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Miley Cyrus and Cake Gate: Why We Can't Blame Child Stars for Growing Up

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I do hope you're sitting down for this one, ladies and gentlemen, for it has come to pass once again: another child star is daring to grow up. Miley Cyrus aka Hannah Montana - she of the chipmunk cheeks and chirpy one-liners - is now fast approaching her twenties and all hell has, predictably, broken loose. Miley has acquired (deep breath) a steady boyfriend.

She has also (pass the smelling salts) taken to wearing revealing clothing and as if that wasn't enough to rouse Beelzebub from his tomb, last week 'shocking' pictures emerged of Miley being sexually suggestive with a phallic shaped birthday cake intended for her boyfriend. Imagine. Miley Cyrus has the ruddy cheek to behave exactly like anyone else her age.

The rush to condemn Miley was as predictable as it was utterly hysterical, as anyone who has ever watched an episode of Skins will testify. The fact that the pictures in question were taken at a private party and not meant for public consumption was all but ignored but then, why consider the rational when you're too busy pulling your hair out and stuffing it into your ears at the indecency of it all?

Beneath the outcry, the whole episode was a cautionary tale of trust, friendship and photographs in the digital age. The pictures of Miley and the infamous cake are no better or worse than what gets posted on the average young person's Facebook page but the leak of the pictures is a timely reminder of how quickly and easily someone's privacy can be violated online, a sobering reality most young people could do with being reminded of but why entertain that idea when you can run around the village squawking "off with Miley's head!"

Before we drown in an orgy of judgement, consider this: show me a 19-year-old who isn't up to some class of ribald behaviour and I'll show you a flying pig. It is right and proper that teenagers let off some steam before the responsibilities of adult life come crushing down. Will their antics horrify older generations? Absolutely and if they didn't, there would be something amiss.

Screaming blue murder about Miley Cyrus having the audacity to grow up, criticising her for doing what is typical for her age and demanding that she clean up her act is not only useless and unfair, it misses the point spectacularly since it is not Miley's job to parent anyone's children. The pictures of the offending cake were blurred on most news websites but ultimately, it is a parent's responsibility to monitor what their child is exposed to online or on TV. And if parents feel that certain material should not be so freely available they have every right make that clear to service providers and law makers.

The sad fact is this: there is little to admire in the entertainment industry. Most stars exist only to line the pockets of music, television and film industries that have turned them in global personalities. Sex and sexualised behaviour sells, particularly for young women trying to shake off the shackles of child stardom, which the rules of celebrity dictate that they do swiftly lest they end up on the fiery scrapheap of fame. Expecting celebrities to provide us with a moral compass is like waiting for it to rain penny sweets: delicious as it sounds, it ain't gonna happen.

Alas, young women like Miley (Britney, Lindsay et al) are in a bind: their popularity is built on a fan base comprising of children and some adults who demand they perform the impossible task of staying young and chaste forever. However, to maintain and expand their careers, they are expected to behave in a typically sexual way, which simultaneously opens up new markets and thrusts them under the microscope for increased scrutiny and criticism. Despite the obvious double standard, a young woman behaving badly is still judged much more harshly than her male counterpart, who is often indulged and rewarded for his efforts. If Miss Cyrus hasn't learnt this cruel and backward lesson yet, she soon will.

Hannah Montana, the show that made Miley Cyrus a global superstar, ended a year ago - isn't it time that people moved on and stopped treating Miley's ascent into adulthood as something shocking and filthy when it is in fact as normal as baked beans? To expect a young woman of 19 to still be the little girl she was at eleven is downright creepy. And for those of you who still buy into the idea of princesses in white dresses and pretty songs that glitter like trinkets, well, there's always Taylor Swift.

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