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  • Ava Jane Josef

Representation in Disney Channel

Hi everyone! My articles are going to be about casting and representation in TV shows, movies, and the entertainment industry as a whole. I believe TV shows and movies are one of the most influential forms of media. The entertainment industry has the power to challenge stereotypes, and recently, many TV shows and movies have begun to do so. From children’s cartoons to our favorite teen dramas, people of different sexualities, gender identities, races, and ethnicities are beginning to have the representation they finally deserve.

This week, I will be focusing on Disney Channel. We all grew up watching Disney movies and TV shows. Disney+ and Disney Channel have always imparted the message to their young audience that they can do anything and be anything. However, when I think of my favorite Disney TV shows and movies from my childhood, I rarely saw LGBTQ+ representation or racial diversity. For example, take the TV show Jessie. Starring Debby Ryan, Jessie is the story of a nanny who moves to New York to take care of 4 kids who live in a penthouse with their butler, Bertram. While the show always made me laugh, it unfortunately enforces many stereotypes. Zuri being the sassy black girl, Ravi being the Indian nerd, and Emma being the bratty, spoiled white girl. While the show itself was funny and engaging, the writers should have used the diversity and talent of the actors in the show to break stereotypes.

Many other shows I enjoy from Disney Channel have straight, white main characters. Often, the best friend/sidekick is a POC. For example, in Good Luck Charlie, the main character has a best friend named Ivy, who is black. The whole family in this show is white, and all of Teddy’s love interests are white as well. Another example I am positive you all are familiar with is High School Musical. The two white main characters, Troy and Gabriela, both have best friends who are POC, Taylor and Chad. Troy and Chad are especially competitive, yet Troy always gets the spotlight and success. This common situation of a “black/POC best friend” enforces the privilege and dominance of white people. These shows shaped my childhood, and greatly influenced me and many others. But, Disney Channel's lack of diversity of characters in their shows and movies reinforces this stereotyped narrative from a young age. A lack of POC/LGBTQ+ characters in children’s entertainment is both upsetting and potentially dangerous. It can set a foundation for biases that are hard to break as children mature.

Currently, Disney has been showing growth in representation to a great extent. The live action movie of Mulan, which came out this year, has an all asian or asian-american cast! I assume most of you are familiar with the story of Mulan, and it is very empowering for women and asians of all ages. The Disney Channel TV shows have also shown much more representation of the LGBTQ+ community. In newer shows like Andi Mack and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, gay/lesbian characters and same-sex couples are both featured. Although Disney as a whole still has progress to make, they are beginning to show the much needed representation that their audience deserves. I am so excited to see the continuation of more diverse casts and empowering Disney productions!



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