Let Malia Live

KEVIN MAZUR/GETTY IMAGES FOR ANHEUSER-BUSCH

Breaking news: 18 year olds in America are smoking weed! But wait — it’s only really breaking news if you’re Malia Obama. Let the moral panic ensue.

It all began when Malia attended Lollapalooza in late July. Day one began with scrutiny over the fact that Malia skipped the DNC for the festival and wore a less-than-state-dinner outfit. Malia’s absence and bellybutton were enough for media outlets to dub her “wild child” of the White House. It only worsened when Malia was spotted dancing, which media outlets inaccurately recognized as twerking: “she even lifted up her shorts to reveal her booty in the process!”

August 10 brought the Malia gaze to a climax when footage of the 18 year old puffing on a “suspicious cigarette” emerged — and an eyewitness claimed it was marijuana. And then came the speculation, and then came the criticism. Radar Online reported that Malia’s friends are suggesting she seek professional help — citing rehab as “critical” and “definitely not an overreaction.” The press even poured over Malia’s friends, digging into pals’ drug test results and suggesting that the first daughter herself get tested.

It’s time for the media to take a long and totalizing toke of a “suspicious cigarette” and chill out. Metaphorical of course.

Malia Obama is by no means a normal American teenager. Living the majority of her life in the public eye, Malia is a stranger to the everyday privacy that most people take for granted. Malia Obama cannot step out in public alone, and apparently now she can’t step out without being scrutinized either. Malia’s Secret Service detail is her shadow. And we can’t even leave the poor girl alone when she attends a music festival with friends? Of course not. It’s not enough to tear apart her short shorts, or her crop top, or her dancing, or the fact that she missed the DNC for the festival. It’s not enough to point out that Malia is setting a bad example and embarrassing her family and the nation by smoking. We have to bring it to a new level and insult her personhood — that her only salvation can only be found within posh rehab clinic. All over a puff of an alleged joint.

Malia’s behavior at Lolla seemed to function as a justification for further media prying. Outlets followed her every move, from DC nightclubs to a beer pong party to a frat house, near — gasp! — a “large bong”! Of course, every instance only further normalizes placing Malia into the “wild child” narrative that is offensively inaccurate.

I’m standing beside Malia Obama because I know what it’s like to be an 18 year old in America. I was one 3 years ago. I can confirm that, yes, recent American high school grads drink alcohol and smoke marijuana widespreadly and regularly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 58% of high school seniors consume alcohol and just under 35% use marijuana. Why should we exclude Malia Obama from the demographic that she occupies? What makes her any different from her peers? Critics argue that Malia must be held to a higher standard, that her behavior makes President Obama seem weak. But Malia is 18 — a legal adult in the US — and now’s her time to enjoy her adulthood. Legally speaking, President Obama no longer plays a factor in Malia’s decisions. Media: it’s time to let Malia Obama live her life.

Labor Day weekend, Malia attended another festival in Philadelphia. This time, she ditched the crop top and opted for a brave and snarky response to her time in media limelight, stepping out in a t-shirt that read, “Smoking Kills.” Malia is handling the critics — and herself — extremely well. It’s clear that the media need not worry about her perfectly normal social life.