Skip to main content

Is Miley introducing fans to 'Molly'?

By Peggy Drexler
updated 9:52 AM EST, Wed December 11, 2013
Miley Cyrus became a household name for families when her Disney Channel television show, "Hannah Montana," premiered in 2006. From there, Cyrus quickly rose to pop star fame and has been changing her appearance ever since. Miley Cyrus became a household name for families when her Disney Channel television show, "Hannah Montana," premiered in 2006. From there, Cyrus quickly rose to pop star fame and has been changing her appearance ever since.
HIDE CAPTION
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peggy Drexler: That Miley Cyrus was a finalist for Person of the Year shows her impact
  • Drexler: She confirms the "Molly" she sings of in "We Can't Stop" is a form of drug MDMA
  • Drexler: Who knows if her fans will be likely to try it, but music is a powerful force
  • She says MDMA-related ER visits and reports of young people dying from it are up

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler.

(CNN) -- This week, Time magazine named Miley Cyrus a finalist for Person of the Year, the annual award bestowed on the person editors think has "most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year." A true testament to the global influence of twerking, she was the only nominee from the entertainment industry.

Her co-nominees included Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, President Obama, Pope Francis, and gay rights activist Edith Windsor.

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

The pope was the winner, but one thing's for certain: Miley Cyrus makes an impact. Regardless of whether you care about her latest performance or haircut or provocative, eyebrow-raising declaration to the press, it's likely you'll have heard about it. In part, that's owing to her affinity for ever-media-friendly shock, delivered in the form of a raunchy, nudity-filled music video; a raunchy, nudity-filled photo shoot with photographer Terry Richardson; and a raunchy awards show performance that likely would have contained some nudity had it been allowed. It did, however, contain a foam finger and a latex bodysuit. And a tongue that was a performer of its own.

Shocking behavior isn't uncommon in the entertainment industry, and especially in music. Shock, like sex, sells. But it's quite possible Cyrus isn't selling just shock, and albums. She's also selling drugs.

Earlier this year, Miley ended months of speculation that one of her song lyrics referred to "Molly," the nickname for psychedelic drug MDMA, or a form of Ecstasy. When she was asked if she was referring to her own name or the drug Molly in the song "We Can't Stop," she told The Daily Mail, "If you're aged 10, it's 'Miley.' If you know what I'm talking about, then you know."

In September, she offered a second endorsement, telling Rolling Stone that marijuana and Molly are "happy drugs -- social drugs. They make you want to be with friends."

Miley smokes a joint on MTV awards show
Miley Cyrus sings with lip-synching cat
Miley Effect: Bright idea or fallen star?

What effect might the former Disney star's drug advocacy have on the legions of tween and teen fans who follow her every move?

A 2008 study looking at the influence of technology, media and pop culture on criminal behavior concluded that while young people are influenced by pop culture, and more so than adults, it was difficult to empirically study the cause and effect of pop culture on their behavior.

And certainly, the glorification of vice in music is not at the hands of Miley Cyrus alone: A 2008 study out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that 33% of the top 300 songs on the top of the Billboard charts portrayed drug or alcohol use -- an increasing number of them pop songs -- which means that kids receive about 35 references to substance abuse for every hour of music they listen to.

That said, what we do know: Exposure to excessive violence in video games can increase aggressive attitudes, behaviors and values, particularly in children. And adolescent exposure to music, a powerful social force often linked to identity, memories and mood, is much more frequent than it is to any other form of pop culture.

According to the Pittsburgh School of Medicine study, most teens listen to an average of 16 hours each week of music, compared with about six hours each week for movies. Perhaps more than any other entertainment medium, the study authors wrote, "music is well known to connect deeply with adolescents and to influence identity development."

And so it's hard not to argue that Molly is likely reaping the benefits. The numbers are there: A 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 12.4% of Americans between 18 and 25 had experimented with MDMA, while a report released last week by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stated that emergency room visits related to MDMA increased 128% between 2005 and 2011 among people younger than 21.

"Everyone wants to try it," a recent Teen Vogue article quoted a 19-year-old named Samantha as saying, and indeed many are: In recent months, there were multiple suspected MDMA-related deaths and hospitalizations reported along the East Coast, and in October, MDMA was linked to 10 Chicago-area deaths.

Music might not make kids do drugs. But it's naïve to think that music isn't having an impact on kids' behavior and perception -- and that all this attention Cyrus is getting isn't teaching them something about what it takes to get noticed. (Meanwhile, all the attention MDMA is getting will, naturally, serve to pique curiosity.)

Cyrus is an adult. She can sing about and ingest whatever she wants -- but naming her a Person of the Year? Well, it's a tough pill to swallow. Unless, of course, you're a drug named Molly.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peggy Drexler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT