by Meredith O'Brien
My 12-year-old daughter gestured to the March issue of Marie Claire that was sitting on my desk.
“Have you looked through that? Looked at the pictures?” she asked.
“No, not yet,” I said, eyeing Miley Cyrus on the cover next to the headline, “I’m sorry. I never, ever said I was perfect.”
She flipped open to the cover story about Cyrus, someone who my daughter used to adore, whose 3-D movie we saw in a packed theater after having arrived an hour early and bought advanced tickets, whose life’s story my daughter knew by heart, whose music my daughter used to download onto her iPod. In Marie Claire were photos of the 18-year-old wearing sophisticated duds, including a dress which revealed ample side cleavage and another skin-bearing black, lace-up dress that looked as though the back had been unzipped. My daughter wrinkled her nose. She no longer watches Hannah Montana, preferring instead iCarly on TV and Taylor Swift on her iPod. In fact Swift posters have replaced Cyrus ones in her room.
And in that moment, when my daughter left my office, disappointed in her idol, I felt badly, for my daughter and, believe it or not, for Cyrus as well.
It’s all been such a mess this past year for Miley, despite the fact that she earned $48 million and her Disney show Hannah Montana finished its wildly successful run. Her parents filed for divorce last fall, a video of Miley taking hits off a bong  filled with the herb salvia made the rounds online and salacious photos from her 18th birthday party  also went viral and generated bad publicity. This was on the heels of Miley’s appearance at the Teen Choice Awards in 2009 , when she was 17 and not only gyrated in super-short-shorts, but jumped atop an ice cream cart fitted with a pole which many likened to a stripper’s pole. When a cable TV newswoman, who has young children who were fans of the singer, criticized the decision to have a 17-year-old “pole dance,” Miley responded snarkily  in a March 2010 Parade Magazine interview saying, “My job first is to entertainand do what I love, and if you don’t like it, then change the channel. I’m forcing you to watch me . . . But, dude, if you think dancing on top of an ice cream cart with a pole is bad, then go check what 90 percent of the high schoolers are really up to.”
In her Marie Claire interview, Miley sounded lighthearted and enthusiastic, pushing back criticism of her bong smoking by practically quoting one of her earlier, more innocent songs (one my daughter has on her iPod) “Nobody’s Perfect.” Of the provocative 18th birthday photos, she attempted to play them down as well. On the subject of whether her recent behavior, or the more adult-like material on her latest Can’t Be Tamed CD – including a video for the song “Who Owns My Heart”  where she, at 17, was vamping on top of a bed in lingerie and getting felt up in a nightclub -- is alienating her fanbase of young girls, Miley responded by saying she’s just being who she is and that she “never wanted . . . my fans to ever feel like I betrayed them.”
I can understand the desire for Miley to break free and be her own person, no longer a virginal Disney princess, and instead be a fit, talented and sexy young woman for all the world to see. I get that. And if we really want to be scandalized by teen behavior, we could tune into MTV’s Skins  and see much worse than we’ve seen from Miley. Problem is, Skins wasn’t marketed to my tween-aged daughter and 17 is too young to be going on national television and gyrating next to a stripper pole, don’t ya think?
Where are the teen’s parents in all of this? Well her father and Hannah Montana co-star Billy Ray Cyrus also appears in a national magazine’s March issue, GQ, under the title, “Mr. Hannah Montana’s Achy Broken Heart .” In it, he talked about how distressed he’s been that he no longer has a say in what happens to his daughter because her handlers tell him what Miley is doing is none of his business. For example, of Miley’s 18th birthday party, Billy Ray Cyrus said he objected to the fact that it was held in a bar, “It was wrong. It was for 21 years old and up. Once again all them people, they all wanted me to fly out so that when all the bad press came they could say, ‘Daddy endorsed this stuff. . .’”
He looks at all the scandals that have hit his young daughter in the past year – when the bong video went online he tweeted, “Im so sad. There is much beyond my control right now.” – and said he regrets trying to be Miley’s friend first instead of her parent over the past few years: “I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough – it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t.” Now, as he rues ever agreeing to be in the show that made Miley famous and says it ruined his family. Billy Ray said: “I’m scared for her. She’s got a lot of people around her that’s putting her in a great deal of danger.”
Billy Ray was supposed to appear on The View to talk about his family, but it was reported  that, in the wake of the GQ article, Miley asked her father to cancel his scheduled interview, which he did. People Magazine cited  an unnamed source alleging that Miley was “very hurt and angry” by the GQ piece.
When I finished reading the GQ piece, right after I read Miley’s interview in Marie Claire, my thoughts went back to my daughter, who was disturbed by Miley’s photos in the magazine – the singer’s a mere six years older than my daughter -- and I feel sorry for all three of them: For the father who somehow lost the ear of his multi-millionaire daughter and who has to helplessly watch while she makes decisions which he thinks will harm her; for the teen star – who’s still a minor who can’t legally drink in those bars she’s been photographed in – and comes across as a kid who’s surrounded by a bunch of people giving her advice on how to sex-up her image at age 17 and who doesn’t have the wisdom or the courage to say, “No;” and for my daughter, who looks at all of this and wonders what it means for when she’s 17 or 18 and whether the world will expect her to be like Miley.
For now, I’ve told my daughter that if she wants to talk about the changes that have occurred with Miley I’m available, but she’s not really that interested in the pop starlet any more. And when I hear her rocking out to Taylor Swift, I breathe a sigh of relief.