My daughter and I just watched the very last “Hannah Montana Forever” together. I guess it wasn’t so “forever” after all.
She was really quite upset about it. Hannah Montana has been an element of her school culture since, well, forever. Hannah Montana, as most parents of girls of a certain age all know, started 4 years ago in 2006- and as almost everyone knows, was an instant cultural hit. Elizabeth went to Hannah Montana birthday parties, she was given the Barbie doll, she’s seen the movies, she sang the songs… Because of Hannah Montana, Elizabeth wants to be a glamorous singer who gets to stay home and have the bestest friends ever. Since Elizabeth is in 4th grade, Hannah has been a fashion, cultural role model for literally her whole school life.
My daughter is a kid who looks for formulas- who knows that if she does A, then B is going to happen. She has watched Hannah, and just knows if she adopts her mannerisms, her accents, her fashion, her attitude, that she would have a fabulous life- complete with friends, money and great clothes. Hannah=happiness in my daughter’s eyes.
Needless to say, I have curtailed much of the Hannah watching. She was allowed to watch the new episode of Hannah every week, but after a disasterous summer week of unsupervised television watching where she watched nuthin’-but Hannah for three days, and was a walkin’ talkin’ Tennessee string of attitude, Hannah got relegated to Sunday nights.
Hannah has always set up conflicting feelings in me. On the one hand, I know how important it is to kids to understand the cultural touchpoints of their peers. I learned about Dukes of Hazzard and Wonder Woman when I was growing up- even without a television. Her message of “Girl Power” was one that I could see as a positive message. But I hated how Hannah dictated how it was “cute” to talk back to adults, how her flip attitude made even rudeness acceptable and important things trivial, and how “friendship” was the end-all and be-all goal. Along with a really cute hairstyle. I’m certainly not the first to worry about Hannah’s effect on little girls. You can read other’s comments here and here and here…
And while I am not in charge of what culturally happens, I am in control of what happens on our television- so Miley/Hannah got relegated to Sunday nights- and because of this, Elizabeth sometimes even missed the show because she was busy with- well, her real life.
But, this past Sunday night, Emily was off-again, in their lightbulb friendship, and Mary Margaret, a new friend that Elizabeth’s been hanging out with, was unavailable, so… I filled in. When moments such as the ending of Forever comes, it’s important to share them. (Remember the end of MASH? Dynasty? Happy Days?- I watched all of them in a group).
The show made for some really substantial conversation with Elizabeth… until the very end. For those of you who don’t have tween-aged girls, Miley was going to go to Stanford (oh, really?! I’m thinking that the chances of Miley Cyrus getting in Stanford are… not high) with her bestest friend Lily. But along came a movie offer with Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise (oh really?!- I’m thinking that the chances of Miley Cyrus working with Spielberg are… not high) in Paris. So, Lily was going to follow her to Paris, until Lily realized that the movie career was Miley’s dream, not hers, so she headed back to Stanford.
All of this led to a wonderful conversation between me and Elizabeth about how in life, your goal is to discover your dream and your talents and to pursue your own abilities- and how being a young adult is such an exciting time to discover what you’re good at. Find what you love and work really hard at it. This message was reinforced by Jackson, Miley’s brother, finally getting a job at something he was good at- testing video games (oh really!?) and he was working through dinner.
It was a good show. I enjoyed the message, the music… everything. Until the very end… when.. Miley gave up her dream to go back to Stanford to go to college with her bestest friend ever.
Young adulthood is where you stop defining yourself by your friends and start defining yourself by you. It’s the short time in your life where you are not under the constraints of your family and not yet under the responsibilities of your own family. It’s where you get to spread your wings and discover who you are in new settings, in new places, with new people. It’s where you get to find out what you’re not good at, what you don’t want to do. It’s where you get to fail with far fewer repercussions. It’s where you get to pick yourself up and go there- wherever there is for you. I was so disappointed that the show still didn’t let Miley become a young adult. I’m not sure why I was surprised.
One of the things about today’s “kid shows” that concerns me are the lack of grownups. Grownups may be around, but they’re just comic foils for the cute things kids have to say or to ruin the fun. In “Good Luck, Charlie”, the teenage girl is the one imparting advice to the baby. In “Sunny with a Chance” and in “Suite Life on Deck”, there aren’t even any parents at all- just a few inept teachers. While I realize that this is children’t fantasy, there are no role models to show kids how to be an adult. My shows, I just had to watch- they were fantasy grownups- Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, and heck, even Three’s Company. While I’m not sure that Jack Tripper was a great role model, I learned that adults have fun, adults have responsibilities, and adults have great hair styles (Farrah Fawcett flip, anyone?). All I wanted to be was an adult. Elizabeth’s generation? All they want to do is stay in high school.
And so, Elizabeth’s cultural icon of her time- her Wonder Woman, her New Kids on the Block, her Beatles- has ended. I got off the couch and asked Elizabeth “So… that’s it, then. What on earth will you watch now?”
With no pause at all, Elizabeth said “Wizards of Waverly Place! They have a special movie in two weeks on Friday night! Can we watch that together, too?” And the fashions and phrasings of Selena Gomez start filling the void.
How quickly icons are replaced. I’m guessing that it will take a few years before Elizabeth can appreciate the transient nature of fashion. I’m also betting that it’s just a few years until she starts feeling nostalgic- the same feelings I get for Cabbage Patch Kids and disco. When she realizes how quickly “forever” can change.
These are the cultural touchpoints that define a generation- those things that everyone of this age can relate to. It’s these media moments that define how kids talk (like… totally!), what they wear (leggings and headbands, anyone?), and how their hair looks (feathered bangs- I’m just sayin’).
But I can see clearly that it’s my job to teach her how to be a grownup. Miley sure didn’t. And I’m not sure where Selena is headed….
So I’m moving on/ Letting go/ Holding on to tomorrow
I’ve always got the memories while I’m finding out who I’m gonna be
We might be apart but I hope you always know/You’ll be with me wherever I go
Wherever I go– Miley Cyrus on Hannah Montana