Miley Cyrus and other previous child actors should be treated as adults

Written By August Stephens, Opinions Editor

For Generation Z, there are few figures looked upon as nostalgically as Miley Cyrus. Initially best known for playing Hannah Montana, the alter ego of the fictitious Miley Stewart, in the hit show “Hannah Montana” in the mid 2000s she went on to take the world by storm through multiple major music releases. These include but are not limited to “Wrecking Ball” and “Party in the USA.” For fans who are keeping up to date, she just hosted a New Year’s Party with her godmother, and national treasure, Dolly Parton.

Miley Cyrus has often been seen by American society as ‘rebellious’ and ‘out of control.’
I believe that she is rebellious, but in one of the most productive ways possible. She actively breaks down patriarchal, heteronormative values through her creative projects.

For example, outside of having one of the most successful discographies of women in the United States, Cyrus also founded the Happy Hippie Foundation in 2014. This foundation provides resources and raises money to fight homelessness in BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ youth.

With the upcoming release of “Endless Summer Vacation,” I am scared of the media’s potential negative reaction. Cyrus deserves to live as her current 30 year-old self, without the concern of being compared to who she was at 15, 20, or 25. If we are going to support former child stars, then we as a society need to prove it by actively supporting them as people. Cyrus is no longer a child, and reviewing her art through the lens of her being a “former child star” is disrespectful to the prolific career that she has had as an adult.

Various child stars are starting to become outspoken about their often traumatizing treatment on major television networks. As one of the millions of people who grew up watching shows such as iCarly, Sam & Cat, Victorious, Sweet Life of Zach & Cody, and Camp Rock, it can be disturbing and disheartening when seeing clips of episodes again as a grown adult and knowing what the actors were going through behind the scenes.

That’s not to say that these shows don’t still have their merit, especially in the age of streaming. I would recommend rewatching a few episodes spanning across all of these shows if you are still under the impression that they were comedic, harmless entertainment. Many of these shows sexualize young, underage girls in the name of comedy, but revisiting as an adult it is clear what is really going on.

In recent years, there seems to be story after story of abuse allegations coming to light. One of the most notable is from the Nickelodeon side of children’s entertainment, with director and producer Dan Schneider who parted ways with the studio after allegations of misconduct became public. But Schneider is not the only problem.
Adults who refuse to acknowledge that their consistent grooming practices of young people are more than just an entertainment industry standard. It is beyond disgusting how normalized the sexualization of young girls is by media companies, and it is a clear systemic problem.

Jennette McCurdy is one of the few child stars who has fully embraced speaking out about her mistreatment. Although these discussions coincide with her mother’s mental, emotional, and physical abuse, they distinctly overlap with her childhood acting career. Her book,“I’m Glad My Mom Died,” details the forced long work hours on television sets, innapropriate behavior from Dan Schneider (referred to as ‘The Creator’ in the book), and Nickelodeon offering her a $300 thousand dollar settlement, which McCurdy refers to as hush money to not talk about her experience with Schneider in the future. McCurdy did not take the money.

Now, this is a completely summarized version of what actually happened, but it is still truthful. The stories of these child stars show a clear pattern of manipulation and abuse. They have to walk around in a world where people often do not care about who they actually are, only who their former careers pictured them to be as people.

It is incredibly powerful that Cyrus and McCurdy have both been able to pursue their artistic endeavors as adults. Please keep the fact that they are adults in mind when engaging with their art, and acknowledge that they are not the characters that you grew up with.