The Jonas Brothers reigned during their 2005-2010 heyday with the classic squeaky-clean image that is signature of Disney child stars. After the band broke up in 2011, the Jonas Brothers brand was latent and the individual fame of each brother garnered significantly less public scrutiny.
Basically, what that meant was that Joe, Nick, and Kevin could transition out of the purity ring-wearing ~good~ boy image they repped under Disney without extreme public attention.
They managed to skip the inevitable public shock that most Disney child stars face and waltzed back into our lives in 2019 as the older, spicier versions of themselves. Now they’re celebrating successful music debuts with ‘Sucker’ and ‘Cool’, an upcoming album and going on tour for the first time in six years.
In the interview that accompanies this incredible cover shoot with Paper magazine, the Jonas Brothers talk about outgrowing their juvenile Disney image.
“We were having to censor ourselves, I think any artist could relate. That’s not fun. We were at a standstill with our TV show and the movies. We were young adults, having to pretend like we’re young teenagers,” Joe said.
While all the boys are very clear about their gratitude to Disney, Nick notes that breaking out of the wholesome aesthetic is something that a lot of artists find challenging, and they were glad to skip it.
“If we had continued to try to push things forward the way we were operating, it might have been difficult.” Nick said. “Perhaps we would have had to make bolder statements… shocked people into understanding who we are. I think the world is more accepting of us as adults than they would have been if we insisted, “This is who we are now, accept us.”
So, how would things have gone down if the Jonas Brothers had stayed together and had attempted their transition from virtuous children to the mature, unashamedly sexual young men they openly are today?
Based off the experiences of other Disney-born child stars, most of the shock and outrage is focused on women when their virginal girlhood faltered. Boys never receive the same level of scrutiny – though there were few with such a thoroughly wholesome image as the Jonas Brothers.
At the end of the day, the Jonas Brothers would have provoked more shock, but the intense slut-shaming is reserved for women.
As soon as Britney Spears dropped the virginal aesthetic and took ownership of her sexuality it was the subject of judgement and obsession. Every tabloid and every person had an opinion on whether Britney grew up ‘too fast’, or dressed ‘too sexy’, and everyone was obsessed with her virginity.
Dealing with the public’s judgment and sense of ownership over her body through her journey into adulthood became a defining factor of Britney’s career.
Miley Cyrus is a perfect example of how the pressure to stick to the wholesome image we were first introduced to can lead artists to lean into the outrage and make extra bold, shocking statements on purpose. That’s more descriptive of Miley’s later career moves, but back in 2008 she faced pubic outcry over appearing scantily clad in a Vanity Fair cover.
She was 15 and released a statement of apology, which she has since retracted. Because girls and women should not feel like they have to apologise for taking ownership over their bodies.
IM NOT SORRY
— Miley Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) April 29, 2018
Vanessa Hudgens was slut shamed by the public and Disney itself when a hacker leaked her private nude photos onto the internet without her permission. The fact that a young woman had enjoyed her sexuality in her own privacy incensed the public is just about the most misogynist attitude to have about that situation.
Vanessa Hudgens deserved better than apologising for a man committing a cyber crime against her.
Meanwhile, Vanessa Hudgens’ High School Musical co-star Zac Efron never garnered any significant attention during his transition into adulthood. He has enjoyed smooth sailing.
I actually can’t think of a time when Zac Efron’s sexuality wasn’t just openly celebrated.
The list goes on, and the double standard is potent. There’s no doubt that the Jonas Brothers experience would have looked different to Efron’s had they stayed in the limelight, but it would have looked nothing like Miley’s, or Britney’s, or Vanessa’s, or any of the female child stars.