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The Hannah Montana Photo Controversy

A controversy had erupted over the photo of the 15-year-old teen superstar Miley Cyrus (better known as Hannah Montana):

One photo shows Cyrus topless but clutching a sheet to her chest, her bare back exposed, looking toward the camera over one shoulder.

A caption alongside the photo reads: "Um, was Cyrus -- or Disney -- at all anxious about this shot?" It then quotes Cyrus as saying: "No, I mean I had a blanket on. And I thought, 'This looks pretty, and really natural.' I think it's really artsy."

The photos were taken by Annie Leibovitz, a renowned photographer known for her portraits of celebrities.

The magazine refers to the "topless but demure portrait" as Leibovitz's idea and quotes Cyrus as saying, "It wasn't in a skanky way ... And you can't say no to Annie. She's so cute. She gets this puppy dog look and you're like, 'O.K.'"

A Disney Channel spokesman, Patti McTeague, said in a statement on Sunday that the photos were meant to sell magazines.

"Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines," her statement said.

My respect for Annie Leibovitz, an accomplished photographer known for her portraits of celebrities, had just gone to zero. I've never had any respect for Vanity Fair. Ugh.

Link | DListed has the controversial pic (I think it was yanked off the Vanity Fair website) - Thanks Geekazoid!

wait a second...DISNEY has a problem with this? DISNEY thinks she was manipulated?

is this the same channel that is allowing a pregnant sixteen-year-old to carry on with her tv sitcom for young girls?

yeah, that's what i thought.
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Uh, I think its pretty silly to take the Disney spokesperson or even Cyrus' word for any of this. As far as we know, they planned this whole thing from the start as a media stunt - showing a more risque look, but then aggressively acting like she was deceived. Sells more magazines and gets more eyes on her.

I mean come on, do you think her handlers would have let her get partially undressed in front of the camera without putting two and two together? Its not like she was there alone.

I think you've been a little manipulated yourself...
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I think if you should be upset with anyone, it should be Disney. Miley Cyrus may have wanted to do the shoot, but she is too young to really know the ramifications, and her managers knew exactly what they were doing.

Annie Leibovitz has never taken a photograph that to me, seemed pornographic or manipulative.
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Of all the people to get pissed at for this, you choose... the photographer hired to take the picture?

Not the father or mother? Or her agent?
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finally found the pic on the vanity fair site. It seems pretty innocent. Its a little odd to see a 15yo sitting topless but shes covered up.

I think the more disturbing pic is the one of her and her dad, looks like he's thinking "I am so badass with my sleeveless shirt and feathered mullet" and she is looking at the camera thinking "This is so embarrassing, are we done yet?"
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OH COME ON, now. annie liebowitz, which i'll probably misspell throughout, has been taking portraits since the seventies; she knows how to light and pose an individual to convey a message. the photo on Dlisted isn't sexy; it's a high-contrast low-saturation grey-backed _Commentary_ on the sexualisation of underage superstars, not any kind of glorification of it.

i am so dissapointed to hear that you're respect for such a great photographer has "gone to zero" over this image.
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"My respect for Annie Leibovitz, an accomplished photographer known for her portraits of celebrities, had just gone to zero."

why? she was doing her job. Disney were aware of the shoot and BOTH of Miley's parents were present.

the picture is not sexual unless backs are big turn on for you!
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What a bunch of prudes. I think it's a nice photo.

The people who have problems with it are probably the same people who would like to paint fig leaves over all the nude paintings of the old masters. And this isn't even a nude!
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Well, my respect for Disney has been zero for a long time.

Encouraging girls to think Hannah Montana is interesting at all is pretty sickening.
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"A Disney Channel spokesman, Patti McTeague, said in a statement on Sunday that the photos were meant to sell magazines."

Oh dear! What a shocking development!

What's next, revelations that Hannah Montana was created only to sell albums and concert tickets? I just don't know what to believe anymore.
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Annie Leibovitz can do whatever she wants. She's Annie Leibovitz.
She can start taking Mapplethorpes of 2 year olds and still be the best living photographer. A 15 year old girl covering herself with a blanket? I saw a lot worse than that in middle school, let alone high school.
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I agree with Charlie. This to me seems like a media stunt to start changing Cyrus' image from a young girl audience to an adult audience. We have seen this over and over again with other celebrities. I can't say i'm surprised by this move.
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The picture is about as sexual as a dental appointment to me. The bare upper-back may be sexual in some contexts and cultures, but not in most. It's the least salacious body part she can show besides her face and hands. It's a very clich├ęd attempt at broadcasting an image of honesty.
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Please, girls her age are showing more skin in school, and there is hardly any moral outrage accorded to that when compared to the "exploitation of this innocent 15 year old girl."

There was no exploitation here. Agents & parents were there. Miley seemed to be happy with the shots at the time, according to other sources. Miley's recent statements to the contrary are only to try and save face with Disney.
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So everyone seems to be forgetting that she is still only 15 years old!!! This is insane, would you allow your own 15 year old girl to get behind a sheet naked and have someone take a picture of her for the whole world to see? I don't know about you but my girls are too precious to be exposed like that. This is exactly what is wrong with our society when people think that this is OK. So what if we saw it in middle school, high school or whenever doesn't mean it makes it right! I can't believe that everyone seems to think this is ok.
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In addition to society thinking that this is OK, we have to remember that there are as young as 4 year old girls watching this icon and if we keep going younger and younger with this as accepted than what age will it be ok for girls to have sex??? This is insane people. I am sickened and disgusted with society right now!
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It's the parents that people should be outraged over. They were there the entire time and were shown the digital copies. They knew what it looked like and approved it. Miley seemed totally happy about it until the public disapproved then she backtracked to say she was mislead. Don't hate on Annie or Vanity Fair when its the girl and her parents that approved it in the first place.
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What a bunch of prudes. Its very artsy and not scandalous at all. Why not worry about real problems, like half the kids in Detroit not graduating.
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This is ridiculous. You don't get pressured into having your picture taken by Annie Leibovitz. You beg and beg to have that happen. This reminds me of the time that Hugh Hefner pressured me into partying with him at the Playboy mansion, or the time that Paul McCartney pressured me into joining a Beatles jam session in 1966 with my guitar.
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My parents never would have been okay with that when I was a teenager. Even now they'd be telling me not to do it, that it would come back to bite me someday... The fact is, we live in a relatively puritanical society. Even if you have an open mind and think of it as artistic, our media won't portray it that way. Kids today are listening to the media, not paying attention to the art. It's not consciously setting a bad example, but it can lend itself to that depending on how the media spins it.
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@ Mom of 3 girls:
Hate to say it, but the assumption that fifteen is too innocent to be seen as a sexual being is the reason why there are so many teen pregnancies. Miley may be 15 but she's far from being a kid anymore. Once you're worth hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandising and an international superstar, the responsibilities of your career go far beyond anything a kid can handle. Miley's probably more of an ADULT than most of the people who are freaking out over this innocent photo.
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Some people need to lighten up... she was not naked on the picture and she did not complain about being forced to perform in front of photographer ( Was she really being forced to do it against her will? ).

My mother took pictures of me and my cousin naked in the bath when I was a baby, does this make my mother some sort of pedophile or something?

We're all born naked. Showing some skin may be controversial but it's certainly not illegal ( As long as you're not butt naked )
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Disney is critizing another company for manipulating a 15 year old for profit? Or are they just whining they didnn't get a cut?

I've seen the photos. A Sears catalog shows more, and in a more sexual context.
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My respect for Alex, some sort of blogger known for his postings on Neatorama, had just gone to zero.

Stop judging so fast, specially when you yourself seem to think this is neat. Or is that not what this blog is for?
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Am I the only one left who wants to hear about real celebrities? She took up valuable space on the Barbara Walters special after the Oscars. I almost stopped watching but they had the Juno girl on. A real new star who starred in a movie people actually watched and featured music that was actually listenable. What a concept. Please go away Hannah Montana.
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I don't think that there's anything wrong with this picture. Yea she's 15 but so what? We see worse things on tv than a girl with a bare back. Yes, i understand that she's a role model for younger girls but if you're letting your 10 year old read Vanity Fair and you think that's ok than maybe you should check your morals.
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no, they are not provacative in the least, they are very beautiful pictures, FOR A 20 YEAR OLD!!!!! I understand everyone thinking that it is an innocent beautiful picture but for a 15 year old girl who has little 1st graders watching her she needs to be more responsible in what she is doing. She could do this in a few more years when she is older and more mature. Yes, when you step into the role that she is in you can't be treated like a little innocent little girl BUT she needs to (and her agents & parents need to) be more responsible and think about the little girls that are watching her.
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well if vanityfair was the only place this picture was at then it wouldn't be as big of a deal but it's plastered EVERYWHERE and the media is reminding everyone that "this teenage icon" Miley Cyrus is the one in the pictures. Kids hear that name and they perk up and pay attention.
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luvpumpkins: that was nickelodeon that let britney's little sister stay on.
I expect it of nick.

I would also like to point out that Miley Cyrus was less likely manipulated by Annie and more likely by her parents. They had to be the ones to OK it. They control her finances. And there's that whole parenting thing...>.>

And I don't find them provocative or even particularly artsy. They are good photos, but I don't recognize them as "Leibovitz" either.
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I think the photo and the media/fan's reaction tells a lot about the perception of sexuality in the US.

Wasn't it socially acceptable to find a 15 year old (or any aged woman) attractive about 100 years ago or less?

Doesn't Disney exploit her sexually, albeit in a less direct way?

Shouldn't she be able to express her sexuality?

I may be over generalizing but I get this overwhelming feeling that the majority of the backlash equates sexuality w/ sinfullness and adulthood to something we should be protecting our children from.
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get over yourself neatorama writer- her family was supervising the whole time and frankly sexier more risquee pictures of ms montana have shown up on her private myspace page. everyone was fine with the pictures until the disney folk realized the conservative right might dislike the photos and boycott the show. hannah montana is a multi millionaire dollar industry. this isn't annie leibowitz or vanity fair taking advantage of a ms cyrus, but corporate politcs cut and dry. no moral high horse here.
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did anyone else see her on American Idol a few weeks ago? she was practically dry humping the air and stage. it was like she was trying to be fergie.

sad. i remember her talking about promoting a healthy image for young girls.
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Some of the blame has to be placed on the family here. If I'm at a photo shoot with my kid, and they had her a sheet and say "Strip down and kinda wrap this around you" that's the end of the photo shoot.
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Boo hoo. People are flipping out over this, but not the real topless photo that hit the web just a few days ago, where she willing posed topless, no sheet included?
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I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, she's really wearing more than a lot of girls her age have on when they're in a bathing suit. On the other, my parents would definitely have said "uh, NO" to a picture like that when I was that age.

I tend to side with the people who are wondering why her parents didn't think a little harder before they published that.
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I love how obsessed with images Disney is... I don't think its that bad-- there again, as South park predicted, shes the next mess the paparazzi will be taking photos of for years...
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I am glad to have finally found a few other people that think this is crazy and the pictures are artistic. The picture isn't sexy and doesn't even imply sex unless you THINK it does. Little kids who love Miley Cyrus will wonder why all the adults have gone crazy! The picture is innocent and she looks like a young girl. Kids see that picture they will not think sex because they don't know what sex is! And if they do TALK TO THEM ABOUT IT! Because if this picture makes them horny than everything in the world is going to make them horny! Stop worrying about the 40 year old man masterbating to the photo in his parents basement and talk to your children!!!!!
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Are these photos somewhat distasteful? To me, yes.
But I have more issues with Liebowitz than I do with the Cyrus family- this photog has been taking the same, lame photos for decades now and passing them off as something more than what they are- contrived portraits of subjects that say more about the photog's ego than about the subject.

Annie, get over yourself already; you're a hack with no new ideas.
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Given the terrible makeup and lipstick she's wearing, I wouldn't know it was a 15 yr old unless you told me. That should be the complaint--that a 15 yr old is not allowed to look her age.
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As an artist, i am that doesn't stand with me.

What I see in the picture is disgusting, she looks worn out, like she just got if she had sex all night. The day after look. she's 15...get it? She's not of legal age yet! Yikes... girls are being taught it's OK to look trashy... Put on some clothes already!

And I don't think she was manipulated... she or her manager knew what she was doing. (Here. get naked and look at me.) Right.

I normally love Annie's work. Not this one. And people are going to wonder why the pregnancy rate in teens goes up.
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This slut is supposed to be a role model for our kids!

Be a role model for your kids yourself.

I'm not old by any stretch of the imagination and I did NOT grow up gawking at celebrities and dreaming of being like them. The most admirable people in this world, the ones who should be looked up to, are probably never going to be asked to pose in a sexually-provocative pose. (And yes, the covering makes a difference. Sheet > bikini, but has a whole different set of connotations. Bikini = bra/panty set coverage-wise, but you aren't allowed out in the latter. And no, most kids won't get the implication, or care if they did.)

Anyway, this is a celebrity famous for family connections and entertainment frippery. Anything the average person knows about her is based on the public image of her that was crafted by her handlers and a corporation, not her actual person. A stranger famous for prancing around, looking pretty, and singing wouldn't scream "role model" to me no matter how she was photographed.
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I wish I could blame the photographer, but her and her parents apparently checked out the pics at the photoshoot and approved. Sounds like Disney is trying to keep its newest gold mine from becoming tarnished.

The line between art and porn is grey at times. However, a photo intentionally promoting the sexuality of a minor seems like its more on the porn side of the line. Reminds of a recent Lindsay Lohan spread. I didn't see that as art either, but at least she is old enough to legally sell herself.
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Here's the real question: if a male photographer had taken those pictures or if say someone took them at home of their child, would it fly?
So why is it allowed to fly under the guise of "art"??
As for Disney, screw them. They're so out of touch with reality any more that it's great to see another of their churned out plastic kids break free and in to reality, all the while leaving Disney with egg on their face...AGAIN!!! (*cough*brittney*cough)
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Oh lord, everyone needs to get off their high horses. You see less of her than you would in a bathing suit. She's fully covered and looks beautiful and natural. I think people are being quite hypocritical about this.

Disney most of all:
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Do any of you remember what you were like when you were fifteen? Were you naive ingots, or did you have the capacity to understand what you were doing?

Miley Cyrus knew that a picture of her bare back skin was being taken. Did she understand that the sentiment of the general American public has attention span of a boll weevil? Did she know that the paying citizens would not have the capacity to understand the artistic nature of the photographs of current controversy?

EVERYBODY CALM DOWN. The photographs of Ms. Cyrus aren't meant for sex appeal. They are beautiful, especially in the fact that they connect her in the human form, as opposed to the centrifugal "perfect being" ideal of modern popular culture icons in which we are so accustomed.

Miley Cyrus is a human being, child or not. Adding the label of "under eighteen" does not change the person of whom she identifies. Regardless of Miley Cyrus' identity, it is solely the responsibility of the parent to rear their own child. When the factor of childhood influence is removed, what does a person have against a beautiful photograph of a beautiful person?

Frame perspective, and you'll frame perception. Rework your conception of "child" into "person", and give equity to your "child's" capacity for reason, and you'll never have to worry that your own child's capacity for reason becomes adulterated. Every witch hunt starts with you and whom you accuse.
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