April 30, 2008
Disney and underage girls
It's been interesting watching the Disney reaction to the flap over Vanity Fair's tamely sexualized photograph of Disney star Miley Cyrus. Even though Miley willingly removed her shirt while posing for magazine pictures, she says she's "embarrassed" to have those pictures out there in the world for everybody on the planet to see. Who knows, maybe she reconsidered and really is embarrassed. Or maybe the producers of her show are trying (in vain) to maintain her squeaky-clean image.
Whatever change of heart Miley may or may not have had, Disney's response to the photos is totally clear: they blame Vanity Fair for exploiting their young star. Spokesperson Patti McTeague said, "A situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines."
It's like Disney is just begging for someone to track down an instance of the company using sexualized images of young girls to promote their own products.
Slate contributor Daniel Brook is happy to oblige.
Brook dug out a photograph he took a few months ago in Beijing of a billboard ad for, of all things, a Disney bra-and-panties set intended for 12 year-olds. I have discreetly covered the potentially shocking areas of the ad with an emblem of unblemished virginal intactness (though the scaffolding in front of the billboard adds a disturbing, girl-in-cage kind of aspect) but you can click on the pic for the original version.
Asked about how this ad manipulates a pre-teen girl in order to sell Mickey-themed underwear, another Disney spokesperson has been trying to rationalize. Yes, they approved the image, which was created by a Chinese licensee of their brand. And in Disney's defense, the spokesperson says that in China these kinds of images are "not unusual at all" (like they are over here...?)
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