Unless you are living under a rock, even if you haven’t actually seen it yet, you know that Miley Cyrus, pop star, tv star, child star, has a lot of people talking about her performance on the VMAs earlier this week. Mom bloggers are coming out of the wood work to write letters pleading with Miss Cyrus to come to her senses. Conservatives are updating their Facebook statuses with words of concern about this young woman’s influence over the small girls who once watched “Hannah Montana” and sported t-shirts with her face on them. Mothers are declaring to keep Miley Cyrus, her music, her face, as far away from their little girls as possible.
But, as usual, I’m here with a very different perspective. You aren’t going to have read yet another public letter telling Miley Cyrus just how offensive was her performance. I’m not here to declare how I’m never letting my daughter listen to her or watch her ever again.
We’ve watched the entire series of “Hannah Montana”. We’ve sung along to her songs. My daughter has worn “Hannah Montana” shirts, has a “Hannah Montana” pillow on her bed, and her walls have been decorated with “Hannah Montana” posters. She just simply liked “Hannah Montana”. So did my son and I for that matter. This summer when Miley’s new hit single hit the airwaves, instead of turning the station, I sang along. My daughter sang along. “We Can’t Stop” is actually quite an awesome song.
It’s a sad song. It’s a song with meaning. It’s a song that discusses adult topics. I didn’t turn off the station, though. I did, however, talk to my daughter about the lyrics. What did it mean to be “doing a line” in the bathroom? What did it mean to be getting “torn up”? What did it mean to be dancing with Molly? Now she knows that the song is about drugs. Now she knows that Miley is singing about doing drugs. And she’s possibly doing drugs herself (one would assume) in real life. Now she knows that Miley is… human… and flawed. But wait, she never believed anything to the contrary. She never had some crazy whacked out idea that Miley Cyrus was some kind of role model or some kind of person to look up to. She was just the star of a tv show that she liked to watch. My daughter has no desire to be a star. She’s a talented actor herself but has decided, for now, to stop doing theater because she just doesn’t like it. She has other goals. Her goals have never included being anything like Miley Cyrus.
Miley Cyrus has no power over her. No influence.
I grew up loving certain celebrities. Heck, I still love certain celebrities. I admire Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and many other funny ladies in television. I grew up loving pop stars. Did they have influence over me? Power over me? Absolutely. But only the ones to whom I could relate. In my case, it was the B-52s, because they let themselves be weird. They influenced me to be a vegetarian. To dress creatively. To let my freak flag fly. But in all honesty, those are things that I would have done anyway. The B-52s just happened to be the driving force behind my finding those authentic pieces of who I would eventually become.
They are not the reason that I went to college or that I got married and had kids or that I have brown hair and brown eyes.
And despite their work for HIV awareness, I still had sex before marriage.
And despite the awful images in my mind of abortion from “Dirty Dancing”, “Last American Virgin”, and this really horrifying poem written on the topic by actress Ally Sheedy, I am still post-abortive.
And despite the “Just Say No” campaign so many pop stars and tv stars of my day participated in, I still smoked weed and allowed myself to be “prescribed” every psych med on the market.
You see, I didn’t make the bad decisions that I made because of pop stars and television stars and movies and I also didn’t NOT make those decisions because of pop stars and television stars and movies.
I made those decisions because the people in my life, at the time, with the most influence over me said those decisions were okay. Or made those decisions for me.
I wasn’t the biggest influence in my own life. Because I didn’t have a definitive idea about where I stood on these issues. I was just sent into my teen years without having any clue where I stood on abortion, drugs, and sex. I had to make the decision about my stance when I was faced with tough choices and when I was faced with myself. I had no spiritual or even practical guidance. I just WAS.
So it was up to those closest to me to help me decide where I stood or in some cases, all that mattered was where they stood. I didn’t get a say.
I want to thank Miley Cyrus. Her performance and the reaction to her performance this week has given me an opportunity to reflect upon what kind of influence popular culture truly did have on my painful past. And it has helped me to set very specific goals as a parent.
Those goals are:
To take advantage of the years that I have with my daughter when I am her best friend and biggest influence. I may always be her best friend and biggest influence but just in case I am not, it is my intention to talk with her about everything. on. earth. and help her determine where she stands on big issues before she faces difficult decisions.
To do everything I possibly can to help my daughter learn to trust herself and to show her that respecting herself is absolutely mandatory in order for her to succeed in life.
And of course to continue praying for her, her husband, and her future.
So you see, I’m not concerned about the influence that Miley Cyrus’s VMAs performance might have on my daughter. In fact, I officially declare Miss Cyrus “off the hook”. Because Miley Cyrus has no power over my daughter. But thankfully, for now, I have plenty. And I plan to use that power to my full advantage.
And Miley, even if your next single is also about the scandalous life of clubbing and drugging that you are leading, we’ll keep singing along. And I’ll continue to use your material to teach my children about how they don’t want to live.