Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hannah Montana and Metaphorical Closets

Like most people over the age of 14 I can best describe my opinion of Hannah Montana as tepid, if not outright negative, but I've been able to ignore it for the most part. I did watch it once while at a relative's house with my younger cousins, and I found it to be fairly bland sitcom fair full of the usual cliches. The music grates on my nerves and musical sensibilities, but it seems fairly harmless compared to other things out there at the moment. I'm sure there are elements from my early adolescence that appeared the same back then, but one blog I follow brought up an issue with the new movie that made me raise an eyebrow.

The Sinister Hidden Message of Hannah Montana by Mark Blankenship, while obviously mostly in a tongue and cheek tone, did bring up an aspect of the movie that I find troubling as a gay American. I gather that the basic premise of the show is that Miley Stewart leads a double life as the pop start Hannah Montana, and in the movie she starts to tire of it and considers showing her fans who she really is. At the climax of the newly released movie, after Miley manages to save her hometown with a benefit concert put on by her alter-ego, she takes off her wig to reveal her true self, but the residents of the town tell her to put in back on and be Hannah again.

"Put on the wig, or you'll never have a normal life!" one person calls, and they all promise not to reveal her identity to the rest of the world so she can be "happy" and so her fans won't "lose their dreams" and find out that Hannah isn't real. To my gay ears that sounds uncomfortably close to telling someone that they should stay in the closet rather than come out, but I know I have a tendency to read too much into things like this. But even outside that, is that really what we want our kids to learn, that it's better to live a double life than be true to yourself and risk being rejected? Considering that the latter was largely a message in the media of my childhood this strikes me as rather backwards looking.

To quote Blankenship:
As written, the conclusion tells viewers that being yourself is acceptable when you're with a very intimate circle, but otherwise, it's preferable and even honorable to lie about who you are. Hannah Montana: The Movie suggests that we can make people happy by always being who they want us to be, so we should maintain a performance at all costs. What's a little personal integrity when the entire world will be placated by our perpetual public disguise?
I know I'm disturbed by the implications of this and what it's telling our kids, and it certainly seems like a screwed up moral to say that lying about yourself is okay, whether you're gay or not.

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