The Beginning of a New Age for Disney
By: Victoria R.
Disney has made groundbreaking changes in the type of content displayed on its television channel – a main one being the introduction of an LGBTQ+ storyline of a main character in their hit show, Andi Mack.
Since the series premiere of Andi Mack in April of this year, many barriers have been broken within the type of content displayed on Disney Channel. Straight from the pilot, the plot began with the main character, Andi Mack, learning that the woman who she thought was her older sister was actually her mother. The woman who she was raised by was then revealed to be her grandmother, and Andi was faced with the reality that her life wasn’t at all what she thought it was. The rest of the plot in the first season unraveled with Andi and her friends, Buffy and Cyrus, attempting to learn more about whom they really are and their true place in the world.
Positive feedback from the first season led Disney to hit even harder with its second season. The season two premiere began with Andi trying to figure out her feelings for Jonah Beck, when Disney stunned its audience by revealing that Cyrus was trying to figure out the same thing for himself. The groundbreaking scene went down in the familiar setting of The Spoon: a diner at which the group of friends often meets throughout the show. Here, Cyrus revealed to Buffy that he was jealous of Andi because he liked Jonah as well. In addition to the scene providing such raw emotion from the actors, it also provided children with an example of how to react in this type of situation. “’I feel weird,” Cyrus said with teary eyes, “different.” Buffy responded with support in saying, “Cyrus, you’ve always been weird, but you aren’t any different.”
A lot of praise was given to Disney for how it handled the intense themes and topics displayed in the episode. One viewer wrote, “Andi Mack just smashed the mold for Disney and gave us the representation we’ve been longing for.” The episode was even used as an example by organizations such as Common Sense Media, GLAAD and PFLAG. “Showing a character who is in the LGBTQ+ community is not only a way to show inclusion and acceptance in Disney programming but it also gives young pre-teens, who might be struggling through the same thing, someone to look up to and hope that acceptance is possible. It gives them the knowledge that many people may be going through now, or have gone through already, similar situations.” Eastern Michigan University applauded Disney’s work.
Still, as the love for Andi Mack increased, so did the concern and criticism of many. An organization named “One Million Moms” got seven thousand signatures boycotting Disney in response to the LGBTQ+ storyline. “One might question why Disney Channel feels the need to pursue such programming,” the organization proclaimed, “What is wrong with having family-friendly content that is acceptable for all ages or even leaving a couple of networks solely for children’s entertainment?” It has been reported that Andi Mack was also banned in Kenya for the same reasons.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee, the actress of Andi herself responded to the backlash by saying “All of the stories in Andi Mack, particularly Cyrus’ story, give this amazing opportunity to open conversation between parents and kids, or between friends.” The rest of the cast, crew, and creators of Andi Mack have all spoke out defending the LGBTQ+ storyline as well, giving fans of the show hope that they will continue to tackle groundbreaking, relatable messages throughout the rest of the show, despite the boycotts and bans taking place.