The Hair Conversation
Like how episode 11 addresses the policing of girls in their dress codes and placing the blame on them, in episode 5 the school tries to police Buffy’s hair. Now, I’m not 100% sure what Buffy’s racial makeup is, but it is clear that what likely is her Black mom isn’t around. With that, she has no access to understanding how to style her hair after a kid complains it is too big.
This leads to two surprising conversations: One dealing with the complications of Black people’s hair and dealing with it on top of a too often noted discrimination against how Black people style their hair. Both of which were surprising topics, to me anyway, for a show written by the creator of Lizzie McGuire to talk about. If only because I remember Lizzie McGuire to be likable but bland.
The Way It Handles Young Relationships
We’ve talked about Andi and Jonah’s relationship, but perhaps was a highlight is Buffy and Marty’s. With them, you get to see the opposite of Andi and Jonah’s. For with Andi and Jonah you see a relationship based on physical attractiveness and the fact the guy isn’t a used douche. With Buffy and Marty however, you see something more natural. Between their banter, love of sports, and how they seem to understand each other’s strengths and faults, you see what is the beginning of perhaps a healthy relationship. One which relies more on compatibility and understanding than “They’re cute, how can I make them mine?”
Something I think is important for we don’t get to see that often. Be it in shows aimed at young audiences like this or for those my age and beyond. And it truly does matter. For as noted in Vox’s “The Hotline Hollywood Calls for Science Advice,” television is the “Accidental Curriculum” and I’m sure this example is something some young person may take to heart. Especially if they don’t have a healthy relationship example in their home.
The Queer Factor
All signs point to Cyrus being queer. As for whether he is bi, gay, or somewhere else on the spectrum, that isn’t known. All we know is that there will be “A boy […] coming to terms with his sexuality.” Which is something big for Disney. If only because, in my mind, Disney Channel is perhaps the standard bearer of wholesome, kid-focused, and parent approved entertainment. Unlike Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, there weren’t progressive or adult-oriented themes. Pretty much, all shows had two parents, with the white picket fence dream, or something close to it. There was, outside of the one-off episode, no reason the shows itself would make headlines.
Yet, among the many Andi Mack is deserving of, we got a queer character who is part of the main cast. Not a friend who comes and goes, but is seen damn near every episode. Now, granted, it is, strictly in my opinion, unfortunate it seemingly will be Cyrus[note]I recognize it is slightly problematic to say “unfortunate.” However, at Cyrus’ age, I think the rumors of him being gay or considered so, would exist. To me, a more interesting storyline would be if Jonah was since it wouldn’t be assumed. Especially because that would open the doors for some non-gender conformity in Cyrus. In terms of him having feminine traits yet still being into girls. [/note], but progress is progress.
Evolving Family Dynamics
Family is complicated. It’s noted in the first heading of the highlights. But what I like about this show is that the majority of the issues in this family aren’t solved overnight. Andi getting over Celia possibly forcing Bex to give up Andi is, but everything else isn’t. Not until episode 10 does Andi call Bex “mom.” Celia and Bex’s relationship heals over the season but isn’t fixed. Heck, even when it comes to Bowie, between his relationship with Andi and Bex, neither one seems really stable or Disney traditional.
With Bex, she loves him but recognizes he is good for a moment but too spontaneous for a lifetime. Then with Andi, she sort of gets that from a child’s perspective. Yet, that is still her dad and for Bex, it is her last significant love. And as these relationships are revealed to us and evolve, you see them as imperfect and sometimes just barely manageable. Thus making them seem like real families.
It Showed Boys Have Feelings Too
This moment, of a handful we see from Jonah, I thought was noteworthy. If only because, in shows for this age group, featuring a female lead, the boys often are two-dimensional figures. Yes, they may show the emotion of frustration and being hurt sometimes, but Jonah takes it a step beyond. Mostly because, the show doesn’t have its storylines contained in one episode. It is one large arc. One in which we get to see what being with Amber does to Jonah. How it is trying, requires understanding, yet is also rather unhealthy. Which, just like the representation matters for girls to see what a good or bad relationship is, it is needed for boys as well. Something Jonah provides us.