I bet that isn’t a sentence you ever expected a parent to utter but believe me when I say that for our ASD daughter, Hannah Montana has been a positive influence. No, it isn’t the dubious clothes, the even more dubious pop star antics or the canned laughter but the simple fact that Hannah Montana is teaching our daughter about friendships. It may be a bit crass, it may be a bit technicolor and frenetic but to a wee girl who is baffled by social rules and friendships, it is a lifeline in this complex world.
Our daughter does not like loud things, she finds conversations and plot lines complex to follow but she loves the fact that Hannah has a best friend, they have ups and downs, fall out, make up, keep secrets, break secrets but at the end of the day, they have each other. She is learning that people can be annoying and mean sometimes but an apology can make things better. She is learning that like Hannah you do not need to be the most popular girl in school, the prettiest, the cleverest, the sportiest, you just need a few friends who make you feel good about yourself.
Hannah is not the role model I would have chosen (nor her alter ego Miley Cyrus!): her family is dysfunctional, her reactions are over the top, everything seems bright and loud and busy but at the centre of this crazy programme is a girl with a good heart. A girl who is ‘different’ (because she is an international pop star in disguise), who struggles keeping friends, knowing who to trust and whether people truly like her for who she is. The plots may be far-fetched but what our daughter takes from it is that it’s ok to be different, and actually quite fun.
I thought that our daughter was re-watching them just as an obsession but I realise she is rewatching them to try and further understand the plot (who knew there was so much to them!). I thought she got the gist of it first time round but nope. I discovered the other day when she was watching one of her favourite films, The Parent Trap (starring another dubious role model Lindsay Lohan) with a little friend, that even though she has seen it four times, she doesn’t actually understand the story. She is an academic little girl who does very well at school,m so what was she getting from this film if it wasn’t the plot? Again, it was the interaction of girls, how they talk to each other, plot, chat, plan and generally communicate. She is using these films and programmes as a manual for how to behave when dealing with other girls.
Now, this doesn’t mean she is getting blue streaks in her hair, feels a compulsion to throw custard pies or become a secret pop sensation, but she feels a little more informed about the weirdness of social situations, she knows a falling out doesn’t mean severing a friendship, she knows not everyone has hundreds of pals, she knows that being different can be cool.
So, let’s hear it for Hannah, iCarly, True Jackson and the like. Who knew American drivel would be such help to a little ASD girl?