“Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has bad days.” As one of the lone fathers in a packed movie theater last weekend awaiting the start of the Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert in Disney Digital 3D, those lines from Hannah’s “Nobody’s Perfect” just about summed up my worries. Yet, aside from the difficulty of clearing my head of certain annoying lyrics, the event was great fun for my young Hannah fan, my eight-year-old daughter, Sara, and not nearly as painful for me as I thought it would be.
Hannah Montana’s recent tour sold out minutes after tickets sales went public. The 3-D movie version of the concert was Number One at the box office last weekend. The tour and film build upon the success of numerous albums and a popular Disney Channel series, in which Miley Cyrus, daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, plays a California teenager leading a secret life as a pop star. Songs like “Rock Star” and “I Got Nerve” and her theme song, “Best of Both Worlds,” are all encapsulated in lyrics about an “ordinary girl living in an extraordinary world.”
It’s also an extraordinarily loud world. On that score, I was happy to be spared attendance at the actual concert. Fortunately, the film does not duplicate the sound level of the concert itself, but one has the sense that the decibel level must rival what us old timers were accustomed to in concerts by The Who, Slade, and Zeppelin — to name three groups whose live performances likely harmed my own hearing. The noise at a Hannah Montana concert is, as a roadie comments, not so much from the music as from the audience, whose screams rival the sound of a jet engine.
Behind-the-scenes clips are interspersed through the concert footage. The clips cover Miley’s rigorous rehearsal program, her between-songs costume changes, and the pervasive role of her parents. There is some passing humor about the contrast between Miley’s skyrocketing career and the mediocre success of the singing career of her father, Billy Ray — a one-hit wonder with “Achy Breaky Heart.” Fans who are asked what they admire about Hannah, call her “pretty,” “smart,” and — from one father of enthusiastic fans — “a great role model.”
I wouldn’t go quite that far. Indeed, the insane hype and outrageous broker ticket prices are things parents ought to enjoy resisting. In a particularly egregious case of parental malfeasance, a Dallas mom entered her daughter in an essay contest for concert tickets. Not only did she make up a story, in her daughter’s voice, about having lost a father in Iraq, but after the fraud was exposed, she defended the act by saying that they were simply trying to win a contest and no one had specified that the essays had to be truthful. In the face of public outcry, she eventually apologized.
Provided your family is sane enough to resist the temptation to turn entertainers (or athletes or politicians, for that matter) into role models, there is little objectionable in the concert itself. This is truly a show for pre-teen girls; it has happily none of the ambiguous sexuality of Britney Spear’s early videos. The most touching moment in the film is the backstage discussion between father and daughter about a song Miley wrote in memory of her deceased grandfather. Her subsequent performance of the song is genuinely moving.
The show itself is really quite something — lights, fireworks, and glitter but also multiple back-up singers and dancers, performing simultaneously on different levels. The whole thing has the feel of musical aerobics on steroids. The movie itself was short, had more variety than I anticipated, and the 3-D technology was astonishing. Asked what she liked best, my daughter said she liked the music, the outfits, the 3-D, which made it seem “like Hannah was really in the room,” and — best of all, she says with a slight smile — “watching Dad suffer.” Now that I can appreciate.
— Thomas Hibbs is distinguished professor of ethics and culture at Baylor University and author of the forthcoming book, Arts of Darkness.