When Aguilera decided to pose for the cover of her album "Stripped," wearing nothing from the waist up, she explained, "I guess I've grown up in a lot of ways." When Spears posed for Rolling Stone in her nighties at age 17, she stated, "it was Rolling Stone and it has an adult audience. The photographer explained to me what he wanted to do and I was cool about it." When Lindsay Lohan turned 18, she, too, posed for the cover of Rolling Stone. The headline read: "Hot, Ready and Legal!" Rolling Stone observed, "There comes a time in the life of every teenage girl who works for the Disney Corp. when that girl realizes she has suddenly -- how shall we phrase this? -- 'broadened her appeal.'"
Miley Cyrus, then, is following a long line of similarly minded Disney stars in her salacious strategy. Not surprisingly, Vanity Fair observed of her photo shoot that "though the pose was Annie Leibovitz's idea, the topless but demure portrait accompanying this article could be seen as another baby step, as it were, toward a more mature profile."
Here's the big question: does Miley Cyrus really need to descend to the gutter to raise her profile? She's immensely successful, and she can remain immensely successful by continuing to appeal to younger audiences.
Yet, in all likelihood, she will follow the path paved by the Spears/Aguilera/Lohan/Duff brigade. She will do so because Hollywood and the mainstream media propagate the idea that R-rated material sells better than G-rated material, and that mature entertainment must involve sex. To be taken seriously as artists, Disney Channel queens must become Independent Film Channel queens -- or at the very least, Rolling Stone icons.
In the end, no matter how "legitimate" an artist Miley Cyrus becomes, she will never be able to regain her innocence. Neither will the legions of young girls who admiringly follow her example.