Words || Brooke Mason
We’re living in a time where TV is more accessible than ever, and consumption culture is very prevalent. I like to think that the 90s babies managed to get the best of both worlds, we had a good mix of toys requiring imagination, as well as a few more technologically evolved ones. We had the best era of Disney Channel. I mean, Miley Cyrus, Hillary Duff, Selena Gomez, Cole & Dylan Sprouse! There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the ULTIMATE Disney channel.
I mean, I feel like my childhood was a lie when I see Miley Cyrus now… DANG FLABBIT. Disney’s unrealistic ideology influenced how we as millennials or Gen Zers perceive the world. Aside from the flawless American accent I can now imitate, I feel like my expectations for life, including relationships, careers, friendships etc., were set well above the bar thanks to Disney. I mean don’t get me wrong, I loved watching Disney, and the underlying message of all these shows were empowering and important, but do I have unrealistic expectations of living a fantasy with my Prince Charming now? Kinda.
Let’s unpack this.
Okay to be fair, I was ALWAYS confused that no one had realised that Miley was Hannah?! Especially her best friends who didn’t even realise it face to face with Hannah… This show made us all want to be secret pop sensations, with a quirky personality who has regular run-ins with ridiculously attractive guys. It made us think that anything was possible. Anyone else want to be famous after watching this? I figured fame would be incredible! Travel the world, singing to crowds of people. All very glamorous. Anyone else get some sick burns from Jackson to serve up to their siblings?
Arguably the best Disney show of the 00s, Lizzie maguire set the most realistic expectations for life after Disney. Lizzie was just a normal girl, trying to get through high school. Her parents were realistic, she had an annoying younger brother, and two BFFs to get her through. Unfortunately one of the most problematic aspects of this show was the movie. We see a luxurious school trip to Italy, hot lip syncing stars, Italian doppelgangers, and SO, MUCH, MORE. This was too much Lizzie. Too much. To be fair it was a great movie, but it has me forever waiting for my summer in Europe with my Paolo…
A Cinderella Story
So many Disney movies and shows set unrealistic expectations, but this one takes the cake. Or should I say all three of them released in the 00s do. This series of unrelated movies were literally adapted from a fairytale, and made real! As kids, we all heard fairytales, and really that’s what they were – tales. But no, Disney just had to do me like this. They had to make me think that fairytales can happen in real life!
Wizards of Waverly Place
I definitely believed I was secretly a wizard after this show, and I’m sure my mother was unimpressed with the newfound sass I had thanks to Alex Russo’s quick wit. I think this show set high expectations of people’s personalities for me. It made me think that everyone should have a huge personality, and a million different quirks. So. Not. True.
The Suite Life of Zach and Cody
This show just promoted mischief, and definitely planted ideas in my head of what I might be able to get up to while staying in a hotel. Pranks aside, this show aided a serious issue within some Disney shows. The character, Esteban and his job in the hotel low-key perpetuated racist stereotypes. Does this have anything to do with the innate racism in some people today? The one they don’t even realise is there, all the while it’s influencing their everyday lives? Hmmm….
That’s So Raven
This show had a promising, powerful main character. It was funny and witty, with some awesome storylines. What this show did through Raven’s BFF, Chelsea, was make me think that there are people who are just plain dumb. This character is usually there for comedic relief, but really Disney?
As one of the most iconic Disney movies to date, this one holds a special place in my heart. Camp rock perpetuated my desire to randomly meet a celebrity, act coy around them, and have them fall in love with me. It sticks to the stereotypes of the mean girl, (who always happens to be blonde), a diverse cast of talented musicians, the class division of the poor and rich. This movie had it all, including spontaneous dance numbers where everyone happened to know the moves and lyrics… Camp was never like this for me, nor have I ever been involved in a spontaneous dance number. I can barely learn a Tik Tok dance.
High School Musical
Now this trilogy was one of my favourites. I couldn’t count how many times I watched all three movies. I seem to have retained all the lyrics, as well as much of the choreography. These movies were truly great. I’d expected my high school experience to be basically identical. To my surprise, going to an all-girls Catholic school was hardly the HSM experience.
Every story in Disney had a well rounded arc. The characters face some kind of adversity, they work to deal with it, often hitting rock bottom, then they rise above to solve it very swiftly, all the while finding the love of their life… in high school. This taught us that things will always end the way we want them to. Always neat and tidy, and I’m sure by now, we all know this is rarely the case. Couldn’t some characters fail and have to deal with that?
All in all, Disney Channel is always improving and trying to keep up with the modern world. It’s female characters continue to get stronger, and we have even seen the first gay story arc introduced in 2017. As much as Disney has influenced my fantasy worldview, I think it’s important to note that this is what it’s meant to be, right? Disney Channel is a place where young people can laugh, love and cry along with the lovable characters, and somewhat fictional storylines. After all, most of us aren’t going to get to live that life.