In Today’s Edition of “When Critics Overthink”

I present to you a Los Angeles Times music reviewer trying to salvage his own personal idea of self-worth by declaring Miley Cyrus (aka “Hannah Montana”) a “young experimental artist”:

The entire show operated at a frenzied fever pitch, but its David Cronenberg-like climax came right before the encore, when the regular girl sang a duet with her famous alter ego, who’d disappeared from the stage but now reappeared on the screen of a giant video monitor.

Which of us is more real, the artist seemed to be asking the audience, about half of which consisted of perplexed-looking adults obviously confounded by the performer’s sophisticated interrogation of our current media moment.

Either one of two things are going here: Either critic Mikael Wood is has his tongue well in cheek, in which case this is moderately amusing, or he’s totally serious, in which case he should be grabbed off the street, hustled into some dark room, and waterboarded ’til dawn by Robert Hilburn and the ghost of Lester Bangs. Also, if this is the case, one wonders how much mileage he might get out of, say, The Parent Trap.

Honestly, though, even if Wood is just taking the piss here, there’s a certain point at which you draw back from the precipice; with lines like “Cyrus utilizes television’s simulacrum of reality to depict a version of herself that’s lifelike enough to make you care about her,” Wood has hurled himself well into the inky darkness, and all that’s left is to wait for the muted splat, signifying the bone-powdering impact of his snarky cheekiness against the dark and smooth basalt floor of unintentional pretension.

Either way, a note to Wood: Dude. You’re reviewing a concert of a 14-year-old actress singing bubblegum pop. Please, get a grip. Otherwise when you’re forced go review the Cheetah Girls and you start blabbering about Rousseau in the review, someone is going to find you and stab you in right the eye. Really, it’s for your own safety.

33 thoughts on “In Today’s Edition of “When Critics Overthink”

  1. Earlier this year, I was working on the Steven Seagal movie, “Marker” which has apparently been retitled “Pistol Whipped.” At the end of the movie, Seagal’s character is supposed to show his redemption in a scene where he has a real bonding moment with his daughter.

    Seagal didn’t like any of the rewrites on this scene and kept suggesting that it would be great if he arranged for Hannah Montana to give his daughter a private concert, which would show how much Dad cares and “gets his daughter”. I really don’t think he knew that Hannah Montana is a fictional alter-ego.

  2. I agree that no one should be waterboarded till dawn, but I think a reasonable punishment for this review would be to have Wood have to work on a Steven Segal movie.

    Poor Nathan, your work always sounds exciting, but I guess with Steven Segal involved, there is a definite downside.

  3. LIsa, that job definitely had its downside…but to balance that, we got to blow up lots of stuff. Blowing up stuff is always a fair trade-off.

    And, I got to have a gravestone with my name on it riddled with machine-gun fire.

  4. The funny thing about this for me is that I’m re-reading George R. R. Martin’s The Armageddon Rag this week, and the notion of looking for deep meaning in Hannah Montana is such a notional clash with that book that it practically sprains my brain just to think of it.

  5. The funny thing about this for me is that I know the keyboard player who is touring with her right now. We went to high school together.

    Isn’t this just like film students who start analyzing EVERYTHING? I remember having a moment where the mise-en-scene in Beverly Hills, 90210 was having meaning to me. That’s when I realized I was getting too into film classes.

  6. “Honestly, though, even if Wood is just taking the piss here, there’s a certain point at which you draw back from the precipice; with lines like “Cyrus utilizes television’s simulacrum of reality to depict a version of herself that’s lifelike enough to make you care about her,” Wood has hurled himself well into the inky darkness, and all that’s left is to wait for the muted splat, signifying the bone-powdering impact of his snarky cheekiness against the dark and smooth basalt floor of unintentional pretension.”

    Dude, I know you’re a professional writer and, like, JETLAGGED, but, uh…

    Trying to, like, channel Faulkner or EL Doctorow?

  7. *sigh* I cannot believe I just subscribed to that paper, too.

    the ghost of Lester Bangs=favorite. reference. ever.

  8. So, is it just me, or does anybody else think of Montana Wildhack when they read Hannah Montana. And I keep thinking why would anybody name their onstage persona for a teen pop-star after a fictional pornstar?

  9. I have a better idea. This clown needs to be beaten about the head with a Louisville Slugger — preferably by someone like Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa. And this should continue until he has some sense beaten into him — or until he is beaten senseless, whichever comes first.

  10. Look, you go through school learning — nay, being encouraged — to write that way, and you get out, and you don’t know any other way. He probably couldn’t write a simple declarative paragraph at gunpoint. It’s like those homeless grad students you see with signs saying “Will Deconstruct For ‘Food’ .”

  11. Ex-Fed:

    ‘It’s like those homeless grad students you see with signs saying “Will Deconstruct For ‘Food’ .”’

    Um… where exactly is it you live, Ex-Fed?

  12. one wonders how much mileage he might get out of, say, The Parent Trap. (we’re talking the Hayley Mills one right? not that remade piece of shit. Now how many of you have Let’s get together running around in your heads? Bawahahahaha!)

    But, see I think we could have fun with Mikael Wood. We could all write to The Times expressing how much we like his review and demanding that he be assigned to review other bubblegum fare. Personally I’d like to see his analysis of that episode of Gilligan’s Island where Mrs Howell, Ginger, and Mary Anne performed as the “Honey Bees.”

    What?

  13. “Now how many of you have Let’s get together running around in your heads? Bawahahahaha!)”

    Curse you, Wright and may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits!

  14. My guess is that he did not want the assignment, and intentionally turned in a horrid review as revenge.

  15. Scalzi:
    “Ex-Fed:

    ‘It’s like those homeless grad students you see with signs saying “Will Deconstruct For ‘Food’ .”’

    Um… where exactly is it you live, Ex-Fed?”

    I’m guessing Hyde Park.

  16. arrgh!!! Damn you, Jim Wright.

    I’m going to see if the other “Let’s” songs in order will will clean it from my head – Let’s Go (The Cars), Let’s Go Crazy (Prince), Let’s Go Driving (Barzin), Let’s Go Steady Again (Neil Sedaka), Let’s Go To Bed (The Cure), Let’s Go West Again (Eddy Duchin), Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go (Isley Bros). Please, let it work.

    Re: the review – please, let it be irony. Please…

  17. Dude, I was so totally high this one time that I conceived of the first four Ramones albums as one extended-length Phillip Glass minimalist piece, but I got nothin’ on that guy.

  18. …but its David Cronenberg-like climax came right before the encore….

    She had a gun shaped like a penis?!? She had a blood-sucking vagina dentata that turned people into zombies hidden in her armpit?!? She sat on stage and pulled her own fingernails and teeth out?!? Is any of that even legal in the United States?!? Has that reviewer even seen a Cronenberg movie?!? Dude, seriously, WTF man? That has got to be the wrong analogy.

  19. Well, the article is clearly facetious, but… There is certainly a sort of bizarre metafictional aspect to the media creation that is Hannah Montana. The character she plays on the show is her, but not her, in much the same way Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld was Jerry Seinfeld, but not quite the real Jerry Seinfeld.

    I’ve seen the disney show a few times, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to be at one of those concerts. Surreal is probably a fitting adjective. Dreamlike, unselfconscious in a selfconscious way… yeah, surreal just about covers it. I can’t blame Wood for writing the things he did.

    Did he go over the top? Sure. But Hannah Montana, let me assure you, is really weird.

  20. The Parent Trap – with Haley Mills? Oh jebus, must have seen that about a thousand times when I was a kid. And then never ever saw it again until we watched it with friends after too many beers. While we were not infected with the “Let’s Get Together” virus we had to put up with our wives deciding that Brian Keith looked pretty good in tight jeans and continually backing up the DVD to view the evidence. Fortunately Maureen O’Hara was quite the fox in her own right and that made it bearable. Sorry to thread highjack, resume your positions.

    I’m all in favor of the ghost of Lester Bangs but Hilburn. Hilburn panned Zeppelin back in the day. Waterboard him as well!

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