Miley Cyrus “Untamed” Photo has Perez Hilton on the defense

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There exists a storied crossroads in every teenage pop superstar’s career at which a problem emerges: How does one reposition herself as a bankable adult performer without alienating the pre-teen masses upon whom her success is built?

It’s a shared dilemma, and one that has, over the past decade or so, generated a stream of tabloid fodder about as reliable as Lindsay Lohan’s substance abuse. It comes as little surprise, then, that as the 18th birthday of Miley Cyrus — who first rose to fame in 2006 as the innocent face of the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana” franchise — rapidly approaches, the singer has taken familiar measures to demonstrate her newfound maturity. While donning ever-shorter shorts and declaring, in what may be the least subtle coming-of-age single in pop-starlet history, that she “can’t be tamed.”

Perhaps just as unsurprisingly, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has documented Cyrus’s every untamed move in her quest to be taken seriously. In a June 13 Twitter update, Hilton posted a link to a photo of the pop star exiting a car in a less-than-ladylike fashion. Had the all-too-familiar open-skirt photo been of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan it likely wouldn’t have garnered much more than a passing grimace from Hilton’s readers, though there is, of course, one critical difference: Cyrus is still a minor.

Hilton, in an interview last week with the Headline News network’s Joy Behar, has claimed that his choice to publish the photo to his Twitter account is not — as various talking heads have alleged—an act of child pornography chiefly for two reasons: 1) The photo isn’t any worse than her “oversexualized behavior of late,” and 2) The area in question is not, in fact, revealing Cyrus’s genitals.

Yet Hilton’s insistence that the 17-year-old singer was essentially asking for it reveals a disconcerting lack of responsibility to the public. Though Hilton’s brand of celebrity blogging is indeed an exploitative trade by nature, there still exist proprietary boundaries that cannot — even for the sake of garnering a few million Web hits — be reasonably or legally crossed.

In fact, according to Jeffrey Douglas, a Los Angeles County attorney who specializes in child pornography cases, it may not even matter whether Cyrus’s genitals were exposed in the photo Hilton posted; the mere illusion of indecency is technically enough to warrant 15 years in prison for the blogger.

On June 22, Hilton — evidently undaunted by the threat of legal action — Tweeted another revealing photo of the singer. Taken at Cyrus’s performance from this past Sunday’s Canadian Much Music Awards, the snapshot was hosted by Reuters news service. In an interview with Fox News Online, a Reuters representative justified the choice by noting that the photo, though revealing a portion of Cyrus’s pelvis, was taken from a public performance in front of an audience of hundreds, and had no intention of promoting child pornography.

But while constant celebrity overexposure is an inevitable symptom of the internet age, there’s no adequate justification for posting such questionable photos of children online. Hilton may be an easy target in this latest controversy of his, yet in covering underage subjects, even the most infamously ruthless of his kind must own up to at least the slightest shred of journalistic integrity — because despite Cyrus’s brash suggestions to the contrary, a teenage girl still deserves due protection.

Photo from Benyupp via Flickr

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