I recently raised a stink about this photo. People have called it beautiful, minimalistic, even "innocent." Say what you will about art - I know it was for Vanity Fair and not Hustler, I know Annie Leibovitz was in charge, I know her parents were there the whole time (probably). I don't care - she is fifteen. I have sixteen-year-old sisters, and I would have the head of anyone who took a picture of them in a bedsheet.
Last night, though, I started to think maybe I'm just getting old. I watched a sixteen-year-old Christina Aguilera writhe while singing about getting rubbed the right way and didn't think much of it. Granted, I wasn't quite thirteen when that video came out, so to me a sixteen-year-old was fully an adult - she could drive.
So is there really something more disturbing about the MC photo, or am I a curmudgeon ? Probably both. I'm fiercely protective of my sisters. But there are big differences in the two images. Christina is twisting her taut midsection and giving boys the eye, but the players are all on the table - she's a teenager ogling teenagers. She's in charge - the girl has her standards. And really, she could just be talking about heavy petting.
Not so Miley. She's topless in a bedsheet, her hair's a mess, her lipstick is smudged. No fifteen-year-old sleeps naked or wears that shade of lipstick to bed. Plus there's no context - we have no idea if the camera represents her pubescent boyfriend or her skeevy 40-something neighbor. She seems incredibly vulnerable.
In free speech issues I come down on the side of free speech, so I'm not saying the shot should never have been taken or published. But forgive me if I don't see the art.