Billy Ray seems to know that being a father is important. The most frequently quoted Cyrus lines from the GQ interview are: "How many interviews did I give and say, 'You know what's important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids'? I said it a lot. And sometimes ... other parents might say, 'You don't need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.' Well, I'm the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, 'Enough is enough -- it's getting dangerous and somebody's going to get hurt.' I should have, but I didn't."
Cyrus underscores the predicament of fatherhood and manhood in our culture today. In her upcoming book, "Manning Up," Kay Hymowitz recalls that being someone's father once "gave men a meaningful role and identity, not to mention a reason to go to work. A boy growing up in a dad world knew something was expected of him. The culture insisted: We need you!" Today, however, the message is more like: "You're expendable!" Which is the song Cyrus seems to sing.
But he's not expendable. Stanton emphasizes: "Boys who do not get love, warmth, protection, guidance and affirmation from their fathers tend to become more violent and sexually opportunistic because they are seeking to prove their masculinity to the world. This is what gangs are about. Well-fathered boys don't join gangs. They get that man-affirmation from their dads. Girls who do not get love, respect, care and protection from their fathers will desperately look for it from other males. This moves them toward being party girls and desperate sexual utilities for endless opportunistic boys. Mothers can play a role here, but no one can replace dad's unique role. It is not too late for Billy Ray and other dads to bust down the door and go to their sons' and daughters' rescues."
And as for the Hannah Montana fan at home? "This can be a good, teachable moment where our girls can see with their own eyes exactly what fame and wealth -- too soon -- does to young girls," says Meg Meeker, author of "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters." "We can use Miley's story to teach them that the better way to invest time, talents and energy, is to work hard at school, enjoy their family relationships and work on building strong character." During his interview, Cyrus cites another song of his, "Some Gave All." Whatever our vocation, that's the call: all in. And the song's not over. Not for the Cyruses. Not for so many reading his story. Not for a culture needing to embrace its men and dads.