The May issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands tomorrow, but it's already made the cover of the New York Post. The issue features a photograph of Miley Cyrus, star of the Disney Channel's mega-hit Hannah Montana, clutching a satin sheet to her otherwise naked torso. Cyrus quickly disavowed the photograph, which was taken by Annie Liebovitz: "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," she said in a statement. "I never intended for any of this to happen, and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about." Disney, for its part, shared Cyrus' outrage. Disney spokeswoman Patti McTeague told the New York Times that "a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines."
Reading McTeague's comment over coffee yesterday morning, I couldn't help but think of an advertisement I'd seen a few months ago while on a reporting trip to China. I was walking from my Beijing bed-and-breakfast to a nearby subway station when I was stopped in my tracks by a billboard that made the controversial 1990s Calvin Klein underwear ads look artistic by comparison. Staring down at the throngs of shoppers on Beijing's Xinjiekou Nandajie Avenue, a busy commercial thoroughfare about a mile west of the Forbidden City, was a white girl who looked all of 12, reclining in a matching bra-and-panties set adorned with Disney's signature mouse-ear design. In a particularly creepy detail, the pigtailed child was playing with a pair of Minnie Mouse hand puppets. In the upper left-hand corner was the familiar script of the Disney logo.