A few days after Miley Cyrus’ degrading performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, a blog post from a woman in Texas went “viral,” garnering more than 3 million views. The post, titled “Dear Daughter, Let Miley Cyrus be a Lesson to You,” was written by Kim Keller in response to the nationally televised behavior of the once Disney child star now turned 20-year-old wannabe sex symbol.
Writing as a mother who once enjoyed Cyrus’ innocent, quirky “Hannah Montana” with her daughter, the blogger wrote: “Miley Cyrus is not edgy or cool or sexy. She’s a desperate girl screaming for attention.
What used to be a fairly simple task of switching the channel or turning off the TV has turned into a need for 24/7 vigilance of our children’s innocence.
“You probably know girls who will emulate this behavior at the next school dance,” Keller added. “Don’t do it with them. You are far too valuable to sell yourself so cheaply.”
Inspired by Keller’s post, blogger Matt Walsh directed another post at his son, beseeching him not to behave like Robin Thicke, the 36-year-old singer who shared the stage with Cyrus.
“You’ll be wrong about a lot of things in life … but never will you be more wrong than when you feel the temptation to buy the lies that pop culture sells about the nature of true masculinity,” Walsh wrote. “Listen, son, don’t let the world tell you how to be a man. They don’t know anything about the subject.”
While these two responses to Cyrus’ performance received a fair amount of coverage in both blogs and national news outlets, the number of people who viewed them are but a fraction of those who have viewed Cyrus’ nude-colored bikini clad body and the lewd gestures that accompanied it. And for those who missed the performance, it has been widely replayed on Internet sites.
What used to be a fairly simple task of switching the channel or turning off the TV has turned into a need for 24/7 vigilance of our children’s innocence. Threats no longer only come from Internet access on a home computer, but on our children’s friends’ smartphones, the iPads handed out in classrooms and on Instagram feeds.
We live in a new Wild West, one where values that used to be dictated by home or church are now being shaped and propagated in the public square. YouTube views, Vine videos, Twitter photos are all readily accessible and online for the watching. Anytime. The harder we work to shield our children’s eyes, the harder society works to pry them open.
The truth is that parents have always had to be vigilant. Once upon a time there was the Hays Code and the Legion of Decency to monitor the messages in movies. Ed Sullivan censored Elvis Presley’s hips and Mick Jagger’s lyrics. But those examples also illustrate that there was some understanding on the part of social institutions for some sort of limits.
Those kinds of guard rails are gone now. There is a shrinking moral consensus on what is acceptable and what is not, and this is very much a moveable standard. Which brings us back to parents. Keller and Walsh have done all of us a favor by addressing the issue directly with their children.
There is a great role for the Church here as well. Parishes need to find ways to encourage parents to form and pass along the right values to their kids. This can’t be done just by preaching. It takes adult faith and values formation, done in a way that encourages good parents to be better and lost parents to find their way.
Corruption of the innocent is a team effort these days. Defending and promoting virtue needs to be a team effort too.