To be fair, Gomez herself hasn’t shown the talent it would take to play against type. Her range is limited, and she seems more bored
in the role than anything else. In a Parent Trap-like version of the trick used by Dominic Cooper in the upcoming The Devil’s Double, Gomez also plays the British heiress whose identity is temporarily stolen, but she doesn’t take any of
the chances to play up the character’s priggish behavior. Even when playing two roles in the same movie, she seems like a singularly innocent girl-next-door.
The romantic stirrings in Monte Carlo echo Gomez's
much-talked-about off-screen relationship to Justin Bieber, which has raised the ire of dedicated Beliebers even as it has made her a curiosity to
tabloid-reading adults. In a Newsweek article headlined, “Good Girl, Interrupted,” Jaimie Etkin wonders if Gomez is embracing a sexier image as she
gets older. This is familiar and difficult ground for post-Disney Channel stars, who often try to prove to the press they're all grown up—while at the
same time hanging onto the personality traits that endeared them to kids but can make them seem twee and obnoxious to the outside world. It’s a
test that Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus—now perceived by many as bratty and slutty, respectively—both outright failed. And it’s one Shia LaBeouf,
despite his proven ability to draw big box-office numbers and his debatable acting talent, still hasn’t moved beyond. There are still plenty of
people, after all, who would love Shia to just shut up. (Even Stevens fans, by contrast, loved that nervous energy.)
For her part, Gomez seems more than willing to admit that she’s basically still a kid: “I'm at a very young place. I do feel I'm getting
older, becoming an adult. At the same time, I'm still uncomfortable with certain things.” Her beau might know what she’s going through. It
was hard not to feel a little pervy carrying around the February issue of Rolling Stone, with Justin Bieber posing on the Terry Richardson-shot
cover in a pulled-back leather jacket. Things got more awkward when writer Vanessa Grigoriadis referred to him as her “pop-culture crush”
inside. Deepening voice or not, Bieber still looks and acts like a boy. His cover for Vanity Fair, published around the same time, became one of
the magazine’s worst-selling in years, underlining how removed his celebrity is from older, upscale audiences.
In some ways, these are the same growing pains faced by all child stars, including many who haven’t found big success in adulthood, like Corey
Feldman, Macaulay Culkin, or Haley Joel Osment. But those older actors, for better or worse, grew up in front of the whole country in The Goonies, Home Alone, and The Sixth Sense; we just didn’t keep watching them when they eventually did mature. Newer
tween sensations like Gomez, Cyrus, and Bieber are a different, self-contained breed. The massive popularity of the Disney Channel has launched an entire media ecosystem with no adult viewers—leaving most grown-ups as clueless about the details of The Wizards of Waverly Place as they are about Bieber’s strange obsession with the word “swag.” That’s made
Bieber’s and Gomez’s appearances in the gossip rags all the more awkward. Even as they’re on track to become the teenybopper
power-couple of their generation, they remain alien to most everyone else. Monte Carlo won't likely change that.