Thursday, May 1, 2008

It Really Is A Small World After All

I have a six-year-old niece, Bug, who is heavily into the Miley Cyrus / Hannah Montana craze. Unfortunately, in keeping with the image of the fun-loving, goofy uncle image, this requires that I keep up to date on the Disney pop star so I can keep the Bug supplied with gear when birthdays and Christmas roll around. So it is that I have had to witness the 15-year-old's entry into a sexualized media frenzy and begin what could easily end up as a Britney Spears-esque crash and burn scenario. Disney took one on the chin, and Cyrus has done all she can, it seems, to apologize and backpedal as parents are now worried about the influence this will have on their own children's behavior ("Mommy, can I have a web cam and post pics on MySpace just like Hannah Montana?")

But for Disney, this might be the lesser of their worries. In China, there are worse photos out there than the art shots that Cyrus had made.

Recently Daniel Brook, a reporter for Slate Magazine, saw this photo on a billboard in Beijing:

Brook took this photo, then contacted Disney spokeswoman Patti McTeague (Brook was doing a story on how Westerners are seen in the eyes of the Chinese people). McTeague forwarded the message and photo on to Gary Foster, a spokesperson for the Consumer Products Division of Disney. While he acknowledged that the underwear the model is wearing is indeed a Disney product, as are the hand puppets, Disney did not authorize the billboard. He says that a licensed subsidiary Shanghai Zhenxin Garments Co. Ltd., should have cleared all advertising with Disney before hand, but obviously did not. Disney does not approve of reclining preteens wearing underwear in its ads.

Brooks mentions that part of the reason that the licensee may have gone ahead with the ad without asking permission is that the age of consent in China is 14, as opposed to 18 in California (where Disney is based). 14 - yes, you read that right.

So not only would Miley Cyrus' photos not be shocking over there, she probably would have done this years ago!

By the way, you can read Brook's article here.

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