Dear Disney Channel Executives,
My daughter Journey has recently become a fan of the Disney Channel. She just turned 7, she has officially outgrown Nick Jr. and since Nick seems to show SpongeBob all day, she has moved over to the Disney channel. At first, she was pretty much only watching Phineas and Ferb. Eventually, she started watching the rest of the line up including Good Luck Charlie, Austin and Ally, Shake It Up and Jessie.
The more she watched, the more I realized that all of scripted shows on the channel have one thing in common—all the storylines center around pretending to be something you are not or lying to get what you want. I also realized that just about all of the episodes are recycled sitcom storylines from 20+ years ago with the same premise. The pet that dies (or gets lost) and is replaced. The favorite item that is mistakenly given away and has to be retrieved by any means necessary. The boy who pretends to be someone he’s not to get the girl or vice versa. While the setting, faces and fashion has changed, the stories are basically the same.
So much of our world has changed in the past ten years alone. Yet Disney continues to promote shows built around formulaic characters that reinforce negative cultural and gender stereotypes. There’s the doofus dad (Good Luck Charlie, A.N.T. Farm); the scheming brother (Good Luck Charlie, Jessie, Wizards of Waverly Place); the not too bright best friend (Wizards of Waverly Place, Austin & Ally). But the worse show on the channel by far is Jessie. A show about self-absorbed absentee parents that have left a flighty, inexperienced nanny and lazy butler to care for their culturally diverse adopted brood that represents as many stereotypes as it does ethnicities.
I am also concerned about the portrayal of mature subject matter between some of the characters. Girls and boys regularly pursue each other and sometimes end up in relationships. While this may be appropriate for teenagers, I don’t think it is behavior that should be presented to children around my daughter’s age.
At first, I thought it was my fault for allowing her to watch a channel that was programmed for older children. But after a bit of research, I realized that Disney Channel is programmed for kids ages 6-14. The obvious way to solve my dilemma with your programming would be to change the channel, and believe me that is exactly what I did. When I made that decision, I sat my daughter down to explain why she couldn’t watch the channel anymore. She was upset about it, but she did agree that most of the characters make bad choices at one point or another. “But mom, they always fix it by the end of the show,” she said. This is the message that our children are getting—that no matter how many times you lie, scheme or make bad decisions, it will all work out in the end. Of course, anyone over the age of 7 knows that is simply not true.
With three Disney channels, I am asking that you consider airing programming on one of them that is suitable for kids ages 6-10. Or at the very least, a block of programming during after school hours that features shows like Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls, and Disney feature films, as well as age appropriate scripted shows.
But then again, maybe I’m just expecting too much from a corporate conglomerate that occupies such a large place in the hearts and minds of children across the globe. In the end, it’s up to me as the parent to make sure that the content that my child is exposed to is in line with my beliefs and values. So for now, much to my daughter’s dismay, she is no longer allowed to watch the Disney Channel.
Parents, do you agree or disagree? If you do, like and share this post.