Miley Cyrus’ Controversial Photos Spark Fierce Debate Among Fans, Parents

Readers write in with sympathy, outrage and insight about the 15-year-old's Vanity Fair shoot.

You’d have to be living under a large gray blanket for the past few days not to hear about Miley Cyrus’ photo spread for next month’s Vanity Fair, shot by the renowned Annie Leibovitz. But despite Cyrus’ quick apology, the impact of MileyGate is still being felt as hoards of teens and parents alike have been forced to consider the rights and wrongs of the 15-year-old “Hannah Montana” star’s risqué photos.

On Tuesday, MTV News intern Jackie Burns used the Newsroom Blog to air her grievances as a Miley fan and as someone who remembers that purgatory of being not a girl and not yet a woman (and yes, the unfortunate Britney reference is becoming an integral part of this debate).

“Parents of younger fans — and the big boys in suits — tend to put girls like Miley in a box, packaged with a pretty pink bow and lots of sunshine,” Burns wrote. “Realistically, that’s not what 15-year-old girls are made of.” And the comments came rolling in.

“I would much rather that they continue to guide her to be the role model they had the whole world believing she is, even though she’s now a mature 15,” commenter Teen Mom declared. “Hello to the next Spears family???”

Responses from both sides were equally passionate. Raeve1 praised the photo, explaining, “It made me think of a little girl that had gotten into her mother’s makeup and was putting on her mother’s clothes to look like a grownup. I thought it was innocent and beautiful.”

The fact that many have deemed the photo to be sexualized prompted Shannon, a mother of a 9-year-old, to comment, “I think what we need to all look at is how the media has perverted this beautiful picture of a beautiful girl coming of age.”

That interpretation is a far cry from what other critics have thought the shot represented. “These are professional photos, where adults dressed up a young girl to look much older, to emulate an erotic situation,” Eve wrote.

Many sympathized with the pop sensation’s approach to exhibiting her personal growth, “This is an innocent teen that was taken advantage of,” B. Russell said. “Miley, you have no reason to be sorry; you did nothing wrong. I am just sorry that you have to go through the bullsh– of all this. You keep up the good work.”

Commenter Gina reminded readers that celebrities like Miley are “just like us, doing mistakes and learning from them.”

“She’s acting like a normal 15-year-old girl. The only difference is that everything she does makes it onto the news,” Shawn rationalized. Clarissa concurred in her comments, exclaiming, “The pictures are beautiful, and I’ve seen much worse.” But MissKing offered an exception: “I am 16. I see other girls doing much worse in photos, but she is held up as this role model, and she IS NOT A NORMAL GIRL. She is a celebrity.”

Many commenters were neither as kind nor as understanding in their feedback. “The Charles Barkley argument is a tired one,” hahaha wrote, recalling the hoops player’s stance that not every celebrity should be considered a role model. “You want life in the public eye? Then learn to accept public criticism. People pay to watch you work. That makes you not normal. If you don’t care, more power, but if you have built an image you want to protect, then smarten up and act accordingly.”

Taking issue with Miley’s supposed appreciation for the shot’s “artistry,” Bfranklins shot back, “Sorry, Miley, but you wouldn’t know art if it bought the entire floor of one of your inflated Winnie the Pooh Striptease Spectaculars and you stage-dived into it. And you sure aren’t going to learn what it is from your mom and dad.”

Caitilin Michigan held a similar ire for the star and tersely typed, “Miley Cyrus is a horrible girl who just wants publicity.”

Many thought Cyrus had disregarded her status as a role model to young girls when she mugged for Leibovitz. “My 5-year-old loves this girl, and so does everyone in her kindergarten class. This type of behavior by ‘Hannah Montana’ is repulsive and her parents have every right to be angry and ashamed right now. Miley can’t do what she wants to do. She is a cash cow for Disney. If she wants to live her life, then her parents need to retire her as soon as the contract expires,” reader Dee Dee cautioned.

Trish, another mother, added: “Art or not. It’s not something little minds are equipped to, or should have to, process just yet.”

Reader taxigirl perhaps best explained Cyrus’ limbo between role model and maturing teen. “[This scandal] violates an implicit trust between her and the kids (and the parents of the kids) who are her fans. If any teenager who was babysitting or giving swim lessons or being a camp counselor acted in front of the kids the way they act among other teenagers, they’d be promptly fired. Sucks to be her, but at least she’s making good money off of it.”

Then Carl put the situation into perspective: “Life’s not fair, get over it. In three years she can pose for Playboy or whatever else she wants.”

What do you think? Is Miley Cyrus still worthy of her “role model” status? Is that something she wanted in the first place? Keep the conversation going here!