Why Young Actors SHOUT Their LINES

Todd VanDerWerff (who links back to me, and I link back to him; it’s all a game of blog-tag), in his enjoyably luke-warm review of ABC Family’s Hannah Montana wanna-be Ruby and the Rockits, notes that it has at least one advantage over the show it’s imitating. Alexa Vega, unlike Miley Cyrus, doesn’t feel the need to scream every single line she’s given:

Cyrus’ Hannah performance is one of the strangest things to ever make it on mainstream television, as though she stepped through a time portal out of the cast of a popular ‘20s stage musical and into a sitcom and didn’t bother modulating her performance at all. She SHOUTS EVERY LINE, and the rest of the cast HAS TO MATCH HER or GET LEFT BEHIND.

The bizarreness (is that a word?) of Miley Cyrus’s acting is indeed something to behold. It’s not like she doesn’t have talent, or a certain charm, but she never really modulates her performance. It’s not just the volume; it’s that her solution to a quieter scene is simply to be broad and shrill at a lower volume. And when the line actually calls for her to shout, God help us; she sounds like she’s the “hey you guys!” lady at the start of The Electric Company.

To be fair to Cyrus, some of this appears to be an aesthetic preference on the part of the directors and producers of these shows. Many of them have their roots in the old TGIF empire, which in turn had its roots in the old Tom Miller/Eddie Milkis fiefdom at Paramount, and most of these shows seemed to operate on the theory that kids are more appealing if they shout their lines and play very broadly. Maybe it was supposed to be a contrast with the old cliche of kids who were cute and quiet; maybe it was just a desperation ploy so kids could be heard by a studio audience, but you can trace a direct line back from Hannah Montana to the ancestor of all TGIF and Disney Channel shows, Happy Days. (Warning: 1982-3 season alert. Not suitable for viewing by anyone.)


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