Hannah Montana is Dead

Miley on SNLIn fact, Miley Cyrus declared that she murdered her on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. And from the looks of her recent antics on the VMAs, SNL, and just about everywhere in the social media sphere I would say that runs truer than ever before. Hannah Montana is dead and we are not going to get her back.

I’ve not spoken about Miley yet mostly because others have done a good job of breaking down what they are observing. If you want to read some good explanations of what we see happening with Miley I suggest reading a blog from a good friend, Walt Mueller. His post last month on Miley and her recent transformation can be found here. He also writes some on the VMAs here. Which includes an excerpt on the realities of the world that Disney has brought us through their legion of former Mickey Mouse Club members (Justin Timberlake, Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera) and TV show break outs (Selena Gomez, Amanda Bynes, and Miley Cyrus).

What strikes me most about Miley is not just her transformation, but the overall trend among today’s young pop stars to one up one another sexually. I just learned this weekend of Rihanna’s newest video and song, ‘Pour It Up’, which promotes stripping and has her simulating sex acts throughout the video. It makes Britany Spears new video for her song ‘Work B***h’ tame compared to Rihanna’s video and Miley’s videos for her recent songs ‘Can’t Hold Us’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’. Now this is nothing new. However, the level at which they are upping their game is. It has moved from scantily clad to almost nothing. From a few sexy dance moves to having sex with the floor.

Sex, it seems, still sells. Only it looks like we need more of it to notice any difference.

Many of the videos we are able to watch on YouTube today we could have never dreamed of watching 15 years ago without calling it soft porn. In order to stand out in todays pop culture you have to sell your sexuality. And at a younger and younger age. Which means making your video pornographic. It’s no wonder why we are seeing pre-teens and teens engage in sex earlier and earlier.

I remember having a conversation with a parent a few years ago about Miley. She beamed at the fact that she was a believer in Jesus Christ and was waiting until marriage to have sex. She expressed how happy she was that their was a female that her pre-teen could look up to and model her life after. At first, I shared her excitement but then I started to think about the long history of artists like Miley that have done the same thing. Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, and Britany Spears at some point confided in their desire to wait. They sold their purity to break down the fear that parents might have and used their virginity and innocence to gain trust. But around the age of 18 that changed. They moved from an innocent role model to a sex symbol. However, I don’t remember a former child star going so far so quick as Miley.

When Miley said that Hannah Montana was dead on Saturday Night Live I felt those words hang in the air. Miley is right. Hannah Montana is dead. But it’s not just Hannah Montana that I mourn for in this current state of our culture. It’s what this statement symbolizes for me as a parent, for the teens I work with and the world we live in.

PlanBChildren and teens are exposed to more sexually provocative messages and sexually mature messages then ever before. Many long before they are ready. Our social media coordinator at Project Six19 was with his 3-year-old daughter recently at Walgreens when he saw a Plan B package for sell next to the candy. If you’re not familiar with Plan B it is emergency contraceptive. It was not found behind the counter or in the pharmacy but right there near the M&Ms. Not only do we have to talk with our kids younger and younger about their bodies but now we also have to talk to them about things like this…long before they are ready. Then place the fact that we have to teach our children that todays favorite childhood celebrities might be tomorrows sex symbols means one thing.

Yes, it does look like Hannah Montana is dead and all the innocence that came with her.

As I reflect on Miley’s comments, her actions and those of her counterparts, and the Plan B cartridge on the candy aisle, I don’t blame anyone in particular. We’ve all contributed to this. We buy Miley’s music, watch Rihanna’s videos and buy Plan B for our teenagers so that they can skip the reality of the consequences of the decisions they made without realizing that we may just be creating others. No, I don’t blame anyone but I think it is time we start recognizing what is happening and taking responsibility where we can.

First, we’ve got to take some responsibility for this demand for the sexualization of the young men and women who feel like they have to bust free of this prudish image by flaunting their birthday suit in front of millions. Miley, Britany and Rihanna are no less valuable then you or I. And it is not just women. Daniel Radcliffe who you might remember for playing the part of Harry Potter is also getting into the mix and moving from child actor to adult by posing nude in several of his recent endeavors. It seems like it is a calculated career move. One that none of them would make if it didn’t pay the bills.

However, we must remember one fact. They were each made in the image of God just like you and I. Our sexuality can be a beautiful and wonderful force if in the proper context. But it can also be a tool for manipulation.

Second, GK Chesterton once said, “when we go knocking on the door of a brothel what we are really looking for is God.” Our deepest longings for sex, food, things, or whatever it is that we crave is really just a longing for God. We see this throughout Scripture. It is the reason I rejoice in the redemption story that all of the Bible points to and our opportunity to step into it through our relationship with Christ. I think there is a lot of longing happening in the stories of each of these individuals. As well as those that participate in their success by watching, viewing, and sharing their videos, music and movies.

Finally, let’s recognize that there is something holy that we are seeking when sexuality is placed before us. So often we want to place rules and restrictions around sex and relationships as Christians but I don’t think they work unless it is an act of obedience. That is why we must use the power of sex as a catalyst for discussions on the one that created this great gift and point individuals towards God. Only then can they understand the beauty of their body, the gift of their sexuality and where it is to be shared.

MTV Virgins – A New Reality Series

I don’t know whether to puke or to be thankful that a reality TV series is actually going to chronicle the life of a young adult choosing to wait. If it is anything like TLCs recent attempt I would rather they pass. If you don’t know what I am talking about then watch this promo video for the series. It seems like they found every person that fits a caricature of this decision and multiplied it with a kiss that looks like a bird regurgitating its food! Again…watch this video and learn what I am talking about.

Enough said.

Although I don’t think TLC did a good job with the subject matter I have some hopes that MTV will do a little better. That is, if the producers are truly trying to document the life of those that have chosen to wait. I think it could be good to see teens that have made this decision yet it doesn’t consume every part of their identity. That means seeing them do life like hanging with friends, going out, and even….dating.

There are certain stigmas and caricatures of those that have made this decision…can’t get sex if they wanted, nerd, don’t like sex, etc. This is a chance to take this decision and point out its rewards and benefits while not making the teens look weird. I also think that it can raise the bar for those that have thought about this decision but never given it much credence. It can become a learning opportunity for those that watch this show and a point of discussion in homes. Maybe even a chance for parents to share their own values with their son or daughter.

MTV-Logo-MTVBut let’s be honest, this is MTV. This is the network that brings us Miley Cyrus twerking on stage with Robin Thicke. It is also the same network that made JWOW and Snooki household names for their drinking antics on the reality TV show “Jersey Shore.” So my hopes are pretty low for what this show will accomplish when it comes to changing the cultural landscape surrounding this discussion.

This dynamic is rooted in two facts that I’ve discovered in my research on the show. First, this show will serve as an opportunity to highlight MTVs safe sex campaign, “It’s Your (Sex) Life”. It aims to empower youth to make better decisions about their sexual health. However, almost none of its material that it distributes or discusses on its channel talks about abstaining from sex as a viable option. If you want to see a PDF of what they’ve compiled you can click here.

As you can tell its discussion on abstinence or choosing to wait to have sex is super limited and almost an afterthought. Now maybe this guide will change in light of this new show but I highly doubt that. More than likely it will be sold as a show highlighting a teen’s decision to wait and the difficulty of making this a reality. Maybe even scripting situations where they are set up to fail.

Second, this show spawned out of another idea it had called My First, which was going to highlight teens on the verge of losing their virginity. The idea was dismantled after there was some protest over the show. So now the show is about a group of virgins that may or may not have sex. That in and of itself gives me great fear about its content and outcomes. But I hope I am wrong….we will have to wait and see.