Hidden Identity: Why Girls Love Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus

1 Mar

By Amy Sondova When I was in middle school, I liked to pretend I was a mutant; it helped me get through the rough days. Specifically, I was a teenage member of the X-Men, a group of mutant superheroes created by Marvel Comics genius, Stan Lee. Pretending I was more than just what people saw helped me to stand up to bullying, erratic friendships, low self-esteem, and the other perils that accompany the lives of middle school girls.

Maybe I was weird, but I am certainly not alone—not by a long shot. How many fairy tales and classic stories draw on the theme of hidden identity? There’s Cinderella who seems to be only a maid in her stepmother’s house, but then manages to capture the heart of Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty who is a princess in hiding, Snow White is another princess in hiding, who also appears to be drawn to house work. In the story of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is a prince underneath his rough exterior. The tales I loved as a child still enchant audiences today.

A new twist on an old theme comes in the shape of Hannah Montana, the title character on the popular Disney show. Hannah Montana is a huge pop sensation in her world, the world of celebrity, but at home, she’s Miley Stewart, typical teenager. Miley is raised by her father, Bobby Ray, and lives with her brother Jackson (Jason Earles). Accompanying Miley on her school yard adventures are her best friend Lilly (Emily Osment, sister of Haley Joel who was the “I see dead people” kid in Sixth Sense) and Oliver (Mitcel Musso). Playing Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana is real-life star, Miley Cyrus, daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who also plays her dad on the show. Yes, it is very confusing. Talk about identity issues!

Debuting in March 2006, the Emmy-nominated TV show launched Miley Cyrus (and Hannah Montana) into instant stardom, both on-screen and on-stage as Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana and herself on her “Best of Both Worlds” concert tour (which is also a movie). Hannah Montana merchandise lines the shelves of retail outlets and news of Miley Cyrus dominates the headlines.

It begs the question—why is up with all the Hannah-mania?

Tweens like to have their own stars. Gone are they days of 30 year-old actors playing high school students! Tweens and teens want to see teenagers play by teen (or young adult) actors. Fifteen year-old Miley Cyrus plays fifteen year-old Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana—not too complicated. Tweens feel “represented” when a star close to their age appears on the screen. They can identity with Miley as an actress, but also as a character. In fact, it’s probably also the reason why Miley’s fans tend to blue the line between Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus, unable to accept that Hannah Montana is a fictional character. Then again, when a fictional character goes on a very real world tour, it does get complicated. It’s like when my parents took me to see Sesame Street Live as a child—Big Bird was in front of me in his yellow feathery glory; therefore, he was real.

Hannah and Miley are appealing characters. Both Hannah and Miley deal with things in a humorous manner that tickles the funny bones of Disney viewers. In true sitcom fashion, Hannah’s life has a problem that impacts Miley’s life and hilarity ensures. For example, one of the characters main goals is to keep her Hannah identity separate from her Miley identity and vice versa, which can be a challenge. Miley Stewart wants “the best of both worlds”, meaning she wants to live her rock star life but also go to school as a normal teenager. When one secret threatens the other, Miley/Hannah does whatever she can (usually with the help of her friends and family) to ensure that her secret is kept safe.

Not only that, Hannah/Miley deal with the regular stuff, too. In one episode, Hannah Montana discovers her other celebrity friends have hip new cell phones and she has yesterday’s popular model. Despite being oh-so-famous, she frantically tries to get the cell phone to “fit in” with the popular celebrity crowd. On another episode, Miley is asked out by a boy who says he isn’t a fan of Hannah Montana. Naturally, this boy decides to take Miley on a date to a Hannah Montana concert, in which Miley is running back and forth between her date and her on-stage persona as Hannah Montana try to impress the boy. These are very normal teen issues presented in a unique format which appeals to the younger crowd, even though it may seem silly to parents and other adults.

Tweens secretly dream of living the best of both worlds, too. Miley Stewart is not one of the popular kids. In fact, when two of the popular girls release their list on who’s cool and who’s not, Miley and her best friend are at the very bottom of the list. It’s an actual paper list that is passed around the school. We had something similar in middle school called a slam book. Constantly dealing with the taunts of two popular girls, Miley shows girls how to stand up to bullies in sitcom fashion. At times, she expresses frustration over her treatment realizing that if these people knew she was really Hannah Montana they would treat her with more respect. Then again, she understands, it would cost her the normal life she so desperately wants.

As I mentioned before, I dreamed that I was someone else to get through the day during my days in middle school. I believe a lot of other people, especially girls, do the same. They envision themselves as Miley, a nice girl with a big secret. The problem is that tweens and teens are undergoing an identity formation process—they are still forming who they are, what they believe, and what they will become. Latching onto the hidden identity seems natural, because so many girls desperately hope that they are more than what meets the eye. So many girls hope they can one day unleash their inner Hannah Montana and let the world see how talented, lovely, and captivating they really are.

Following in the tradition of so many females before her, Hannah Montana is another storyline that allows girls to vicariously live out their starry-eyed dreams. Whether the mutant girl in homeroom or the hidden teen rock star in gym class, girls long to escape the confines of their ordinary, sometimes difficult lives, and dream of a hidden identity—something far beyond the imaginations and limitations of their very normal lives. Almost every girl wants just that—the best of both worlds—people to love us for who we are and people to love us for our celebrity. But in the end, girls just want to be valued and loved—no matter what the world in which they live.

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No Responses to “Hidden Identity: Why Girls Love Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus”

  1. MILEY BOLTON March 7, 2008 at 11:07 PM #


  2. Billy Ray Cyrus April 15, 2008 at 3:03 PM #

    Wow, Billy Ray seems to have made a comeback. And I thought he was a 1 hit wonder. I don’t miss the mullet though. 🙂

  3. laz June 18, 2008 at 1:34 PM #

    i love hannah and mily the different personalitys are awsome also how she has to hide her secret and her family is super funny

  4. Swati October 2, 2008 at 4:14 AM #

    I have seen hannah montan 3-D movie and it was superb. I especially like her look and the costumes that she wears. Hannah rocks!

  5. edona October 4, 2008 at 8:49 AM #

    i love miley 🙂

  6. ASHLEY RICHARD October 27, 2008 at 3:49 PM #

    i love her to she rocks:)

  7. rutuja November 9, 2008 at 6:58 AM #

    i luv her cuz…
    she always rocks…
    i always listen to her music….
    i m crazzy behind her…
    hannah montana keep rockin….

  8. hannah February 3, 2009 at 6:39 PM #

    I love miley soooooooooooooo much and hannah

  9. sunni mckay March 4, 2009 at 12:23 PM #


  10. cemre subasi August 24, 2009 at 11:59 AM #

    i love miley and hannah

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