Disney Channel is now a place of singing teenagers and talking dogs—however, it wasn’t always this feeble-minded. Disney Channel Original Movies taught lessons with diverse casts of people of color. This was not limited to live-action. Diversity extended to Disney’s cartoons, such as The Proud Family.
Some socially aware Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) that probably would not be produced by today’s Disney include:
- The Color of Friendship: An Emmy-winning children’s movie highlighting white privilege and racism. It was “inspired by actual events about the friendship between two girls, one from the United States and the other from apartheid South Africa, who learn about tolerance and friendship“.
- Gotta Kick it Up: This DCOM centered around a cheerleading group of a predominantly Latin-American populated school. When the cheerleaders got their new coach, Ms. Bartlett, the girls were hesitant to trust her as she was old fashioned and—well, white. It showed problems that many minority populated public schools face, such as limited space and funds for sports and uniforms. The girls showed strength coming together to raise money and find middle ground with their new coach. This movie was great for many young Latinx kids watching Disney Channel, as they rarely saw characters that resembled them on TV.
Disney Channel shows that went against the status quo:
- The Proud Family: A show about an all black family, yes you read that right. This show was all about diversity and teaching lessons. They had large POC cast with Penny’s family, Lacienega’s which was latinx, and other characters such as Dijonay and Sticky. They also taught us about religion and how people can from different backgrounds can come together. In the 2001 episode surrounding kwanzaa, they encounter a homeless family that differs from them as they don’t celebrate Christmas and are vegan. They are also conservative about money as they do not accept help when offered and instead invite the Proud’s for dinner.
- That’s So Raven: Another show surrounding a Black-American family. This show was way beyond it’s airing time, and it was progressive before it was trendy. They touched on subjects about racism and fat-shaming.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P54NPwbVRg
These shows contributed to the open minds of today’s generation of millennials. Unfortunately, there are not many shows and movies like these airing today. Are we becoming a stagnant society? Or even worse, are we taking two steps back when we should be taking three steps forward?