Perhaps no one understands this better than the adult stars who got their start at young ages. From the well-publicized antics of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears to the more recent sexually charged performances of Miley Cyrus, it is becoming increasingly apparent that living in the limelight can send a person careening off the rails. Drugs, alcohol, and attention-seeking behavior are only a few overt symptoms of the emotional and societal fallout that can result from being raised in an industry that is exploitative by its very nature.
People are often quick to blame and condemn the stars themselves for their behavior, and they are responsible for their own actions, but isn’t there another culprit here as well? The entertainment industry is only as powerful as people allow it to be, and people love reading about celebrity gossip. There’s an old adage that no press is bad press. This can either mean that any media coverage is good despite the way it portrays the subject, or that not being in the press is worse than having bad press coverage. This mentality is clearly obvious in these drama-addicted United States.
This perpetuates an ugly cycle of competitive attention-seeking, further spiraling American culture straight into the gutter. It causes celebrities to fall back on shocking racist and sexist stereotypes in an attempt to make headlines. Someone raised in the entertainment industry has been conditioned from an early age to see life as being contingent on the limelight. Everything else, it would seem, becomes secondary. This includes the fact that behaving in such a way causes the generation of young people who look up to these celebrities to believe that growing up means engaging in self-deprecating and exploitative behavior. While it’s hard to imagine a life without privacy, where exploitation by media and fans is so par for the course it becomes ingrained in the everyday fabric of living, this cannot excuse abusing the position of role model that automatically comes with celebrity status.
The consequences of this exploitation are played out across television and computer screens as though they are simply another facet of the performance. People share then and now pictures of child celebrities, questioning what happened to these adorable little stars. Hero worship is what happened. Every time there is an explosion of discussion and outright rubbernecking consumers are feeding into a frenzy of publicity stunts. The trick to shutting down attention-seeking behavior is to simply stop paying attention to what is happening and start paying attention to why.
As such, those who are so quick to condemn the racist and sexist connotations of the recent Miley Cyrus VMA performance should also be questioning how celebrities themselves are being exploited. As the recent suicide of former Disney star Lee Thompson Young shows, a celebrity does not have to appear outwardly troubled to feel the strain of Hollywood living. This is nothing new, Disney child stars have met with addiction, bad press and early death since the 1960s.
While it is easy to lay blame on the celebrities dancing on stage, what of the people behind the scenes? What of the people who continue to seek money and power regardless of the cost to those caught in the balance of their actions? Are celebrities such as Miley Cyrus the culprits or merely a means to an end, simply more casualties of the entertainment industry’s version of The Hunger Games?
Does the blatant sexism and racism of the Miley Cyrus VMA performance leave you with a bad taste in your mouth? Turn it off and give the music of Saul Williams a try.
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