J2 Content – Perspectives

A varied collection of thoughts on education and parenting

Disappointed in Disney and Hannah Montana

Yes, yes… I now they are a corporation and a ficticious person, but none the less, I have been stewing for a while now over what I feel was a bad message sent to young Hannah Montana fans in the show’s final scenes.

You can watch the final 6 minutes of the series finale here.

I actually think it’s a very good message that Lily turns down the chance to go to Paris and live out a dream… because it’s not her dream, it’s Miley’s.

I spent much of the first 45 minutes of the episode telling my daughter how wrong I thought it was for Lily to delay going to college because she couldn’t be with Miley. The early scenes of the episode are episode are full of whining about how the two BFFs are not going to be going to college together.

As a parent, I found this desperation to be together to be one of the things I have dreaded seeing develop in my daughter’s relationships with friends. I’m glad my daughter has someone she considers a best friend, but I expect that relationship to allow her to be her own person. I want to see her care about others but look out for herself at the same time.

“A good friend wouldn’t being saying those things. That’s actually bullying, what she’s doing there” I told my daughter, as Lily moped and repeatedly took shots at Miley for considering a movie deal with Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise.

“Oh, that’s not right. Lily should do what she wants to do!” I said as Lily decided that if Miley wouldn’t go to college with her then she wasn’t going to go to college either.

What parent doesn’t dread their child making college and career plans based soley on what their high school sweetheart or best friend might do? Not to mention that the Hannah/Miley character is hardly the most stable person for someone to be following.

So, as the episode came to a close (the youtube clip above), we see Lily at the airport, reconsidering her decision. She shows all the strength and self-confidence I would hope to see in my daughter (or son) as she tells Miley that Paris is wonderful… “the problem is it’s your dream…”. Lily’s dream is college, and in a fantastic display of maturity and foresight, she says that no one can know if there might be another movie deal or tour or distraction down the road. Lily wishes Miley well, tells her she loves her, and heads out of the airport to return to college and follow her own dream.

That, to me, would have been the right message to send. Two great friends who grew up together, and love one another like sisters, are ready to go their own way… and that’s okay because both are doing what they really want to do, each is happy for the other, and there’s no reason to think that they won’t end up together down the road – maybe on some reunion show or spin off. At the very least it’s a happy ending.

The folks at Disney must’ve considered it too because this is an alternate ending they included on the DVDs…

However, that’s not the ending they showed on cable. On television (and in the first youtube clip), we are given three minutes more to watch. We see a mopey Miley and a contented Lily each going their own ways, and then ultimately… spoiler alert…. Miley shows up at college ready to be Lily’s roommate.

The studio audience cheers, but this father booed the screen.

The message sent was “if your best friend wont compromise on her dreams, you should compromise on yours.”

Luckily, my daughter doesn’t idolize Hannah Montana , but we still spent a good half-hour talking about what might’ve happened in the finale instead of what we’d seen and whether Hannah really made the right choice.

We talked about whether Hannah would really be happy or if she might always wonder “what if?” We talked about whether Lily might’ve been better off having a chance to make some new friends and not just be in Miley’s shadow. We talked about whether Speilberg and Cruise might’ve said “you know what? Forget her, let’s just get someone else” and never offered Miley a second chance. We talked about whether Miley’s ‘sacrifice’ would make Lilly feel like or Miley expect that Lily had to be the one who gave up her dreams next?

Again, I know this is all fiction on television, but it’s (semi-)realistic fiction. And whether she loves Miley/Hannah or not, she watched the show attentively enough that we had much to talk about afterward about what my daughter would do differently (or the same) if she were in each of those girls’ shoes.

I was reassured and pleased by my daughter’s views on things, but that didn’t lessen my disappointment in Disney and the shows writers for the path they chose to take. As my daughter put it “it’s not like one of the girls was sick or there was some sort of emergency!”

I am happy that my daughter defines best friends as people who care for one another and who will be there when you need them, not as two people who are trying to live the same life.

I do NOT expect television to parent my children, but I do expect Disney to be a source of positive examples – and in this instance I was disappointed in Disney and Hannah Montana.

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