Friday, February 06, 2009
Miley Cyrus claims pictures are just "goofy"
Although we would prefer for the private lives of celebrities to remain private, the latest photograph of Miley Cyrus caught our attention. We are saddened by the picture of Cyrus and her friends squinting and making slant eye poses for the camera. As young people, maybe they thought it was merely funny, but whether they realized it or not such gestures are commonly used to mock Asians and Asian Americans.
We are also surprised to see this group of teenagers repeating the mistakes of the Spanish basketball team, which was criticized for making the same gesture in an pre-Olympics ad campaign. Their “slit-eyed” pose showed a lack of respect for their Chinese hosts, and brought the heated issue of racially pejorative poses into the spotlight.
Cyrus and her friends seem oblivious to this controversy. As her recent apology on her fansite states, "I’ve also been told there are some people upset about some pictures taken of me with friends making goofy faces! Well, Im sorry if those people looked at those pics and took them wrong and out of context! In NO way was I making fun of any ethnicity!" We're left asking, what is the context that excuses offending your fans? Setting aside for a moment the question of what were you thinking, the problem is what you were physically doing. In case you didn’t know, pulling slanted eyes is offensive and demeaning to Asians and Asian Americans. (And no, having an Asian friend in the picture does not automatically make it OK!)
We wish that we could put this incident behind us and simply use it as a lesson about the unfortunate impact that private gestures can have on public audiences. Had this been an average group of party people on some college student’s Facebook, few would have noticed. But this is a world-famous celebrity with millions of fans.
Maybe if some of Miley Cyrus’s young fans wrote to her, at a real and personal level, about how much it hurts to get teased like this, then she and her friends will get why people are upset with the picture and not satisfied with the apology.