Hannah Montana: the Blonde-Is-Better Superstar

We’ve all heard it before. Blondes have more fun. Gentlemen prefer blondes. Blonde is better.

Disney Channel is like a car wreck for me – I can’t seem to look away. One of their newer shows is “Hannah Montana,” which is about a girl who is a plain old teenage girl by day, a superstar singer by night. It’s an age-old premise and not particularly well done here (maybe I’m biased – I just cannot convince myself Billy Ray Cyrus is an Actor and neither is his daughter). Mainly, the whole wear-a-wig-no-one-recognizes-her thing is pretty dang farfetched.

It’s probably incidental and dependent totally on the fact that the actress playing Hannah Montana and her real life persona (Miley somethingorother) is a brunette, but the  whole brown, curly-haired girl being the average, ordinary girl next door versus the megastar singing sensation she is when she dons the blonde, straight wig kind of sends the message that to be blonde is glamourous and to be otherwise is to be ordinary and unnoticeable.

Blonde Hannah is wildly popular. Brunette Miley is picked on by the wildly popular girls in school. Blonde Hannah is adored by a guy friend of Miley’s, who, when he finds out Miley IS Hannah, suddenly comes to his senses and loses his crush. Blonde Hannah gets to go to celebrity parties and wear fancy clothes. Brunette Miley dresses like a normal kid.

I know it’s a matter of getting two distinct personalities down. Heck, when Disney has promotions and such, Hannah Montana trots around even though everyone knows the girl singing and dancing is actually Miley Cyrus. It all just rubs me wrong.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being blonde. There isn’t. The point I’m struggling to make cohesive  is that  there isn’t anything wrong with NOT being blonde, either.


  1. Gategrrl says

    Heh. My 10 1/2 year old daughter loves this show (as much as she loves any Disney show). It appeals to the glamor/I want to be a singing star! fantasy little girls have. I just saw the show you mentioned in your article. I honestly hadn’t thought about the wig thing at all – to me, it’s just like Superman donning glasses and starting to take on the Clark Kent persona, and stupid Lois Lane never SEEING that Clark is really her hero Superman.

    But- I have to say, I think my kid is a sharp cookie, too. She noticed that the concert hall that “Hannah Montana” was singing in was pretty small, really. And she’s the one who brought up the wigs and how their was speculation (amidst her school friends, most likely) that the girl playing Hannah, that the brunette hair was a wig also! She also knew (when I didn’t!) that it was a father-daughter team show, basically. And that tickles her, too: little girls like to have their fathers around, and it fits with this show as well.

    I think there’s more going on with this show than the blond/brunette dichotomy. :-)

    (er…not that I think it’s high caliber entertainment at all)

  2. sbg says

    Oh, I’m sure. I should rework the article to be more clear why I was using it as an example. I’m a bit off my game at the moment.

    Okay, a lot off my game. 😉

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, the thing is, haircolor stereotyping only happens to women. Have you ever heard the term “dumb blond” applied to a guy? Are blond male characters typically more frivolous and less intellectual than their dark-haired counterparts? Not really. For men, haircolor is random. For women, it’s imbued with some deep meaning. We’re color-coded for those viewers who are too stupid to get all the textual stereotyping.

    And of course, the whole thing is racist. A woman from a race that typically only has dark hair cannot put on a blond wig and suddenly become a sex symbol. It would take a bit more than that for her.

  4. scarlett says

    I agree, I think there’s a sense of glamour connotated with being blond – you only have to look at how much more press coverage Lindsey Lohan, Nicole Kidman and Ashley Simpson got after they became blond. (Didn’t seem to do anything for their careers, though, and Lohan stands out for me because it seems the majority of her real rans prefered her the way she was.) I wonder how much of that is real and how much is just something some exec made up fifty years ago and everyone’s been perpetuation it ever since? I know plenty of guys who aren’t fussed on blonds and have particular preferences to ther colours.

  5. sbg says

    Well, the thing is, haircolor stereotyping only happens to women. Have you ever heard the term “dumb blond” applied to a guy? Are blond male characters typically more frivolous and less intellectual than their dark-haired counterparts? Not really. For men, haircolor is random. For women, it’s imbued with some deep meaning. We’re color-coded for those viewers who are too stupid to get all the textual stereotyping.

    True enough. The only instance I can think of is a literary one (maybe TV too, but I don’t remember the show) might be blond Joe Hardy from the Hardy Boys. He was always written as the jock and the one slower on the uptake than his dark haired brother Frank.

    And of course, the whole thing is racist. A woman from a race that typically only has dark hair cannot put on a blond wig and suddenly become a sex symbol. It would take a bit more than that for her.

    For some reason this reminded me of that dreadful hair color commercial, in which we see the back of some woman’s head – admiring, I suppose, her long, straight, blonde hair. Then she turns around and…lookit that, she’s of Asian descent! ANYONE can be blonde, don’t ya know. There was something else about the commercial that was legitimately offensive, racially, and I wish I could remember the brand.

  6. sbg says

    I think most of it is made up. Part of the same kind of spin that tells us a certain size and shape and height are more attractive than others.

    There’s a lot more variety in real life to allow for everyone to have more fun, regardless of hair color.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    Oh, that commercial bothers me, too. What they’re trying to sell is a dye that lightens dark hair dramatically without damaging bleach, right? They could’ve used any woman with dark hair to make that point.  Ordinarily, I’d like that they used an Asian model.  I wouldn’t take it as implying that Asians SHOULD want blond hair or seek to be more “white”, only that they can go blond if they want. Fashion options are fun.
    But the commercial belies that purpose.  How do we know that hair model had dark hair to begin with? Did we see a before and after shot? No – we’re supposed to assume her hair was really, really black because she’s Asian and they all have really black hair.  And, wait a second – who’s we?  The white women it’s really being marketed to!  I say that because most Asians would know that Asian people can have brown, light brown, red and even blond hair naturally.  But white women who think of all Asians as raven-haired?  Yep, they might find the commercial convincing and compelling.
    So what bugs me overall is that it’s using an Asian model to sell products to white people… not using an Asian model simply because she’s as good an example of dark hair as anyone else.  They crossed the line when they ask us to simply assume her hair is super-black because of her race.  Race + assumptions = bad.

  8. sbg says

    It’s the gong that got me. I was instantly appalled by the use of it. I find the ad pretty useless, though it’s not nearly as tasteless as the one for hair gel – that shows these two kids in what I assume is supposed to be a North Korean school, where everything is military and strict and they just want to break free by using…hair gel.

    Now that commercial is just bad. And totally not on topic. Whoops.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    I think Clairol and other hair dye companies probably did what they could to market the hell out of going blond – and I wouldn’t be shocked to find out they worked with movie studios and TV networks to get more fun, happy blond women on shows and perpetuate the stereotype.

    I mean, that’s how cigarettes were marketed.

  10. sbg says

    I will admit that I tried dying my hair blonde once, but it was for Halloween. The same time I bought the blonde, I bought something similar to my own hair color, because I suspected I wouldn’t want to be blonde for very long…fair hair does not work for me.

    Honestly, I don’t know why anyone with dark hair would want to go that light (like, platinum) if only for the maintenance required. Maybe I’ve been the victim of bad highlights before, but every time I’ve put lighter streaks in my hair, they end up turning a strange orange color if I don’t maintain them. Now I’m au naturale and won’t get talked into highlights again.

    I just pretend the ever-increasing grey hairs are actually highlights. Yeah. That’s it!

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, I wouldn’t have patience for the maintenance. My hair grows too fast, and the only shade it will reliably lighten to is red.

  12. sbg says

    That, and I actually quite like the color of my hair and don’t really have a reason to muck with it. Except for the grey.

  13. mbparty says

    im blonde and there is nothing different about my everyday life opposed 2 other female beings i once saw “Hannah Montana” when i babysat my friends daughter and it has much much more meaning then just trying to duiscuise herself with a wig. its about a young girl living a secret 2 part life and only the family and the 2 best friends know. i think it has alot of meaning and teaches kids about trusting the people they love and to chase after thier dreams.

  14. sbg says

    I’m glad you get more out of it than I do. I know I wouldn’t really hold it up as a terrifically positive source for my child to learn these things, though.

  15. says

    Well, in the episodes where Hannah’s bodyguard, a black woman, is featured, they definitely have some issues with stereotyping. I don’t know if it’s racist, per se, but it definitely isn’t the best portrayal of race I’ve ever seen…

    I really enjoy the show, actually; the brunette-to-blond thing has never bothered me, I’ve taken the fact that she wears a wig and suddenly is a whole! different! person! as part of the show’s incredibly bizarre universe. (The Clark Kent to Superman analogy pretty much summed it up.) I find Miley to be charming, especially her relationship with her father (both IRL and on the show), and have an easier time forgiving bad singing than bad acting, so I’ll take Miley (who, terrible actress though she is, has quite a voice) over most of the Disney Channel starlets any day.

    (Tisdale, anyone? Disney only started featuring her once they wiped out basically all of her Semetic features, and she can neither act nor sing. Oy.)

    ((It’s possible I watch too much Disney.))

  16. says

    Er, whoops, that should be a *harder* time forgiving bad singing than bad acting, so I prefer Miley, who actually can sing, to most of the Disney starlets who release records.

  17. sbg says

    Oh, it’s certainly not the worst of Disney’s shows (though I was quite surprised to find an episode of the dreadful Suite Life of Zach (Zack?) and Cody that focused on the issue of body image quite nicely, a change from the usual drek).

    But I do have to give more negative points for the recent addition of a new “yokel” from Minnesota, who looks, acts and speaks like no country farm boy from rural Minnesota I’ve ever known. I knew quite a few of them growing up.

  18. says

    I have to say that I watch this show (I’m an inicurable insomniac who gets up way too early on Saturday mornings) and it has been bugging me for awhile and exactly WHY it was bugging me, I couldn’t quite place my finger on. Then it hit me the other day. The Hannah/Miley character is problematic for me in terms of what the character does with her various incartions. When she is blond, she is most often made to look the fool–I can think of two episodes in particular, one she forgets the words and gets booed off the stage and the other she (for some odd reason) is continually falling down and all over the place while on stage. Meanwhile, brown-haired Miley–while not “popular” at school–is all serious and studious and “normal.” As a natural blond, it distrubs me that blonds are continually portrayed as dumb sexbombs. Why can’t a character be smart and blond and sexy? I felt the same way about Elle Woods in that stupid Reese Witherspoon movie. Try as I might, I couldn’t see the “subversive” nature of that movie all I saw as a typical dumb blonde that through a series of fortuitous accidents is made to look smart.

    As for men and hair color (just to pick up something that caught my eye) I DO think men get stereotyped. Think about it, it’s “tall dark and handsome” not “tall, blond/red and handsome.” And I think women, by and large, go for the darker haired men vs. lighter haired. As much as we’d like to think we don’t we do….

  19. Jennifer Kesler says

    And I think women, by and large, go for the darker haired men vs. lighter haired. As much as we’d like to think we don’t we do….

    I disagree. But first…

    “Tall, dark and handsome” is a bit problematic for me racially. Let’s just say I don’t think the people who invented the phrased had my adoration for Omar Epps in mind. 😉

    That said, I used to distinctly prefer blond men. Now I’d say I don’t really have a physical type. My list of “world’s sexiest men” is pretty esoteric, LOL. But it does include a number of blonds, and some of them are on the short side, too.

    I think numerically more women will have to end up dating dark haired men, if only because they vastly outnumber red- and blond-haired ones.

  20. says

    I think Miley looks foolish just as often as herself, personally; I think Hannah gets less and less screen time. I could see Lily as a dumb blond stereotype, though I think the actress is adorable and hilarious (and though dumb, Lily gets some of the best lines, and handles them WAY better than Miley Cyrus–she’s a much better actor, but ANYWAY) but the character is, esentially, dumb.

    I am definitely with you about Thor (the yokel character). He’s both a stereotype and very creepy. I also find Ricoh completely creepy–he’s supposed to be what, 11? And is constantly hitting on Miley and making freakishly sexualized comments and gestures? So upsetting. (I have the same issue with Zach in the Suite Life.)

    The episode a few nights about about Lily “not being a girl” because she’s a tomboy, and having to change herself to get a boyfriend…ARG. I mean, of course the moral at the end was that he liked her for who she was, but there was so much wrong with the episode in general. Very annoying.

    (And yet. I can’t stop watching the show. I think I need help of some sort.)

  21. sbg says

    Criticism isn’t always mean. Someone once told me I needed to seriously rethink a story I’d written and my first reaction was to pout…and then I realized the person was not only correct, but extremely correct. Use criticism to help you grow. 😉

  22. Jennifer Kesler says

    I did. Next time I’m replacing what it writes with some very embarrassing admissions. 😉

  23. says

    I want to have a wig of hannah because I am her fan and i bought Hannah Montana2 and there says that if I win a concurse then I am going to hollywood with Hannah Montana but please get the wig for me.

  24. Chloe Swanson says

    Hi I just spent about the past week and half helping take care of some kids for a friend and they both really enjoy the show Hannah Montana. Infact they like it so much that I swore when I was finished taking care of them I wasn’t watching her for at least a month..lol…Its not that I dislike the show….infact it is one of the few shows out there that teaches kids to respect your parents…and that girls who are dating should be closely supervised by their fathers not to mention the fact that it shows kids that famous people are just normal human beings with flaws….and Yes I will admit that Hannah is definatley more popular when she dons the blonde wig…but when you think about it…..the show doesn’t glorify Hannah…infact….it glorifies Miley…. The brunette. Most scenes with Cyrus as Hannah are not long and they aren’t real…..the true heart of the character comes out when she is a brunette. Hannah is just a day job. They don’t even make Hannah a real personality….most onscreen time with Hannah ties directly to something going on in Miley’s (the brunette side) life. The truth is at the end of the day Miley learns a lesson and shows what it means to be a true person. Let me ask this question. Who do you think little girls want to be more like? Hannah or Miley? I think that most would answer Miley. She is the true star because she a good girl with a heart. Hannah is is just a quirk.This is shown in several episodes…..So in a way if anything Disney is making brunettes look better and more appealing than blondes. Maybe I am way off course here and I don’t really care all that much about the show…I just thought it was an interesting view to have about the show when I read the topic….any way that is my opinion on the matter…thanks for letting me comment…

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