As the arctic air bellowed across the New York City streets for the better half of a month, I was trapped within the confines of the small yet quaint apartment that sheltered my two little sisters and me while my parents were at work. With two little girls in the house, Disney Channel was the consistent choice for what to watch on TV. At first this didn’t seem so bad, as it would grant me a chance to relive beloved childhood pastimes. However, all that changed once I was forced to witness Disney Channel’s disastrous transformation from its former wholesome self. Instead of instilling virtues and providing laughs as it once did, Disney Channel’s current televised trash is teaching children how to be sassy and rude, making the “tween” population grow up at an unwarranted accelerated rate.
Disney Channel once consisted of witty and honest television that would teach children vital lessons about growing up, such as the social and academic hardships they are bound to face and the peer pressures they are bound to encounter. It also simply helped kids see how to be decent human beings. There were cherished shows like “Even Stevens,” “That’s So Raven,” “Sister, Sister,” “Lizzie McGuire,” “Boy Meets World,” “Smart Guy” and yes, even “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (the one where they lived in the hotel). This doesn’t even include the hundreds of animated shows I still believe to be hilarious and exciting, including “Kim Possible,” “Recess,” “The Legend of Tarzan” and many more. Unfortunately, these shows have all been taken off air. The problem is not necessarily that they’ve been removed, since all shows must eventually be replaced at some time or another. Rather, the problem is what these shows have been replaced with. The difference between this generation’s Disney Channel and ours is essentially a holistic plot twist in the majority of their series, where the characters “get away with ‘it,’” as opposed to the shows we were raised with, where they most certainly did not.
Disney Channel used to air episodes where the children would partake in mischievous activities and, despite their best effort, were caught, consequently learning a valuable lesson such as the dangers of bullying or hazards of conformity. Or, as I remember from both Ron in “Kim Possible” and Beans in “Even Stevens,” the dangers of fire. Other episodes advocated individuality, self-confidence and above all, doing what one inherently believes is right notwithstanding the majority. In essence, Disney Channel once showed kids how to rise above what is considered “cool” and how to overcome the severe stresses of popularity at what is already an immensely stressful age.
Based on what I’ve had to sit through in the last two weeks, Disney Channel uses the same plot, except the kids consistently get away with it and don’t ever get caught, never learning the consequences of their actions. In addition, Disney Channel now attempts to teach kids not to overcome the desire for popularity, but instead, how to actually acquire popularity and be “cool” in mindless, stereotypical, gender-specific forms. Therefore, many children are no longer able to establish for themselves the fine line between sassy and humorous and just plain rude and disrespectful, all in their attempts to be like the characters they see on TV.
I must confess my innate bias, since I was not able to watch the shows I originally wanted and was also quite disappointed to find that Disney Channel no longer aired the shows I once worshipped. All the while, I was also desperately trying to comprehend the complexity that is a 12-year-old girl’s mind before I lost mine. Nevertheless, I still was unpleasantly surprised by what Disney Channel has become. With all the advancements in technology, social media pressure and the accessibility to virtually anything on the Internet, children are growing up much faster. I’m not trying to say that television is the only contributing factor, or even one of the biggest. It’s just that Disney Channel in particular was once not only an outlet for kids to relax and de-stress, but also a means for them to obtain entertainment and essential guidance since no rational prepubescent child will ever take advice from their parents or their much more experienced and wiser older brother.