One of the things that stood out to me from the interview with Susan McLeland was her comment about how young viewers don’t appreciate Roseanne until they are older because “the kid characters are pills.” That got me thinking about what shows a younger audience does cling to, and then I thought of Disney Channel.
Just like most people our age, I grew up loving Disney Channel shows. Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, and Hannah Montana were a few of my favorites. Now when I think about these shows in the context of family dynamics, I think they portray a skewed sense of relationships with parents.
Let’s use Hannah Montana as an example. In the show, Miley’s mother died when she was young, so she and her brother were raised by their single father, Robby Ray Stewart. Robby Ray is also Miley’s pop star alter ego’s manager. This creates an interesting dynamic because he is her father and involved in her career. However, he is not portrayed as an authority figure in the show because Miley pretty much does whatever she wants with little to no consequences for her actions. He’s more of her friend than her father.
One episode in particular that stands out to me is the episode “I Want You to Want Me…to go to Florida” in season 2. Miley wants to go to Florida so that she can sing as Hannah Montana against rival pop star, Mikayla on a late night talk show. When her dad hurts his back, he tells her he cannot fly on a plane for five hours, and that she is too young to fly alone. Miley goes against her father’s instructions and decides to go to Florida alone. When her dad finds out she has defied him, he gets to the airport before the plane takes off, and writes Miley a song about how he is coping with the fact that she is growing up. He gets off the plane at the layover on the way to Florida, and lets Miley continue to Florida alone in order to perform on the talk show.
I don’t know about you, but that is not at all how either of my parents would have handled this situation. I think this gives the young viewer a false sense of independence and lack of consequences, but maybe that’s the appeal. What kid wouldn’t want the best of both worlds?