Selena Gomez: Hero or Villain?

 

When the Beach Boys sang about "Disney Girls" back in 1971, the very phrase evoked a world of "Earlier nights and pillow fights … Open cars and clearer stars". Mention Disney girls these days, and chances are it will be in the context of one scandal or another.

There's Britney Spears (public meltdowns and even more public hairdresser's appointments). Demi Lovato ("cocaine, cutting and bulimia"). Miley Cyrus (a pot habit that's seen her labelled Bob Miley). And Lindsey Lohan (where to start?).

Yes, escaping the wholesome, clean-cut Disney Channel image and forging an adult career has proved tricky for generations of females (interesting to note the blokes – Justin Timberlake, Shia Labeouf and Zac Efron – seem to have no such difficulties).

So the opening last week of Harmony Korine's film Spring Breakers is a landmark of sorts for the Disney girls, because Selena Gomez – one time star of Wizards of Waverly Place and, until recently, Justin Bieber's girlfriend – is both rather good in it, and manages to throw away the baby image while retaining a good deal of the bath water.

If Spring Breakers has a moral compass, it is Gomez's character Faith, who plays no part in the armed robbery then flees before things get out of control.

"Horrid, boring, repetitive" harrumphed the Daily Mail – an irritating minor detail that has not stopped it from publishing pictures of Gomez, 20, in her bikini for the best part of a year leading up to the film's release.

Gomez herself has spoken openly about the need to evolve. "You've got to push yourself if you're going to grow and that's what we're doing, pushing ahead, learning all the time."

And as for the fans who have followed her since her days as the seven-year-old Gianna in Barney & Friends? Does Gomez have a message for them? "Yes," she told reporters at the Toronto Film Festival. "Don't see it."

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