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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Miley mess

Now that the TV media, the blogoshpere and even The New York Times have been hyperventilating for about 24 hours over the Miley Cyrus photo flap, what say we catch our collective breath and examine this for what it really is?

So desperate are the gossip mongers for a scandal involving the wholesome “Hannah Montana” star that they’re willing to completely cast aside truth and objectivity and refer to a Vanity Fair photo of Cyrus partially wrapped in a satin sheet and exposing her bare back as “topless,” “nude” and “racy.”

The reality is that the photo (above) is none of the those things. If anything, it’s tame by today’s standards – showing far less of a teenage girl than one is likely to see at a public pool or beach and even less than we saw of Cyrus herself at the recent “Country Music Awards,” where she performed in a low-cut dress that made her cleavage the star of the show.

Of course, Cyrus herself made the Vanity Fair situation worse than it had to be when, on Sunday, she issued a written apology for posing and said she felt “embarrassed” by the photo. It seems the situation would have gotten much less attention had Cyrus not portrayed it as an error in judgment. (And by the way, Miley, what you’re embarrassed by is the negative publicity, not the photo. It’s not like you didn’t see the thing before it appeared.)

But then again, one can’t help but wonder whether this is all a carefully choreographed publicity stunt by Cyrus, her father Billy Ray and the folks at Disney, who own the “Hannah Montana” franchise – all eager to keep the teen queen’s name in the news at a time when Miley fatigue certainly has begun to set in. Nothing like a good scandal to prop up music and video sales, right? Just ask Madonna, who elevated manufactured scandals to an art form in the 1980s and 1990s. (Remember the “Like a Prayer” and “Justify My Love” dust-ups? Don’t think it might not be happening again.)

As an aside, it’s worth noting that the bosses at The New York Times apparently realized as Monday progressed that they had made a mountain out of a molehill. The headline above the Cyrus story in the Times’ print edition Monday morning referred to the photo as “topless.” By Monday afternoon, the word had been changed to “revealing” in the headline on the newspaper’s Web site, and the word also had been removed from the opening paragraph of the story.



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