Is Disney the launchpad for scandalous celebrities?
By Francesca Toscano
Upon turning on the Disney Channel, viewers are flooded with clichéd jokes, racially-ambiguous stars, predictable plots and that undeniable warm, fuzzy feeling that forces audiences of all ages to channel their inner tweens. However, what does Disney become when the cameras are off? As of late, naked pictures in tabloids and scandalous reports on E! of various Disney stars have infected the entire corporation’s reputation.
The quintessential “hot mess” Britney Spears began her career as a member of Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, performing alongside fellow blonde bombshell Christina Aguilera. Following was Lindsay Lohan, who entertained families worldwide in the 1998 Disney classic The Parent Trap. Currently, Lindsay is more famous for her presence in gossip blogs than her roles on-screen.
Today’s Disney Channel harlots are far from devoid of the slutty stereotypes. Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical, known for wholesome lyrics and corny choreography, tarnished that image when nude photos intended for studly co-star Zac Efron were leaked online. The risqué pictures were not forgotten after a trite apology and a couple of tacky sequels.
The dynasty of Disney stars gone bad would not be complete without mentioning the current torch holder: Miley Cyrus. Hannah Montana, Miley’s alter-ego on her hit show, was the image of purity—so pure that Cyrus’ downfall became unavoidable. Scandalous photos of a then-pre-pubescent Cyrus merely sparked her steady downfall, which began an endless media frenzy. As Cyrus removed herself artistically from her other personality, she attempted to adopt a more mature vocal style. What Cyrus forgot, however, is that maturity is not a synonym for skankiness. She claims the Bible is her favorite book, but it was her pole dance at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards that stood out more.
A recent discovery that has shaken Disney fans worldwide is that of Demi Lovato, a star that until now had seemed to avoid the downhill spiral of many similar teen stars. Known for her optimistic, effervescent personality on Sonny With a Chance and the Camp Rock franchise, Demi partook in a physical altercation involving one of the back-up dancers, and was admitted to a rehabilitation facility for an eating disorder and self-inflicted injuries. Lovato’s father, Patrick Lovato, predicted his daughter’s problems, stating, “There are a lot of pressures. That is one of the things I worried about when she signed with Disney.”
A trend is apparent among all these shameful celebs, one that happens far too often to simply be a coincidence. Evolutionary psychology may be at fault, as explained by psychologist Dale Glaebach. Evolutionary psychology is the belief that when one is forced to succumb to societal norms, it is human nature to rebel. Perhaps the constant smiles and never-ending innocence that have become a Disney staple are the same things that are creatively restricting the stars.
Unfortunately, the departure from Disney stardom is often not received well by young fans. Fifth grader Juliette Frank is a perfect example of the tween demographic for television networks. Frank is an avid Disney Channel watcher who, a few years ago, was bopping along to “Best of Both Worlds,” the Hannah Montana title sequence. However, when asked if she is currently a fan of Cyrus, she said bluntly, “No.” When asked to expand on that response, she continued, “Now that I know more about her… it makes me see her differently.”
Fortunately, Disney’s ability to separate itself from its stars allows it to remain a respectable childhood staple.
“I feel comfortable allowing my daughter to watch Disney Channel because as a parent, it is my responsibility to teach her what is acting and what is reality,” said Dana Frank, Juliette’s mother. “Disney is a business like any business, and their job is to provide good family entertainment that is appropriate for young children. They have no control over what happens to these actors when they leave their studio.”
Disney has maintained its image as a family-friendly corporation for decades, but is it possible that a few teens could forever damage its reputation? It is difficult to say for sure, as the countless animated Disney films on VHS in my closet are a testimony to my devotion to the corporation. However, if this slutty plague continues to infect future generations of Disney stars, those VHS’s may be the only remains of a once kid-friendly empire.
Francesca Toscano is a freshman IMC major who lives to party in the USA. E-mail her at [email protected].