Monday, May 12, 2008

The Miley Cyrus Scandal Through an ADHD Lens

There is a lot of material to cover, so I'll cut right to the crash: The Miley Cyrus' scandal is distracting me. Now, don't go closing the browser window. This isn't one of those typical "Oh my heck and biscuits! Miley's nekkid!!!" posts.

Still, you may be wondering what the Miley Cyrus scandal has to do with ADHD. I can answer that with two words: Hyperfocus and Worry. OK, technically that's three words, but one of them isn't very ADHD specific. At any rate, those two words have everything to do with ADHD and how it affects me. Couple those words with other ADHD words like "easily" and "distracted" and you begin to understand what a fix I can find myself in.

Miley Cyrus' penchant for saucy photography isn't news to me. I've been following her career for some time now and discovered her naughty side this past January. Here in the Cootey household we have four beautiful girls who, like many other American girls, find celebrities fascinating. Girls such as Miley Cyrus come up in conversation a lot. Even more worrying is the fact that I have my own aspiring country music singer. She's sixteen, rebellious, interested in boys, and is naive in that cute but scary way that makes parents want to lock their children up until they are twentyone. I've been thinking that thirtyone might be safer, but I realize that will be a tough sell for my wife.

I don't really enjoy Miley's show, Hannah Montana. I find it trite and predictable and insulting to my intelligence. Since I don't have very much intelligence I need to be careful with it. Watching Hannah Montana makes my brain feel bruised so I tend to avoid the show altogether. However, I have studied Miley's career, and being interested in country music my daughter and I can't help but bump into her name now and then, what with Billy Ray Cyrus being Miley's dad and all.

Without diving into all the gory details that you can find better fleshed out elsewhere, the gist of the scandal is that fifteen year old Miley was pitched to Moms and Dads as a church going virgin who was purer than Snow White and twice as talented. She's even apparently pledged to remain a virgin until married. Unfortunately, her marketing machine wasn't around to stop her from posting stupid pictures of herself on the internet which were at first silly but progressively became sexual.

Pictues of Miley in a psuedo-lesbian "kiss". Miley in her bikini. Miley in a bathtub. Miley in her panties on her bed. Miley sprawling all over her boyfriend on a bed. Miley exposing her bra. Miley posing partially nude for Vanity Fair magazine in an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot right after being photographed sprawled all over her own dad.

This isn't really that difficult to figure out. Have teenager. Give them millions of dollars and a camera. Let them live unsupervised in their own wing of the house. Get pictures of them in their underwear on MySpace. Heck, take out the money and private wing and you still get pictures of them in their underwear on MySpace. All the cool kids are doing it. Add clueless parents and amoral corporations into the mix and you have a recipe for nuclear flambé. It's like watching Miley's career combust right before our eyes, and all within a scant five month period.

Do I personally care what happens to Miley Cyrus? Not really. Cynically speaking, she's just making more room up at the top. However, this is the career my sixteen year old is aspiring to. It warps people. With the news of the Vanity Fair photoshoot, I broke out in a sweat and haven't been dry for two weeks.

So I worry about this stuff. It doesn't personally affect me, but I worry nonetheless. This story represents everything I've warned my daughter about showbiz. I tell myself to put it out of my mind, but I read and read about it. I search for the story behind the story. I try to spot trends. I lecture my poor daughter about the moral ambivalence of showbiz. It's the ADHD. I'm on the eternal quest for closure.

As Hallowell and Ratey put it in their Diagnostic Criteria for ADD in Adults:

13) A tendency to worry needlessly, endlessly; tendency to scan the horizon looking for something to worry about, alternating with inattention to or disregard for actual dangers.

Now, I'm not quite that bad, but my daughter doesn't even show her face on the internet, nevermind bare her midriff or give the kids on MySpace a peep show. In the cosmic scale of things, this just isn't an issue in our lives. Here I am worrying about my ability to steer my daughter wisely into these waters, and she's not even selling records yet. But then, I wouldn't be diagnosed with ADHD if I didn't fit some of the criteria for it like ruminating and hyperfocusing. Fortunately, I can laugh at myself. Maybe now that I've written this article I can hyperfocus on something productive and useful instead, like global warming skepticism.

Coping Strategies:

  1. Go out for a walk. You need some fresh air.
  2. Write down your thoughts. I am hoping that this article will be cathartic for me and douse the fire in my brain.
  3. Don't put your kids into showbiz.