Jesus Needs New PR

Jesus Needs New PR

Is she just being Miley? (I’m just asking…)

Watching Miley’s career is fascinating for me. I’ve never met her or her father, but years ago we went to the same church here in Nashville. I’m not sure if we went to the same service or not, but while I visited the church I heard lots of great stories about the talent and gumption of Billy Ray’s daughter.

I ran across this very recent video of Miley, her father, and Dolly…


It reminded me of why America’s youth fell in love with Miley. Her sweet, pretty, confident presence is difficult to ignore. But from a “PR” standpoint, this video with Dolly is such a sharp contrast to the “Can’t Be Tamed” Miley in the video below…


I get why Miley (and perhaps Miley’s people) desired for her to drop the cutesy Disney image of Hannah Montana.

And seriously, I’m sure they realized that her bad acting and that wig was going to be A LOT to drop…

But why does “growing up” mean “I need to be sexy”?

Was her displaying “sexy” the only way to prove she’s not a little girl anymore? Is this the only option for young superstars who want to prove that they’re no longer 12? And is this need to prove one’s age/maturity using sexuality a uniquely female thing? Can a famous girl (or boy) grow up and survive the cutesy kid image without sex? Is “sexuality” an easy way to demand attention and respect in popular culture?


We’ve seen it over and over again, of course–from Britney to Lindsey to Christina…

But maybe I’m naive, but I really thought that Miley was going to be an exception. Consider Miley a year or so ago. Sure, her apparel was shortening and tightening, but there was still an innocence there in my opinion. It seemed that, more so than her being sexy, she was relying on a catchy hook, good production, and a whole lot of money to outsmart her “good girl” image. And “Party in the USA” was catchy. Not cool. Not going to be a song that changed the world or is remembered 5 years from now… but in the “moment,” it was catchy. And all that seemed to be working.

But then this happened…


And I’m not really sure what “this” actually is… I mean, do you think that Miley feels like her only option to prove her age is sexy? Do you think this is really her? Is somebody talking her into this? Maybe it’s just me, but it just doesn’t seem to fit. Honestly, while she’s adorable and pretty, she’s not all that good at being “bad.” It seems forced to me. Like she’s acting.

And does the sexy Miley contradict the Miley we see in the top video with her father and Dolly?

Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe her best friend Leslie is right… she’s just being Miley.


Comments read comments(26)
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posted July 6, 2010 at 3:16 pm

it’s a disney curse i tell ya.

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Carole Turner

posted July 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Very forced, and sad, I think they just live so deep in that world that they eventually conform to it.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I am not sure what her deal is… I think she is getting bad advice from a tight circle of “advisors”… this isn’t PR (classically) this is agent casting at it’s materialistic worst! I think you are right in saying that a cute kid trend can be bucked without using sexuality to rebrand an image.

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Brandon Gradelle Smith

posted July 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm

The girls in my youth group saw this coming a long way before I did. I was a big Miley fan when I read her tweet (before her boyfriend talked her out of Twitter) that said, “there’s nothing better than reading my Bible in a coffeeshop.” I just knew she was going to be a nice, wholesome example. But, the girls in my youth group kept telling me, “nope. She’s gonna turn into a harlot.”What can I say? I’m not ready to call her a “harlot,” but it looks like they’re closer to being right than I was.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I totally agree. I work in top 40 radio and christian rock radio here in Dallas. Needless to say once I can’t be tamed hit the airwaves more people were confused by the new found sexuality that Miley seemed to posses. I dislike the fact that she tried to shed her Disney image by recreating essentially what Britney Spears, has already done. Not only that but the fact that women have to act sexy and dress revealing to gain acceptance is the direct opposite of what and how it should be! I really like the first Miley better. I hope this whole “Can’t Be Tamed” thing is a phase.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm

All I know is that my oldest niece is 17, and that is not the 17 year old world I would want for her.

Is she growing up? Yes. Does she have a boyfriend? Yes. Would I let her out in public acting like that?

Uhm. No.

I don’t care how long someone has been in the industry and what it does for her career. She’s still 17. I look at her as my 17 year old niece and it would so not be ok.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm

My question would be, “Who in the world ever decided that this was sexy anyway?”

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posted July 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Or perhaps she’s simply bought into the same thing that every teenage girl is told: to be worth anything, you must also be sexy. Even in the trenches of fundamentalism, I found something rather appealing in wearing a low-cut tank top made by Victoria’s Secret as an 18-year-old. Girls (and women) want to be sexy because they’re told that’s how society will value them. Ms. Cyrus is not above falling prey to that.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I think it’s that girls and women still have a hard time with their own sexuality. There’s still a whole lot of cultural conditioning that teaches that women are passive, and nonsexual (or at least “good” women are). And even as society is slowly getting away from that misconception, there’s still not a whole lot of information out there to help girls grow up into women. There’s still a lot of silence, still a whole lot of a virgin/whore dichotomy where you must be perfect and innocent and childlike to be good and slipping in that imperfection even in the smallest way ruins you for life. The pressure is enormous.

A lot of times it can seem and feel like the only way to go down the path of flaunting your sexuality is to remain a child forever. There are very few positive images of women who are able to be strong and secure and independent and speak their mind and be themselves while not flaunting their sexuality. So sadly, yes, it can seem as though the only way to prove your not a child anymore is through sexuality.

I don’t even think it’s just celebrities. I think women feel this to varying degrees in their life – it’s just that as a celebrity, retaining that wholesome and perfect image is even harder – because everyone is watching. And so since the pressure to be good is so extreme, the reaction to that pressure is extreme as well.

Those are my thoughts, anyway.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 4:05 pm

The part that bugs me (as a parent of 2 girls in her former target audience) is that those same 6-12 y.o. girls are still looking at her and to her as a role model. She has a fan base that is waaaay too young for her to be pulling this.

As a woman, I am disturbed by the fact that if a young woman wants to be taken seriously, she has to be sexy. That, however, backfires – because as soon as she goes the route of “sexy” she is no longer serious. Women are expected to fill one of a handful of roles: beautiful and pleasing to the eye, sex object, mother-type, or ugly and therefore allowed to have a brain. Why can’t a woman be both beautiful AND smart? Why can’t a young woman stand on her talent rather than taking off her clothes?

it’s frustrating.

And yes, I think there are bad choices happening to Miley. I hope that she was pushed into this and didn’t choose to go this route herself. I do wish that she would consider who her fans are and take charge of that responsibility to show them that you CAN be smart and talented and beautiful – and do it with your clothes ON.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Yeah, I’m wondering about all this too — as the mom of a 10 year old girl who has been a big Hannah/Miley fan but who things the “Can’t Be Tamed” video is “kinda weird” (cue sickly face she makes whenever she sees people kissing in a movie). I think it’s too bad that “grown up” equates to “sexy” but even worse that “sexy” had to mean “slutty” — I think there’s a healthy way for a young woman to move towards a mature female sexuality, but I don’t think this is it. Miley needs to go back and watch her own movie and think about them good ol’ Tennessee family values (yes, I had to sit through that movie TWICE; did I mention I had a 10-year-old daughter?)

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posted July 6, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Sad but there are also pictures of Miley’s little sister trying to dress “sexy” like her big sister. Disney seems to have a bad track record with their young female superstars.

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Elle M.

posted July 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm

And yet the same Christians shaking their heads at Miley now are the ones that have cheered Carrie Prejean…sigh…

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Kirsten Lamb

posted July 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I blogged about this recently too. (see )

I got feedback from readers who think Disney is intentional and very much behind Miley’s transformation. She isn’t growing out of her clean-cut image; she’s moving on to the next phase of Disney’s message to our culture: Womanhood is sexy, scandalous and dark.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I think there is an enormous difference between expressing sexuality and being exploited. Even songs about “puppy love” express some kind of sexuality. Do I think this is too “adult” for Miley Cyrus? Absolutely, but it’s also not the kind of sexuality I like for adults to model, either. Describing someone’s sexuality (ESPECIALLY a woman’s) as animalistic is degrading. As a woman and a feminist, I find it disgusting that she a) talks about herself as “can’t be tamed”, and b) that this video depicts her in a cave with animal-type features. I like animals as much as the next person, but this depiction of sexuality is cheap and morally offensive, no matter the age of the singer. In Miley’s case, it’s only made worse by the fact that there are clearly some people who are supposed to be looking out for her who have made the cheap decision to make money at her expense. (And if she’s the one who “wants to do it” – I get it. I teach high school and I know more than enough 15-year-olds who think they’re mature enough to go out binge drinking, have unprotected sex, and fail school. I’ve talked to too many parents who describe their child as “uncontrollable.” But she is not an adult and I doubt she realizes at this point the image she is perpetuating. Her family, and her reps, should know a lot better.)

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    posted July 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    That should read “cage”, though I guess if it was a “cave” it would still send a similar message :)

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posted July 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Not having tweens or teens, I have never paid much attention to Miley Cyrus but I agree it seems lately even respected young actresses have to have a t-shirt photo on Maxim to “reclaim their sexuality”.

I don’t think it’s empowering, there’s a zillion wanna-bes in Hollywood who’d use their sexuality to further their career because, once in a while, it works. There are literally hundreds of beautiful girls, but many fewer who have the talent to back it up.

To see artists and actors who have talent shift the focus from their work to their bodies just makes me take them less seriously. I’m not a prude I just think they are buying into lie that you have to show a lot of skin, go on diets, get cosmetic surgery, etc. to stay on top. It’s tragic to think they don’t have the self-confidence to rely on their own talent to carry their career forward.

Did you see how embarrassed Billy Ray Cyrus was to be described in a sexual way in front of his daughter by Dolly Parton? Think of how Miley Cyrus will feel (in the future) when her adolescent son sees this video of his mother writhing around in a leotard. But kids just think of now, not how they might view their behavior when their older. That’s something that doesn’t change.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Making whores of our daughters for fame and fortune will someday bring a pay off that as parents, we will not want to collect on.
I’m not putting halo’s over my kid’s head, but Eisley continues to make incredible music without slutting out…it’s just not as many people will buy into that….and the industry loves the sluts because it makes them money. Sex sells…unfortunately. :-(

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    posted July 6, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    I Love Eisley they are awesome!

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Travis Mamone

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I prefer Mindy Smith singing “Jolene” with Dolly. Actually I’ll take Mindy Smith over Miley any day!

Anyway, I never understood why “growing up” meant “getting X rated.” Why not just do what the Beatles did when they wanted to be taken seriously, and actually MAKE GOOD MUSIC?????

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posted July 6, 2010 at 8:01 pm

I think it is funny that people actually think she has talent. Did you see “Last Song.” She has no artistic range or function. I think this is the only route she had was to expose her self. She doesn’t have the vocal range of a Christina, or the acting ability of… well pretty much all of young Hollywood stinks at acting really! (is the best you can do is a confused and almost drooling face Kristen Stewart?) So of course we had to see this coming, and Bill-Ray is excited, because as her manager he is entitled to probably at least 20% if not more!

As a guy, I have to say that I’m not a fan. Yeah she is skinny, and probably a lot of guys are going to at least google her more. But in the end she is really just making herself look like every other girl in the mall

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posted July 6, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I cannot believe I am saying this… but I think the best counteroffer to a Miley fan is Taylor Swift.
I went to a Swift concert a couple of months ago (read about the full “Taylor Swift Experience” here: and even IF that girl was trying to be sexy, she failed.
Following the hypotheses being thrown out, it could be Taylor actually IS a good role model or it could be that she’s got PR people around her with different motivations and ideals.
Regardless, if I had kids? Miley ban, Swift… well, only if they somehow refused to listen to *real* rock & roll.

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Kyle Reed

posted July 7, 2010 at 9:51 am

I still remember her performance of “party in the USA” where she was on a supposed ice cream cart but really was a stripper pole. She was doing her “thing” (whatever that means) and I remember at that exact moment I said, “She is done, no more being innocent hannah montana and hello Lindsey Lohan”
I think it just comes down to she is going through what all teenagers and young adults experience, identity crisis or maybe trying to find your identity. Its just on a huge scale for all of us to see.

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posted July 7, 2010 at 9:44 pm

My question is when did she become a role model, when did any of these young women become that to which we let anyone aspire?

Just a question, I grew up in a home with a tight control on Barbie (I was allowed 3 that I remember) because she was a false body ideal, and I know I’m not alone. Maybe I’m out of touch, but it seems like there is a sense of resignation towards the sexuality that is most pervasive in the younger demographics.

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posted July 8, 2010 at 1:57 am

And even Party in the USA has her in short shorts. It’s not as explicit as the Tamed series, but it still has her being intentionally sexy.

That pressure is on all of us, you know. Sex is such an important part of culture – just look at Christian culture where the emphasis is on staying “pure” (I’m sorry, I can’t type that without quotation marks. You can’t see it, but I’m also rolling my eyes.) The result is that it’s the Christian kids and young adults that are so obsessed with sex (in this case, either not doing it and obsessing about which actions are okay and which aren’t, or doing it and feeling guilty/being made to feel guilty.

Miley’s just reacting to that cultural pressure that says that sex and sexuality is the best way to grab attention and be successful. Sex sells and women soon learn that objectification will happen whether you go along with it or not, so why not objectify yourself? It gives you a little bit of control and power of the process.

Sorry, I’m just really cynical about the weird place that sex has in American and christian culture.

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posted July 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Dakota. Fanning.

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