Miley Cyrus: A Child Star's Rite of Passage

Tickers in this article: AAPL DIS
PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Miley Cyrus doesn't care what the olds think. As business plans for former child stars go, it's about as sound as they come.

Within the last month, the world has watched Miley Cyrus strip to her underwear and twerk up on Robin Thicke at MTV's Video Music awards, swing naked from a wrecking ball in a video for a song off her newly released album Bangerz, get in a dustup with Sinead O'Connor on Twitter and mock almost all of it in an appearance on Saturday Night Live.

For just about anyone over 30 -- including our own Carlton Wilkinson -- it was a desperate stab at attention by a brat whose concerts they'd spent hundreds of dollars taking their kids to, whose albums you bought each birthday or holiday season and whose songs were begged and pleaded for on road trips. Those who are younger know better.

At some point, a kid is going to rebel against parents -- necessarily -- to explore their own world and have their own experiences. It stands to reason that artists trying to hold that kid's attention through that transitional phase would have to do the same.

Cyrus is just following a well-referenced template drawn up by those who came before her. It's a concept that's somewhat lost on Gen X and above. The teen idols of their eras didn't tend to be so teen-y and even when they were, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and New Kids On The Block tended to ingloriously fade into a muddled future of SyFy Network D-grade films and reunion tours with a different generation's boy bands. Even later incarnations like the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys saw their bright star fizzle with age.

That all changed with Britney Spears. When she debuted in 1999 at age 18 with "...Baby, One More Time," she began scrubbing away her Disney kid, Mickey Mouse Club past almost immediately. The kids who grew up watching her sing Whitney Houston songs on Star Search weren't going to come along for the ride with that same maudlin pap now that both they and Britney had grown. Spears and her handlers knew this all too well, which is why her first foray into the pop world came with a schoolgirl skirt, hair ties and some thigh slapping. For those who weren't getting the message, she reiterated it a year later in the title track to her second album Oops, I Did It Again: "I'm not that innocent."