After Girl Meets World ended, I figured I’d finally put an end to watching The Disney Channel. However, Google decided otherwise. First, it ruins the twist of this show then reveals Disney is breaking away from just focusing on Black or white leads and having a young Asian girl? Plus, there was talk of this not being their usual, overtly silly, G-rated type shows? I couldn’t help myself and now I’m contemplating if whether I want to watch and review this series.
At the age of 13, Andi’s [note] Peyton Elizabeth Lee[/note] world gets flipped on its head. Not because her crush Jonah [note] Asher Angel [/note] gives her a personal Frisbee lesson, or even because she now has a motor scooter. What changes her world is that what she thought was her sister, Rebecca (or Bex) [note] Lilan Bowden [/note], is actually her mom. Meaning who she thought was her mom is her grandmother, who she thought was her dad is now her granddad and as for her father? Well, who is that?
This now teen who once had a simple suburban life, filled with arts and crafts and the standard one white friend and one black friend, now has to rediscover what it means to be Andi Mack. Much less, who is this person who once was the cool older sister but became the mother who abandoned her.
Things To Note
It really seemed for Celia [note]Lauren Tom[/note] that Andi was a second chance at raising a daughter. Perhaps one which doesn’t turn out like Bex. Which, considering how Bex jokes about giving Andi a math book for her birthday, maybe there might be some cultural nods in the show. I can’t say if they are appropriate or relatable since I’m not Asian, but fingers crossed that Andi doesn’t end up whitewashed.
Disney Inching Closer to Nickelodeon’s Style
When it came to wholesome and conservative approved shows, The Disney Channel was the place you could abandon your kids without any worries. However, with Good Luck Charlie featuring queer parents, or a couple [note]I stopped watching before that storyline happened[/note], Girl Meets World pushing the boundaries of Disney as far as it could go, and their stars increasingly being vocal on social issues and not just being money making machines, something had to change. With Andi Mack, I think we are seeing the product of all that.
Just for some examples, there is a joke about Andi getting her period. There is a girl named Amber[note] Emily Skinner [/note] who, when she shows up, decides to say “Amber Alert” and Andi has to reveal to her that is about when kids are kidnapped. On top of that, there are conversations about nudity, in terms of a festival Rebecca went to when people usually get naked and being someone who has off and on watched Disney since the late 90s, this show seems foreign.
Mostly because, for those who remember Teen Nick, it seems like the type of show which Nickelodeon would have produced as a sort of transition program. One which isn’t going to use Jade’s joke, from VicTORIous about how when her grades dropped it coincided with her breast development, but it will explore the realities of what it means to be a teenager. How there is this curiosity and desire to know the world outside the scope of what your parents think is appropriate. Then, on top of that, deal with the changing relationships, or desire for a relationship, you and your friends are having.
Something which seemed very taboo on Disney before, yet almost everything about this show seems like a new path being forged.
An Asian Lead
Black and white characters have pretty much become a rule in the majority of shows. No matter the network or show, you must have a token Black or white character. However, when it comes to Asians and Latinos, it seemed to be that the Black character met the diversity quota so maybe a Latino was added in, maybe an Asian Indian person, but Eastern Asian men and women? Hardly ever. So with this show featuring three Asian characters, and our lead being a clearly Asian girl, who is not racial ambiguous [note] No shade[/note], this is a big deal. For the Disney platform pretty much means this child is set. Especially since this is a Disney Channel US original and just the notoriety of this being one of their first Asian stars/leads [note]I’m not pretending Brenda Song doesn’t exist but she played a supporting role on a show, got one movie, and then Disney seemed to stop investing in her heavily.[/note] will carry her well into her late teens. Hopefully leading to a productive adult career.
While Story and Content Wise It Moves Forward, There Are Some Familiar Disney Tropes
Is it wrong for me to say the whole, “One Black friend, one White friend” thing is a bit annoying? I get and appreciate diversity, but it does often seem like something networks feel they have to do vs. what they want to do. On top of that, would it have been so bad for her to have an Asian boy as either her friend or crush? Heck, maybe even the black girl replaced by an Asian girl? For if there is one thing I fear about this show, it is that it whitewashes Andi so that, yeah, she is Asian, but really she is just any old type of girl. No culture really, she is just suburban and into arts and crafts. You know?
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
I’m using the fact I watch anime which features kids and teens as my personal excuse for wanting to follow Andi’s story. Though, setting aside the whole weirdness of a 25-year-old enjoying a show for tweens, I must admit I’m curious as to where Disney may take this. For all my life, Disney has been the epitome of basic. Outside of That’s So Raven, it kept things clean, non-political, and very family oriented. Everyone had a mom, dad, usually an annoying brother, and it was very post-WWII America. A nuclear family was the foundation of everything.
However, with Andi Mack, now we have Rebecca who isn’t with the father of Andi, the topic of Amber Alerts and periods, and considering how far Girl Meets World went, you got to wonder what is the glass ceiling for this show? Hence the Positive label for this pilot sells itself better than many shows do. Albeit, it still has the reins on it and certainly follows some of Disney’s old formula, but I think that familiarity is but part of the foundation for a whole new direction for the network.