From conservative to promiscuous, Disney starlets often stray far from their innocent roots. The question is why?
After the recent furore Miley Cyrus caused on stage, it’s hard to imagine her as Disney’s innocent-eyed Hannah Montana character whose most rebellious act was handing her homework in late. Miley has well and truly ditched her good girl image and replaced it with a far more grown up, bad-girl one.
Although, she’s not the only Disney girl to do so. Vanessa Hudgens, Hilary Duff and probably the most famous of all, Lindsay Lohan. They all started out with the network before they grew up and started stealing headlines for scantily clad outfits and reckless behaviour. So what exactly is so bad about the good girl image that makes these celebs (and many others too) go to extreme lengths to abolish the label?
Judith Gill, Gender Studies Associate Professor of the University of South Australia, thinks it’s – in part – a natural stage on the journey to adulthood.
“Some forms of rebellion are almost expected at this stage of our cultural evolution,” she says. “Some girls need to challenge control and undermine authority as they seek to find their sense of themselves and their place in the world.”
Then there’s the ‘cool’ factor – “Good” is often considered “daggy.” “Young people who don’t rebel – the good kids – are often regarded negatively as goody goody and not ‘cool’,” Judith adds. Cue ‘cool’ behaviour, which is often synonymous with risqué.
So what kind of impact does this have on their young fans, many of whom are often struggling with the notion of feeling like an adult but not being treated as such? Do they see sexing-up their own image (a la Hudgens et al) as a way to do this?
“There may be some copying as young people do often seek to become like their heroes,” Judith said. “But I suspect it would be a matter of trying to establish one’s own personhood as an adolescent,” she continued.
Sarah-Jane Hill, 19, agrees. “I love Miley but I would never behave like her. I just idolise her in the way that she doesn’t care what people think of her and she just does whatever she wants to do.”
So many people blame the media for a stars downward spiral and that’s justified to an extent, but can the media actually help young people in their identity crisis? According to Judith, yes.
“The media can do a better job of reflecting public opinion in ways that educate young people about the negative effects of this sort of behaviour on the actors themselves and their families,” she says.
“They can present information from all sides of the situation and encourage discussion of what’s okay and what’s not, which can help to build young people’s sense of themselves and their values,” she explained.
With all the negative publicity surrounding Miley Cyrus’ transition from squeaky clean to barely dressed, she defends herself and gives young girls all over the world, some sound advice in the process.
“This is who I am, I think it’s only hard if you’re trying to be something you’re not. Being who you are is really easy.” – Heba Dandachi