Battling Bad Behaviour
Miley Cyrus bends over in front of the camera, bum wagging and tongue protruding. It’s an image that has been photographed and shown again and again in various newspapers and online articles. Many would slate Miley for the way she behaves and the image she promotes, shouting out for change in the way she projects herself. However, the problem is actually two-fold. First of all, Miley, and the rest of her crew, do have a responsibility to behave sensibly and show an awareness of the influence they have over young girls. In addition though, the media need to stop promoting and endorsing these behaviours as somehow glamorous or cool and instead push to the front those women who do act in a positive light and set a positive example.
Part of the problem is that the likes of Miley and Rihanna have a heavy teenage (and tweenage) following. When they were younger, their images were bubbly and fun compared with their current edgier incarnations. Cyrus started out as Hannah Montana, a sweet TV character whose popularity is proven by the shows five year run on American (and British) television. Her fame is further proven by the huge brand this lone TV character created. Merchandise was produced including stationary, dolls and clothing. Little girls wanted to be Hannah Montana and they continued to eagerly follow Miley’s career, probably expecting more of the saccharine Hannah. Instead, they were confronted with a twerking, tongue-poking celebrity. Similarly, Rihanna started out with a sugary sweet image – one of her first biggest hits was the super-chipper Umbrella which saw her twirl her way across our screens and The New York Times magazine even went so far as to give her the label Cookie-Cutter Teen Queen in 2009. Quite a contrast then with later hits like S & M, with its highly sexualised lyric content. It is not right to criticise Miley Cyrus and Rihanna for their actions in themselves but there is a problem when young girls are being exposed to behaviours, images and actions that they are not old enough to fully contextualise yet.
This leads into the next point. These women often dress in a way that is overly sexualised and encourages the objectification of women. There have been a spat of award ceremonies recently, and whilst the majority of celebrities turn up rather nattily attired, there are a select group who seem to go out of their way to dress as controversially – and presumably as sexily – as possible. If we look at our two favourite offenders again we see that Rihanna and Miley attend numerous award ceremonies and fashion shows where there is an abundance of flesh on display, and most of it is theirs. For a New York Fashion Week event, Rihanna, ever on the cutting edge of fashion, appeared to forget both her trousers and her top, wearing only her lingerie and a sparkly blazer accessorized with some strappy stilettos and a man. Yes, this was a fashion event where things are a bit quirky and different but why was it okay for her to go out into the streets like that? It’s unsuitable as well though because it detracts from their actual work and good deeds. Cyrus turned up at the amfAR LA Inspiration Gala, at which she also donated a whopping $500,000 to help fight AIDs. Yet it was her generous show of skin rather than her generous donation that was picked up on by the majority of the press. She had turned up wearing a bondage styled dress, which criss-crossed her torso leaving little to the imagination. What should have been reported on in this instance was her giving nature not what nature had given her.
Not content to just appear inappropriately attired, often at such public events these celebrities do nothing to vet their inappropriate behaviour, in fact in some instances they seem almost proud of it. In this country we have a glut of minor celebrities made famous through reality shows. In July this year three members of the Made in Chelsea cast were embroiled in a drugs scandal. Their photo appeared on their social media pages and appeared to show drug paraphernalia on the table behind them and it was heavily suggested that Binky and her cohort of fillies had been indulging in illegal substances . Everything about the way it was covered and then brushed away suggests that there was nothing wrong with their behaviour.
Even these celebrities self-promotion can be bad. To return to our favourite once more, Miley Cyrus crouches down in her webpage, grabbing her crotch whilst sticking her tongue out. What a lovely image to present to the world. There’s a second shot of her wearing what appears to be bondage gear and a third image shows her topless with bits of chicken edited over the top to keep her dignity (although the presence of cartoon chicken drumsticks might suggest it had already left some time ago). All this does is demonstrate to our children and young people that this type of behaviour is accepted or even worse, a nice way to behave. Yes, all of this is part of their image, their brand, but why would you want to make out that you are nothing more than something akin to a Barbie doll to be propped up in daft positions with nothing but fluff filling up the space usually given over to a brain?
There are other role models who should be promoted such as actresses and athletes. And this is perhaps where we see the media’s role in all this best. Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Addlington and Nicola Adams all exemplify a healthy and driven lifestyle. These young women are ambitious and reached out to achieve their dreams. Instead of focusing on this the media instead chose to focus on Miss Addlington’s weight issues or Miss Pendleton’s vanishing thighs during her stint on Strictly. There are actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson or Emma Stone who also create a positive image to follow. Jennifer Lawrence regularly discusses positive body image, Emma Watson has spoken out about equal rights for all and Emma Stone chooses roles that give a positive message – look at her role in ‘The Help’ where her character contributes towards the civil rights movement in America. It’s difficult to see or hear any of this though behind the excited chatter at Lawrence’s hacked nude photos, or whispered speculations at Stone’s relationship status. The media needs to stop focusing on women for just their appearance or outlandish behaviour and show that what women do should be counted.
So how do we counter act this? It’s going to be a battle on two fronts and yes it will take some time. But we would ask that these starlets think about what persona they project into the stratosphere and what they are vicariously encouraging young folk to do. And we would also like to see the media think about how they present these tales to the world.
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