Taking Stock & Giving Back: Citizenship in Hannah Montana Forever
by Morgan Blue — The University of Texas at Austin
September 01, 2010 – 00:01
In the early episodes of the current and final season of Disney’s Hannah Montana, now optimistically referred to as Hannah Montana Forever, Miley Stewart (played by Miley Cyrus) outdoes herself at showing off new digs (in multiple, excessive iterations), new clothes, and new celebrity friends (President Obama and Sheryl Crow, guest stars Ray Liotta and Christine Taylor). But once in a while she pauses to take stock of the abundance and decides to give something back.
This clip features interviews (about 1 minute in) with the cast at the taping of episode six back in March. The actors and producers seem to agree that this production is all about the kids—specifically, kids with parents serving in the military. Executive Producer Steven Peterman focuses on the potential for this episode to enhance the lives of military families. While the series rarely if ever foregrounds issues of kids’ political or civil citizenship, he presents this episode as, somehow, exemplary of the series since it "is everything we wanted the show to be." While unquestioned patriotism may not be a new tack for Cyrus, her characters, or the Disney Channel, this episode stands out among a majority that avoid mention of larger social issues, most frequently offering up even more consumerist, depoliticized forms of citizenship.
Kids in the U.S. are marginalized from political citizenship, though they exist in dialectical relation to adults via an intricately woven web of power dynamics. Yet, when Cyrus’ young co-star Emily Osment reiterates that “this is all for [the kids],” these Disney kid stars are positioned in relation to the kids in their audience—as particularly privileged and able to recognize the sacrifices imposed on the children of servicewomen and servicemen.
In the episode, which aired August 22nd, Miley wishes “there was something we could do for the families who aren’t as lucky as we are.” She decides to “give back” by providing a Hannah Montana performance for a group of military families (which would later be viewed by their relatives stationed elsewhere). While the “something” Disney is giving these families with the performance, and by featuring them on the show, seems based on a sincere wish to acknowledge the struggles of others, the performance also may locate catharsis and relief in Hannah’s song lyrics and her heartfelt delivery, at once generating appreciation for Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana Forever, and the Disney Channel, in the name of patriotism.