Billy Ray Cyrus: It’s the Show’s Fault

CNN recently reported that Billy Ray Cyrus is blaming the show (Hannah Montana) for destroying his family. It is well known that his daughter Miley has been involved in numerous scandals in the past couple of years including highly-sexualized performances, leaked underwear photos, and a video of doing drugs with a group of people. Dr. Drew Pinskey agrees that the show is partly responsible in a way; he claims that the problem is in Billy’s role as co-star on the show as opposed to full-time father.

While Dr. Pinskey’s point seems logical, it is actually quite specious. Most parents of young actors tend to spend less personal time with their children (standing on the sides of the set does not count) due to schedules and such than parents of non-working children do. As a result, young actors do not have the benefit of as much parenting and family life as “regular” kids, and invariably end up with all kinds of issues. The Cyruses however are not like that; in fact they are the opposite. Because Billy played Miley’s father on the show, he spent more direct time with her than even non-acting families do. In addition to any family time together while not working, they spent hours and hours together on set each day. That’s why it is almost astounding that Miley ended up with so many problems.

One could argue that because they spent so much time together normally, she felt it necessary to break away as much as possible in her off-time, and the fact that her older, heavily tattooed, rock-n-roll brother is off doing his own thing apart from the family probably doesn’t help, but regardless, eventually one has to point the finger at least in part at Miley herself.

While a parent is crucial and highly influential for the upbringing and resulting behavior of child, the fact is that their influence is nonetheless limited. The same parent could have two kids, even twins who turn out quite differently. No matter how well or badly a parent raises their children, eventually some of the blame/responsibility must get put on the child themselves, especially as the get older.

Billy Ray seems pretty genuine and like a good father, so it is kind of sad that he is in the far-too-common situation of having an out-of-control child and being in fear of losing them altogether. However he is placing the blame incorrectly, it is not the show’s fault, and not even entirely his or his wife’s faults. Inevitably Miley is responsible for her own choices.

But What Is Acting?

I’ve seen many interviews, awards ceremonies, etcetera where players are lauded for their acting abilities. Unfortunately a lot of them are given undue credit. The best way to demonstrate my point—my reasoning—is to give examples.

An actor who was a police office for 20 years before becoming an actor, who then goes on to play the part of a police officer and does a terrific job has done very little. They would not likely deserve an award for their portrayal of a cop because they did not need to act, the character was too much like their own self, and so little acting talent was at all required. (No, I’m not talking specifically about Dennis Farina, I like him a lot and he gives me hope. He’s good but I would not credit him for his role on Law and Order nearly as much as say, his role on In Laws.)

On the other hand, an actor who is terribly shy and introverted who then plays an outgoing life-of-the-party and does a terrific job has done a lot. They would definitely deserve an award for that job because the character was so different from themselves that they had to really work for it, hard. (No, I’m not talking about myself, I wish I were.)

Here’s a real life example: Tara Reid is a member of that group of young starlet/socialites of Hollywood who constantly get into trouble. Most people would agree that she is anything but intelligent. When she is out and about, she usually embarrasses herself with the things she does and says. She did try to clean up her act and said that she would stop partying, but nobody was surprised when she quickly went back to her old ways. While she may not be the best actress in the world, many of the characters she portrays are distinctly different from herself. It’s not so much how well she portrays the characters that is relevant here as much as how much she has to put her own personality aside to play such a different character. She may not win an award for her roles, but you cannot argue that she must still be a pretty good actor to play someone so different from her default behavior.

So in summary, given that a performance was magnificent—convincing, realistic, believable, etc.—then the determining factor of whether grand applause is merited or not is in how different the character is from the actor. The more different, the more acclaim.