The sweetheart of British Columbia broke hearts and appalled parents earlier this week when he tossed aside his Golden Boy image and performed a highly sexualized rendition of Blurred Lines with known provocateur and sexpot Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. Viewers say they knew something was amiss as soon as Cyrus strutted out onto the stage.

“She doesn’t fit in with his image up until this point. We all know the pressure young male pop stars are under these days to be sexy and edgy, so when Cyrus appeared on stage I just thought, well this is it. It’s sad that Robin has sunk to this, but we should have seen it coming,” said director Judd Apatow, who witnessed the event live.

Many are asking how this could have happened, recalling Thicke’s soulful work on Cherry Blue Skies. But in addition to sadness, the stunt has elicited anger as well. The Parents’ Television Council has come out against the sexual display, deploring the now-tarnished image of a young man who has long been an idol to many young boys. In one email to the PTC, a mother writes, “I’m just glad my son, who has always said he wanted to be just like Robin Thicke when he grows up, is old enough to understand how awful that performance was. I want to thank Robin, because that show was exactly the motivation my son needs to stay in school and study, so he will never have to do something as depraved and shameful as objectify himself on stage, on live TV, the way Robin Thicke did. My son respects his body, and I feel sorry for any parents whose children are too young and who need to explain why it was wrong of Robin to prance around like some kind of gigolo.

It remains to be seen whether Thicke’s career can recover from his sudden transformation into a sex symbol. Other male pop stars have made the transition successfully- like Brad Pitt, and who can forget the sex tape that shattered Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Boy Next Door persona? The outrage around Thicke’s performance seems to stem from how fresh his own childhood is in the public’s memory. At the tender age of 36, it just seems too soon for him to be going down that path.

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