It’s no just-rolled-out-of-bed Vanity Fair photo shoot, but Miley Cyrus’ latest grownup pictorial — this time for Elle — has whipped up some blog outrage for its age-inappropriateness and prominent use of “hooker boots,” as one blogger said. But while I wouldn’t love seeing my own (theoretical, future) 16-year-old daughter trussed up (kinda more ridiculously than sexily, no?) in a bustier on the cover of Elle and reclining in some (pretty bad-ass) thigh-high boots, the sexy photo shoot has become a coming-of-age staple for young stars. And I do think context should enter the discussion: This is a fashion magazine for women, not Rolling Stone — home to many a risque cover — which has far more young, male readers and can’t purport to be about the clothes. This particular shoot walks the fine line between sexy and exploitative. But, as Salon’s Broadsheet eloquently points out, any outrage seems to stem more from the kindof sexualization shown here than anything else: “We’re all too happy to see her clad in a girly frock and schoolgirl socks — however, black thigh-high boots, and a black push-up bra?” Tracy Clark-Flory writes. “Horrors, that’s a child!”
Of course, the firestorm isn’t quite on par with the furor the VF debacle provoked last year. That could mean a couple of things: 1. There’s a psychological world of difference between a sexy 15-year-old and a sexy 16-year-old; 2. We’re distracted by other stuff right now; 3. Sheets trump hooker boots; and/or 4. We’re getting used to seeing Miley as a budding sex symbol. It’s probably a little bit of all of the above. But No. 4, in particular, makes me a touch nervous for Miley’s future; I hope her handlers can keep their wits about them through the next few years and err on side of caution. No reason to erase every ounce of sexuality from a girl approaching adulthood — we needn’t cover her in a Snuggie just because she made her name as a Disney darling. But it’s tough for girls of a certain age to navigate this terrain in the public eye, when normal girls get to explore their sexual power in relative privacy, without national magazine covers to document their missteps. (Translation: You can’t always trust a teenage girl’s instinct for appropriateness, even a smart teenage girl.) And there’s no turning back once you’ve created a sex symbol too soon — just ask Britney Spears.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Is Miley’s Elle shoot too sexy? Nothing to worry about? Or totally expected at this point?