With High School Musical 3: Senior Year (starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Tisdale) reigning top at the box office with a $ 42 million premiere weekend, director Kenny Ortega’s teeny-bopping masterpiece is enthralling children nationwide. With the increasing success of the Disney projects, however, the responsibilities of these young stars have now escalated to both actor and “role model.” With the media reporting their every move, criticism is expected in such a public profession. But these kids signed up to make movies and drop albums, not pose as the model teens of America. Should the criticism stay geared towards the work, or the personal agendas?
The Disney empire has succeeded in creating wholesome projects whose target audience is of a very young demographic. However, the stars of these projects range between the ages of 16-25. Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus showed a quarter of her back on the cover of Vanity Fair, and High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens had risque photos leaked on the Internet earlier this year, causing an outrageous media frenzy. Disney execs authorized countless apologies to the fan-base, and eventually Cyrus and Hudgens apologized to their fans for the lapse in judgment. Apparently, as long as these stars continue to shine under the Disney logo and microscope of the media, “role model” will, indeed, remain stamped to their IMDB profiles.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, young actresses like 14-year old Dakota Fanning turn down Disney projects to participate in more mainstream work like last week’s release, The Secret Life of Bees. While Fanning keeps a clean slate regarding her social life, the media still manages to inspire conflict. The September 19th release of Fanning’s indie-film, Hounddog, sparked much controversy over an allegedly overtly explicit rape scene featuring the young actress. As a result, over five thousand AMC theatres nationwide refused to play the film, deeming to scene inappropriate for such a young actress.
Should Vanessa Hudgens be considered a “bad role model” for dancing around in lingerie, and Dakota Fanning for tackling a challenging role in a great film? And more importantly, what are the implications for a society in which children look up to movie stars instead of doctors and police officers? These young adults need to be viewed as actors doing their jobs, nothing more. Perhaps we should take a closer look at that instead of Miley Cyrus’ bare back.