Disney Channel has seemingly steered away from teenage wizards and singer/songwriters living “the best of both worlds” and is shifting gears to more pressing topics. While this might be surprising for those who have grown out of Disney Channel shows and have no recollection of Disney shedding light on social issues, this is the television programming that is entertaining and educating 2018’s young Disney Channel watchers worldwide. From unique family situations and home environments to LGBTQ+ themes including identity-related challenges and lessons, Disney is serving cable television everywhere with themes and messages that are unorthodox and utterly relevant.
This Fall, Disney Channel is airing new episodes of Disney Channel favorites, “Andi Mack” and “Raven’s Home,” along with the new series, “Coop & Cami Ask the World,” Disney premiered the third season of “Andi Mack” on Oct. 8. This season, the cast promises character growth, jaw-dropping plot twists and more. The story of “Andi Mack” is one of an unusual family-life between mother and daughter. Actress Lilan Bowden plays the character “Bex,” the main character’s mother.
“Bex has been away from home, rides a motorcycle, she kind of cast off her family for a while, but now, she’s back to make amends and to be a good mother,” Bowden said. “The challenges of taking on the role of Bex is all of that turmoil of what it means to be someone who lied to your daughter about being their older sister and that is a very interesting, emotional journey that Bex takes me on.”
The fictional and unique relationship between “Bex” and “Andi Mack” is an example of how real life families range under every roof. The brand new series airing this Fall, “Coop & Cami Ask the World” is another show featuring messages surrounding family with a spotlight on character, “Jenna Wrather,” played by Rebecca Metz. Jenna is a single mother of four since her husband’s passing.
“The Wrathers are adjusting to a new dynamic in their family since they’ve lost their father. Jenna is frazzled some of the time with juggling four kids by herself and working, but she loves her kids like crazy,” Metz said. “When this role came to me, it made me think about how important it is for all different kinds of families to see themselves represented on television and to know that I was going to be able to bring a single-parent household, a single mom to Disney Channel so that kids could see it and feel like they see themselves and see different kinds of families, not self-conscious or confused about why their family is different.”
While Disney is showcasing an array of family matters, the channel is not neglecting to raise attention to many social issues, as well. Specifically, Raven’s Home frequently spreads the message surrounding female empowerment.
“My character, ‘Tess’ does a lot of things in the show that people would think that boys typically do,” Actress Sky Katz said. “She plays basketball, she raps, she does all this, sometimes her personality could be a little like that. So it shows that boys don’t typically do anything, but boys and girls can both do anything and I feel like that’s important for the ‘tomboys’ around the world to see and to get that message across.”
“Raven’s Home” definitely does its fair-share in dipping their toes in the theme of female empowerment through the young girls and women portrayed on the show and the challenges they face in each episode. Through “Tess’” less traditional feminine characteristics to “Nia’s” fight for equal opportunities, the series is taking its place on Disney Channel with the goal of spreading positive messages regarding identity.
“The female empowerment theme is very important to us on our set,” Actress Navia Robinson (Nia) said. We have a lot of female writers, female executives, so it’s really important to us and it’s expressed in a lot of episodes, so watchers will definitely see a lot of that.”
Disney Channel is changing their portrayal of family life in the United States. However, as times change, Disney has continued to progress by introducing tolerance and the free flow of ideas to young viewers across the nation, allowing more relatable storylines for watchers and families from diverse backgrounds everywhere to enjoy and resonate with.