Have you ever looked at a the modern incarnation of a certain TV show or network that you used to watch as a kid, and been severely disappointed in it? We've all had that moment in our lives where we look at something that brought us joy as a child, and say "Man, this is not as good as it was when I was young!"
This is what I like to call, "nostalgia goggles" (patent pending). If you've got nostalgia goggles on, then you're reacting in one of two ways; either you look at something from your childhood and even though it might not be the best thing in the world, you treat it as such because you loved it so much as a kid.
Or, you look at something from the current generation and despise it because you think that it was much better during your childhood. Us, our parents and our grandparents are all guilty of wearing heavy nostalgia goggles!
But the big question is: Are nostalgia goggles clouding our judgment, or strengthening it? Is our inability to let go of the past affecting the way we see the present or the future?
There have been times where I've looked at something, either from my childhood or my brother's current one, and judged it unfairly. For example, I used to LOVE The Cat In The Hat, the live-action version starring Mike Myers.
I recently found the movie hidden in the far back of my DVD shelf (where I should have left it) and decided that since it was such a childhood favorite of mine, I'd watch it again for old times sake! As much as I tried to remind myself that I loved this movie, my nostalgia goggles weren't strong enough. Don't get me wrong, there were still things I enjoyed about the movie, and it still has a special place in my nostalgic heart...it's just a place I won't be visiting too often.
I've also poorly judged something from the current generation, a show my brothers love to watch; Star vs. the Forces of Evil.
It's a fairly new animated show that airs on Disney XD, revolving around the titular character Star and her friend Marco as they...well, vs. the Forces of Evil. While it's not the best thing in the world, Star vs. the Forces of Evil is actually a pretty good show. It's cute, kind of funny and the animation is awesome. It reminds me a lot of Gravity Falls or Steven Universe - two more shows that I judged unfairly at first glance.
These shows have made me realize that not every kids show is immediately a bad one, and that a lot of them can be smart, creative and just downright really fun to watch!
So with that in mind, I decided to take a look back at an entire channel that used to bring me joy - especially on Saturday mornings - but recently has caused me to let out a long and disappointed sigh at the mere mention of its name. I'm talking about Disney Channel.
Disney Channel is one of the longest running kids channels in the world, and it shows, because there's no way you haven't heard of it. Disney is the cheery and whimsical glue that holds all of our childhoods together—and Disney Channel is a part of that adhesive.
Our parents watched Disney Channel (back when Justin Timberlake had ramen noodle hair), we watched Disney Channel, and soon our kids will be watching it. I'm hoping that when I have kids, TV will be all futuristic and cool with holographic technology and smell-o-vision!
But anyway, Disney Channel has certainly changed since the days of my childhood, and I honestly can't say that I'm a fan of it. Really if you ask most people what the general consensus on modern Disney Channel is, they'll tell you that it's in a bit of a decline; whether in quality or ratings.
Now, I'm not saying that there aren't people who like modern Disney Channel, there are. But personally, I don't like it. Why? Well, if you had asked me about a month ago, I wouldn't have an answer for you. My dislike for Disney Channel was one I really couldn't explain, mainly because I just never really thought about it.
But recently, I began to fear that I was unfairly judging the channel; that I was wrongly accusing it of being in a bad state. So for the sake of not wanting to be that guy who hates modern things because "My generation was better!", I decided to do some research.
I watched a few episodes of the shows of this generation, and then - through the power of YouTube - found some episodes of the shows of my generation. Now, before I continue with this, let me state that I am IN NO WAY trying to mess with your childhood. If you're a kid - or even an adult - who likes modern Disney Channel, by all means, continue to like it.
This is just an opinion on modern DC (not that one..or that one) and the problems I feel that it has. This is all from a nostalgic point of view, but I'm not going to let my childhood memories affect the way I talk about this new generation's future childhood memories. That being said, I still don't like Disney Channel - and a lot of it has to do with principles that it had during my and previous generations, that I feel it's either lost or nearly forgotten.
Now I know what you're thinking
"You aren't meant to relate to them, the younger generation is". But to be honest, I'm not even sure that the younger generation can relate to the cardboard cutout characters of modern Disney Channel.
The character's I've seen on Disney Channel today are very one-dimensional. An example of this is Liv and Maddie. The show centers around two twins who are practically from two different worlds. One likes fashion and acting, the other likes sports and school. And that's all. There's nothing else to them but those specific characteristics. Real people have several defining qualities, quirks and attributes, which makes it really hard to relate to Disney Channel characters that really only have one layer to their personality.
Another thing is the way the characters act, they just don't act like regular teens. Now, my generation had a girl who could tell the future, a guy from the future, a teenage spy and a family of wizards - among other things, and obviously nobody can relate to any of that. But the characters were easily relatable because there was something about them that you could relate to. They all acted like kids and teens in real life did, and they went through things that real kids go through; they felt real.
Granted, they did have something about them that was a bit too unrealistic - and there were always some characters that were over the top. But now, ALL of the characters are over the top!
The stars of Disney Channel today overact too much, they feel forced and overdone. They feel more like characters than real people, and that makes it really difficult to relate to them.
I get that they're supposed to be characters - being that it's a fictional show most of the time - but when you create a character with zero relatable aspects, it makes it easier to lose interest in both the character and the show. So with every character feeling like a cardboard cutout, and a forced over the top dramatization of a real person - instead of an actual real person - you can understand why I'm not too fond with any of the shows/people on modern Disney Channel.
Disney Channel Has Lost Its Voice
This is the biggest reason why I'm not a fan of Disney Channel today. Like I said towards the beginning of this article, Disney Channel is one of the longest running kids networks in the world, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's so popular. Millions of kids tune in to Disney Channel daily, and while it has been suffering from the sudden decline that all kids networks are suffering from today, it isn't being affected as much.
But with so many kids watching every day, you would think that Disney Channel would try to convey some serious messages to their young and impressionable viewers; and they used to. The Disney Channel shows of yesteryear were chock full of lessons and messages that could help anyone watching get through life.
One of my favorite episodes of That's So Raven is a fine example of this. In the episode "True Colors", Raven and her friend Chelsea apply for a job at the same store. Even though Raven has the upper hand skill wise, Chelsea is chosen. It's later revealed that the only reason Raven wasn't picked was because the manager was racist.
The episode deals with racism and how to handle it, and we even learn about a traumatic moment in one of the character's lives, where they weren't allowed to play with a friend as a kid, because the kid's father didn't approve of his child playing with someone of a different race.
Earlier in the same season, the episode "Five Finger Discount" saw Raven's younger brother Cory giving in to peer pressure and shoplifting with his friends. The guilt gets to him, and in the end, he realizes that he doesn't need to shoplift to impress the cool kids.
And it wasn't just That's So Raven, other Disney Channel shows taught valuable life lessons as well. The Lizzie McGuire episode "Inner Beauty" is about Lizzie's friend Miranda developing an eating disorder and starving herself because she feels fat. Eventually, she tells her friends about her disorder, and they help her overcome it.
Even the Disney Channel Original Movies (or DCOMs for short) had important messages. The 2001 DCOM Motocrossed taught people that your gender should never determine who you are or what you can or cannot do—represented by the main character Andrea, who proves that she can motocross regardless of if she's a girl or not.
Some might say that these messages - dealing with things like racism, body shaming and more - are too strong for kids. But I think that kids shows these days are too censored. Society today has just as many issues (if not even more) as society yesterday, and preventing kids from learning about these issues, and learning how to face them with powerful life lessons and messages isn't a good thing at all.
Disney Channel still conveys the message of "Be yourself, and follow your dreams", like in Austin and Ally, where Ally learns to overcome her stage fright and aspire to be who she wants to be.
But this message isn't conveyed strong enough, instead being pushed to the background while the episode focuses more on the goofy hijinks that the characters are getting into.
Before, Disney Channel would try to actually teach their viewers valuable things; things that would help get them through life, and maybe even make them a better person. Sure, Disney Channel has always tried to pander to what's "hip and cool" at the moment, it's how they could stay relevant; but that's not all they had going for them. They had the powerful lessons, and they had their own voice that viewers could listen to.
Nowadays, it seems like all Disney is trying to do is pander to the hip and cool crowd, but poorly. The shows are full of social media, selfies, and popular celebrity references, and a lot of people take issue with that. But the thing is, that's what kids these days are used to. Kids today are always on their phones or on Facebook or Twitter, or any other social media site known to man (and some not *eery music plays*). So really, I don't have any problem with that.
But it seems today like Disney Channel is relying solely on the fact that kids use social media, and hey look, so do their characters! They're trying to act hip and cool, and in the know (all '90s speech yo), but it comes across poorly - like they don't really know how kids act, and are only pretending.
Look at it this way, have you ever had that one person who tried too hard to relate to you and your friends? It could be your mom, your dad, your uncle, for me it's my Philosophy teacher! They come at you, saying your slang and talking about Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, and talking about how they totally "twitted" out a "Facestagram" message the other day. You know they mean well, but no...just no.
That's Disney Channel today! They spend too much time trying to relate to kids today, that they don't spend enough time making real, relatable characters, or teaching actual valuable lessons that will stick with their audience. Disney Channel's voice has gotten really weak in my opinion. But there is one show that I really am starting to like on Disney Channel. One that teaches valuable lessons, has relatable characters and doesn't try so hard to be popular - and in doing so, actually is pretty popular; Girl Meets World.
The sequel to the series Boy Meets World, Girl Meets World centers around Riley Matthews, the daughter of Boy Meets World stars Cory and Topanga Matthews. Admittedly, I wasn't a huge fan of the show when it first came out, I thought that the messages - though strong - were a bit confusing and presented oddly.
But then I realized that the reason I didn't understand the messages as much was because they weren't for me; they're for the kids of this generation. After all, the messages were clearly there, and they were strong, as opposed to other Disney Channel shows. But they weren't messages or lessons about racism or body shaming, they were messages about friendship, family and learning to enjoy life.
For example, in the episode "Girl Meets Boy", Riley and her friends are given the task of communicating face to face, without cell phones. They realize that life is more than just what you see on a phone screen, and learn to communicate and express themselves differently and more freely.
Sure, these messages might not seem as big as a lesson on shoplifting, but to the kids of this generation, these lessons are extremely powerful. And the show isn't just stopping at the cliched lesson of "Be yourself". An upcoming GMW episode will deal with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. This is a really serious issue that a lot of people have to deal with in their lives, and Girl Meets World will show kids how to deal with it - whether they have it, or if they know someone who does - by showing one of their characters having to deal with it.
Look, I'm not saying that my childhood was better, or that my generation's Disney Channel wasn't without its faults (it certainly wasn't perfect). All I'm saying is that Disney Channel isn't the way it used to be.
The characters are over the top and unrelatable, ironically because they're trying too hard to be popular and relatable. There are hardly any powerful messages or lessons to learn anymore, and the lessons that the channel is trying to teach are forced into the background to make room for some other plot point.
There are a lot of people who like Disney Channel today, and that's okay. I'm not telling you to go back and look at the shows of my childhood, you really don't have to. But Disney Channel really needs to try harder.
It needs to try harder with its characters, with its messages—it needs to get back its voice. When you have the responsibility of entertaining millions of viewers at a time, you should be trying to put something out there that's clever, relatable and powerful. You shouldn't just put a lot of random whatever out there.
So that's my take on modern Disney Channel. Do you agree with me? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! Or, if you feel like sharing your opinion in a longer format for the whole world to see, write your own post on how you feel about Disney Channel! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go act like a little kid again and search for my childhood shows on the internet!