For the first time in years, there were no Hannah Montanas in the Blueberry Hill Elementary School Halloween parade. Usually there are at least five, so maybe everyone is moving on, along with Miley, whose decision to hang up the blonde wig of her alter ego after four seasons has been much publicized. My daughter and her BFF went as Hannah and Lola, Hannah’s BFF, one Halloween, but now they find the pole dancing Miley to be too “weird” to comprehend, let alone emulate.
This past Sunday, November 7th, seemed to mark the airing of the series finale of the Disney show (though Jason Earles,who plays Miley’s brother on the show, has apparently tweeted that “there are like five episodes left”. ) Whether in optimism, a bid to sell some last- minute Hannah merchandise, or as reassurance to young fans, Hannah Montana was renamed for this final season as Hannah Montana Forever. And despite Miley’s obvious eagerness to put aside childish things and be an adult performer in her own right, the finale and the episode leading up to it presented both a working metaphor for her decision and closure for fans.
The final season began with Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus), her songwriting dad/manager Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus), and her goof-off older brother Jackson (Jason Earles) trying to recapture their Tennessee roots by ditching the Malibu beach house and moving a to a palatial ranch. They were motivated to recapture their past after a visit back home when Robby Ray noted how much Miley loved her old preteen bedroom and tried to reproduce it back in California. Miley was horrified by this blast from her pre-star past and mortified by the idea that her friends would kick off their senior year with a sleepover in this mausoleum to her early adolescence. The lesson was clear: you can’t recapture the past.
The rest of the season propelled us toward the inevitable moment when Miley would weary of living her double life and reveal to the world that she is Hannah Montana, thus, effectively, retiring Hannah forever. Along for the ride are guest stars Angus T. Jones as the brother of Jackson’s bikini model girlfriend; Christine Taylor as the school nurse whom Miley tries to set up with her dad; and, inexplicably, Ray Liotta as the school principal who has to inform Miley that her dad forgot to register her for her senior year somehow and now she can’t go to school. It all works out for Miley in the end, after she fails to survive a day at school as Hannah (who for some reason can enroll there) when all of her classmates turn into rabid fans, proving to her that her double life was once indeed necessary. There’s a salute to military families featuring videos made by families to their soldier relatives overseas and Hannah singing “I’m Still Good” (even as Mikey was raising eyebrows in hot pants and a steamy video for “I Can’t Be Tamed” — the contrast between the two song titles seems to say a lot about the paradox that Miley Cyrus has lived for at least a year now — see the first post ever on this blog for more about that.)
In the penultimate episode, Miley’s record company refuses to a release a song that everyone admits is awesome but with its hip hop flavor, it just is “not the sound her audience expects from Hannah Montana.” Angered, Miley counters that they are “afraid to let an artist grow” and assures the producers that she “believe[s] in the song and trusts [her] fans.” But a focus group proves her wrong — her fans do not want to grow with her, even when she tells them “change can be scary but it’s part of growing up.” There’s a clear parallel here between Miley Cyrus and her tween fans, who aren’t ready to embrace her dancing round a stripper pole, and shouldn’t. But Cyrus is ready to move on, and her real life and TV father tell her, in true Disney fashion though the move is antithetical to all that Disney represents, to “listen to [her] heart” and ignore the “naysayers.” Miley Stewart records the song as a duet with Iyaz, after he hears it and tries to buy it from her — to give to his protegé Taylor Swift. A torch is being passed here, it seems, as Miley acknowledges how talented and hardworking Swift is (“Does that girl ever sleep?” she asks).
In the hour-long finale, Miley’s life gets more complicated when her musician boyfriend Jesse refuses to aid in her double life. He kisses her on The Tonight Show and Jay Leno announces that Hannah and Jesse are “America’s New Sweethearts.” So when Jesse is seen out with Miley, he’s accused of cheating by the press, his five-year-old niece,and his grandma. To make matters worse her BFF Lilly gets into Stanford (which they pronounce “Stan Ford”) because of her awesome extracurriculars, while Miley appears to have done nothing all through high school– because she was busy being Hannah Montana. Lilly agrees to wait a year so they can go to school together and Jesse relents, but Miley faces herself in the mirror, sees Hannah, and realizes that she is asking a lot of her friends. Robby Ray reminds her that “nothing lasts forever — kind of like a mullet” (the last mullet joke he’ll make on the show!) and Miley recognizes what she has to do. She goes to her huge hidden Hannah closet and each outfit triggers a memory, seen in flashback, as Miley’s voice sings a poignant song called “I’ll Always Remember You”. She is “thankful for the moment/so glad I got to know you” and any viewer over the age of three realizes that she is singing to them, to those who have loved Hannah for years now. But as Miley sings back on The Tonight Show — as Miley Stewart, not Hannah –she is “moving on, letting go/Holding on to tomorrow.” It’s a bittersweet farewell that acknowledges Miley Cyrus’ need to move on and still respects the fans, even those that feel, as the girl in the focus group did, that they “don’t want [her] to change. [They] like [her] just the way” she is.” Even my daughter, who had disavowed Miley, watched the last episode eagerly and cried at the flashbacks. She cried a little more as she went to bed, putting a small piece of her childhood to rest.
Miley Cyrus will be eighteen in a few days and she has already been living the life of a wage-earning adult for many years. Like most eighteen-year-olds, she is ready to say goodbye to the last days of childhood and carve a space for herself in the world, on her terms. She wants to grow up, and to show us that she is grown up. She did this years ago, in the infamous Vanity Fair spread,(www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/06/miley200806) when Cyrus’ camp blamed Annie Leibowitz for tricking her into posing semi-nude (personally, I found the draped semi-nude shot tasteful. It was the shot of Miley and her dad lounging like lovers that seemed far creepier to me). It was all retracted and we could go back to believing that our little Miley would never do such a thing as pose somewhat in the altogether. But her most recent videos and TV appearances show that yes, she certainly would (last week entertainmentwise.com posted stills from”another raunchy video” ). Miley is moving on. She is making the rounds of European awards shows now and, according to Perez Hilton, will soon star in the film So Undercover as a “`tough, street-smart private eye hired by the FBI to go undercover in a college sorority.'” At best, this could mark her as the next Sandra Bullock in a Miss Congeniality-type comedy. At worst it could be exploitive trash. But either way, Miley Cyrus is moving on.
Unfortunately for Cyrus, she is doing so in the midst of scandal and heartache, as her parents are in the process of divorce and rumors point to her mother’s affair with Brett Michaels as the source. Others say their attention to their daughter’s career left them no time for their marriage, and Miley Cyrus is making no comment, while Perez Hilton posts that “Miley Parties to Cope with Parents’ Divorce” and Popeater claims “Miley Cyrus Would Trade All Her Success to Fix Her Parents’ Marriage.” Her on-again-off-again relationship with movie co-star Liam Hemsworth is over, according to the tabs, so Cyrus has a lot to sort out right now. Maybe Miley Stewart had it right after all in creating an alter ego to protect herself and her privacy, so she could live the life of a normal teen and still be a pop star. Miley Cyrus never had that chance. Disney is taking care of many of the show’s other stars. Mitchel Musso (Oliver) wasn’t present for much of the final season because he is on tour, his second CD drops soon, and he has a new sitcom on the channel. Emily Osment also has a CD out. I’m not sure where Jason Earles will get work unless there is a remake of the Back to the Future franchise, but he is likely to land on his feet. Miley Cyrus has opted to go it alone, for better or worse. Her current fans are unlikely to follow — at least until they grow up a little, too.