In this week’s shiny-paper edition of TIME, I have (with the help of Amy Goehner and Rebecca Winters Keegan) looked into the fearsome heart of the pop-culture force that is Hannah Montana. For those of you (like me) without tween daughters, Hannah Montana is a Disney Channel show starring Miley Cyrus (yes, Billy Ray’s daughter) as a girl (Miley Stewart) with a secret life as a pop star (Hannah). Cyrus just started a concert tour–performing, with postmodern bifurcation, as real Miley and fictional Hannah–which has commanded approximately zillions of dollars in scalped tickets.
I want to write about kidcult more often; it’s just as influential and worth analyzing as adult TV, but entertainment journalism usually ignores it or treats it as a business story. That said, there’s plenty of business in this column, but I tried to tweak it toward the bigger pop-culture picture too:
Hannah Montana is Superman for tween girls: she’s got the secret identity, a more relevant superpower and a blond wig instead of a cape. But just as key to the show’s success is her Clark Kent–the fictional Miley. Celebrity today is as rarefied as ever, yet with YouTube and reality TV, seems more accessible than ever. It’s tantalizing but, as personified by Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, terrifying. Miley–a normal, grounded schoolkid–makes the fantasy safe. The theme song says it all: “You get the best of both worlds.”
And like that. Go on! All the cool kids are reading it!