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 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT