mean Girls” five years ago when she looked ripe for the picking once she turned 18.* But look what happened since. You mean to tell me that if she had a quiet rehab and some time to chill and focus on making movies, she wouldn’t have ended up skinny, coked out and caught up by the nightlife. Maybe the last point isn't true, but you get me.

*(I had to do a double take when I typed that. She’s barely older than my sister but packed more in the last 5 years than most people do in their first 21.)

We all saw what happened to the Olsen Twins, Paris Hilton, Nichole Richie and a few others. Glorious implosions that people fed into every step of the way. Thing is though, it’s no big deal. Kids grow up, they make mistakes and learn from them. Saw it in high school, saw it more in college. Only problem is that we aren’t famous and we aren’t doing it in the nightlife and the glare of the L.A. paparazzi. It’s a natural part of life but they make it sound so shocking. Bigger stage, bigger scale, same issues.

Another issue is the lack of privacy or secret stories. Back in the day, there was plenty of dirt behind the scenes of favorite sitcoms (Can you watch Brady Bunch without thinking about Greg and Marcia's secret relationship?) The luster of hearing about it now is that we had NO idea it was going on. But now, the media doesn’t want to let those stories simmer behind the scenes. They want to expose it as it unfolds. Every secret scandal is going to be a public scandal. Instead of waiting 10 years to find stuff out, they want the story to be told right now. They want the dirt fresh instead of digging it up.

Finally, people don't want to see you rehabbed. Amy Winehouse had it wrong, it should be "I tried to go to rehab but they said NO, NO, NO!"But I won't forget something I heard Deelishis from Flavor of Love said on BET. Nobody wants to see the rehabilitation, they want to see you the way you were portrayed and don't want that picture to change. Like I said, the paparazzi feeds on their failures to stay alive and we the public love the drama more than we love redemption.

So knowing this cycle, are we surprised that we’re seeing all these instances of Miley Cyrus blown up. Photos of her being a normal teen teasing the camera? That Vanity Fair cover that was pretty dumb? Her slanty-eyed photos? She’s being set up to fail and since she’s the Disney Golden Girl, oh what a tragedy that will be for the world to see.

I'm no fan of hers by any means and for the record I hated looking for pics of her (an easy google search will, however, give you the evidence of her "wild side"). But for a girl who comes from a normal family life and is well grounded by her famous dad, I hate how she's slowly being picked apart.

It’s just the evolution of the vicious cycle that we’ve seen evolve from the 80’s with Drew Barrymore and Dana Plato to the 24/7 game that it is now. So will Miley end up like Hilary Duff and Raven-Symone or like the Olsens and Lindsay? And my heart almost shudders to wonder how Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin will turn out and how the media will try to swallow them up.

Either way, it’s almost up to the media too. Like any good plant, you have to let it breathe to grow. If you smother it, it’ll remain stunted and could regress. The crush won’t die but hopefully parents will take notice and guide their famous kids away from making as many mistakes as they can.

Don't get me wrong. We have to hold everyone accountable for their actions and rightly so, everyone I named screwed up based on their own free will. But it’s all trial and error. Too bad, you’re doing it for a public audience instead of private one.


  1. What is Wrong with how Raven-Symone turned out she is doing bigger, and better things now. Raven is Taking over!

  2. Nothing happened to Raven, that was my point. She and Hilary Duff (and Amanda Bynes) have relatively gone through their teen/young adult years without any scandal.

    I could argue why that's the case with Raven but that's a whole nother topic.

  3. I think she's heading towards the dark side and it's not completely the pararazzi's fault. She is a mean girl as demonstrated by her mean video blogs about her rival wholesome Selina Gomez. But pararazzi attention aside, she holds a high degree of ignorance. I mean, if you were admired by teeny boppers everywhere why would you take the slant eyes picture? Or if you saw Vanessa Hudgen go through all that drama for her naked pictures why send out skanky pictures? I'm just saying.

    And her parents pimp her out which is really sick.

  4. She's definitely ignorant about a lot of things and like I said, she's causing some of her own problems. But I think she's also being pushed towards the dark side because her faults are emphasized. We've seen teens rebel and either they come out better or come out dumber

    Its true she has a greater responsibility to be a smarter role model(esp. with her pops around) and its also true that maybe she won't get the chance because she's surrounded by neg. criticism instead of constructive criticism.

  5. I'm in full agreement about negative criticism vs. the constructive criticism. The media are devouring these young starlets at every opportunity and we as a people are allowing it and encouraging it through photo searches, magazine purchases, etc.

    While these teens (and former teens) are not blameless, it is unfair that their mistakes (the same mistakes many teens make) are broadcasted internationally. Look at MySpace (and on a smaller scale Facebook) or look at YouTube and you'll see that thousands of teens are taking sexually provocative photos of themselves, drinking, etc... Does that make it okay? No, but it does make it normal.

    Should these teens "know better" because they are in "role model" positions? Yes, but it could easily be argued that *all* teens should "know better."

    As for Dakota Fanning, she's 15 now and has always seemed to stay "out of the spotlight" (or so to speak). I don't see her getting mixed up in the normal "Hollywood" glam (similar to Amanda Bynes).