Disney’s Peter Pan Syndrome

Didn’t Britney Spears start out on the Mickey Mouse Club? Well, we all know what happens when puberty, and the lurid lure of modern celebrity kicks in.

At the age of 15, Miley Cyrus’s handlers apparently believed the time was ripe for their charge to re-calibrate her image from a squeaky clean object of adoration for millions of tweens, and proceed directly to adulthood a la Natalie Portman or, God forbid, Lindsay Lohan. The Times reports on the conundrum here. Even Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, couldn’t stay young forever.

Some numbnut reasoned that Hanna Montana could skip those wholesome teen years (is that an oxymoron?), and by doing so, damn Disney’s dream to keep its single biggest franchise mileyed in perpetual childhood.

And what better way to do accomplish this than by posing for the queen of all lensers in the glam glossy read by all the glitterati? (Hint: it was this queen who made that Queen bristle with the protocol-breaking suggestion to have her remove her crown.)

For Ms. Cyrus’s fans (and the parents thereof), asking the Queen to remiove her crown pales in comparison to having Annie Leibovitz photograph their Hanna topless sheeted only in “satin.”

Now the backpeddling begins:

Ms. Cyrus had a different view in a prepared statement released on Sunday: “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.”

Vanity Fair, the glam glossy cited above, must be in PR heaven this morning. They’re getting a media bump (not unlike Penthouse when it announced its intention to sign Elliot Spitzer’s hooker for a photo shoot).

Beth Kseniak, a spokeswoman for both Vanity Fair magazine and Ms. Leibovitz said, “Miley’s parents and/or minders were on the set all day. Since the photo was taken digitally, they saw it on the shoot and everyone thought it was a beautiful and natural portrait of Miley.”

The Disney Channel’s Gary Marsh sums it in Vanity Fair‘s sibling publication Portfolio this way:

“For Miley Cyrus to be a ‘good girl’ is now a business decision for her. Parents have invested in her a godliness. If she violates that trust, she won’t get it back.”

“Fame, I Want to Live Forever” isn’t the mantra it used to be, is it? Still, here’s a piece of advice for Ms. Cyrus’s PR reps: don’t let the chroniclers of celebrity culture control your client’s communications campaign. Their motivations frequently misalign with yours.