Pop Culture

Miley Cyrus and the Bong Hit Heard ‘Round the World

You may have heard by now, if you read any B-class online news venues or follow gossip/celebrity blogs or have the audacity to check Google Trends, that Miley Cyrus was recently caught on tape smoking what sources say is salvia. This revelation set off a chain reaction of increased salvia sales (“We’ll have the stuff Miley was smoking!”), renewed interest in banning the drug in California, and, of course, the type of hysterical hand-wringing that can only accompany a famous, teenage girl doing something legal.

Some of my favorite quotes in reaction to Salvia-Gate 2010:

“Miley is a star and young kids are going to emulate her behavior”¦[salvia makes] you do incredibly crazy things.” ““ Former California Assemblyman Anthony Adams. Wow, are we reaching for sources, TMZ, or can my great-aunt who ran for county commissioner one time now make broad, opinionated statements about foreign policy?

“I don’t want her to be the mean girl that she was in middle school and I would hate to see her become the next train wreck”¦ She’s very lucky and should show some humility.” ““ Nicole Mullen-Holm, Miley’s supposed ex-best-friend from middle school who somehow decided this was a convenient time to trash her most famous connection. Replace “hate” with “love” and “She’s very lucky, etc.” with “My parents never let me have voice lessons, wahhh” and I think you have a much more accurate statement.

“I had no idea. Just saw this stuff for the first time myself. I’m so sad. There is much beyond my control right now.” ““ Billy Ray Cyrus via Twitter. Is it just me or does that last sentence sound almost Jedi-like? Makes sense, since Billy Ray must be employing The Force of convenient memory loss and utter shamelessness to pretend he’s never lit up a doobie, giggled, and written repetitive, rhyme-y nonsense on his acoustic. In fact, that’s probably how “Achy Breaky Heart” was unleashed on unsuspecting eardrums everywhere.

On its surface, this is just another entrancing celebrity snafu that will be forgotten in a week, but once you start peeling back the layers of sexism and ageism and societal hang-ups, it looks awfully more sinister.

The “what about the children??”-laced insistence that female role models remain in innocent lockstep is primarily a smokescreen for the infantilization of women; that’s why similar uproars were conspicuously absent when  marijuana was found in Aaron Carter’s car and when Shia LaBeouf admitted he’s smoked the drug since childhood. And because women are so often used as tools of a patriarchal society, no one is stopping to ponder the moral rectitude of exploiting Miley’s popularity, in this particular incident and so many others, for personal gain or to propel an agenda.

Miley’s not the first young star to be caught smoking something and she won’t be the last, but because she’s a hyper-virginized product of the Disney machine, the public will exaggerate the importance of this incident, parents will confiscate Hannah Montana DVDs and CDs from their kids, and references will be made to “Miley’s bong hit” for years, or at least every time EW or TMZ sees fit to spaz out about Miley’s latest “revealing” outfit and note that, well, she is know for being a druggie whore.

It’s not enough to just acknowledge the double standard for the Mileys versus the Shias of the world. The entertainment industry isn’t likely to change its well-worn formula of exploiting young girls and acting surprised when they grow up and do typical, young adult things (i.e., “go downhill” or “turn bad”), so bloggers and parents have to work from the ground up to explain to their children and get the word out to their audiences that what Miley did was no more and no less than one woman’s personal decision. Period. Discussions about whether or not to use drugs can flow from there, but let’s not rake Miley across the coals for exercising her right to make autonomous decisions.[pullquote]It’s not enough to just acknowledge the double standard for the Mileys versus the Shias of the world[/pullquote]

Last but not least, the preoccupation with female sexuality and innocence is a distraction for the entire public, a lure that tears us away from the current events we could be expending energy debating and critiquing. The only people who profit from endlessly rehashing Miley’s supposed failings are certain muckish news sources and the politicians who know the American public will be safely arguing the merits of leather miniskirts, rather than benefit extensions and tax cuts.

I’m not saying a vast, Miley Cyrus-centered conspiracy is afoot, rather that we shouldn’t give the muckrakers the satisfaction of capturing our attention so easily. When Miley buys a kilo of Colombian cocaine, give me a call, but until then, I’ll just be rolling my eyes at all her alleged misconduct.

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