I found myself watching Hannah Montana a couple weeks ago at my parents' house. I was waiting for dinner and didn't have anything else to do and sometimes I like to see if I can gain insight into the collective psychology of the shallow masses.
Hannah Montana's not a good show, though I could imagine young girls enjoying a sort of feeling of camaraderie with the girl on screen. Miley Cyrus is an even less talented actress than I was expecting--I expected she'd have a little something of star quality, at least. You know--that inexplicable little sparkle that might make Louis B. Mayer willing to invest money into your coaching. What's interesting about her is that she is either unaware or completely doesn't care that she's not an effective performer. It seems like she shows up to set, reads her lines, and goes to the mall, at each step of the way absolutely confident that everyone loves her. She seems comfortable with herself, and I suspect that's what teenage girls respond to.
More interesting to me was the writing on the particular episode I was watching. Shallow, vaguely racist, and confused about whether it was screwball comedy or a moralistic tale, yes. But it seemed to me that there were not terribly subtle secret messages, and I was reminded of the movie Permanent Midnight, based on Jerry Stahl's autobiographical account of heroin addiction and writing for ALF. The scene that really sticks with me from that movie most is one wherein Stahl created dialogue for cheap sitcom laughs from his own heartfelt, grieving words at his grandmother's funeral. It seemed to me a perfect display of a soul truly confined in a hell and the quality of signal any transmission such a soul might be capable of sending to the outside world.
The Hannah Montana episode was about Cyrus and her friends' trouble with a bully at their school, a big girl nicknamed "Cracker", apparently so Cyrus' Gone with the Wind-ish stereotype black housekeeper/servant could fling the word around without it having the more obvious implication. Cyrus' reactions to Cracker's behaviour were over-the-top bug-eyes and Cracker's bullying involved shoving Cyrus and her friend into a bathroom stall together and fastening their hair together, actions described but not shown. The climax of the episode was a scene beginning with Cracker standing over Cyrus lying on a salad bar, covered with food and white salad dressing drizzled on her face. "It needs one more thing . . ." said Cracker. "Oh yeah--NUTS!" She held her hands over the whimpering Cyrus, apparently about to sprinkle nuts before the housekeeper/servant comes to the rescue.
Hannah Montana seemed to be a convergence of innocent girlhood on display and soulless, despairing men off-screen. It was one of the most sinister things I'd ever seen. It was like watching nymphs dance in a garden of puking goblins.