Disney Channel has had many different “eras” since its official launch in 1983. There are the ones who remember when the channel was a Satellite network that aired classic Disney cartoons. There are the ones who remember when Road to Avonlea was the channel’s tentpole. My earliest memories of Disney Channel was “Zoog Disney” when shows like So Weird, Jett Jackson, The Jersey, and Flash Forward flooded the airwaves. I remember when Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire first premiered at the beginning of the new millennium, creating a new era in the process. By the time That’s So Raven ended its run, I was probably too old for Disney, but I’ve certainly continued watching from time to time. Some stand out shows since that era include Hannah Montana, So Random, ANT Farm, Good Luck Charlie, and, of course, Girl Meets World. Multiple Emmy award winner Wizards of Waverly Place was undoubtedly popular, but the show never did much for me. The point is…Disney Channel has a long history of eras.
This post isn’t necessarily about which era is better. The truth is, viewers of one era are always going to complain about the shows from the next era. It’s the circle of life (feat. Raven, Hilary Duff, and Christy Carlson Romano). I have many issues with the direction Disney Channel is going in (fewer TV movies, lack of single cam, no dramatic content, genderizing TV channels). But that’s all for another time. I wanted to begin this article this way by emphasizing how, during my era, the internet wasn’t as “social” and interactive as it is today. Back when I was a pre-teen, we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or even Youtube. Disney Channel stars didn’t have social media accounts, so it was nearly impossible for us, as viewers, to get in touch with them; and it was likewise difficult for the stars to interact with viewers. The only way we could really get to know our favorite DIsney Channel stars were through those Express Yourself TV spots. Otherwise, for all I knew, Raven–Symone could actually read into the future (future future).
So, as someone who is almost a quarter of a century old, it’s interesting seeing how Disney Channel stars of today are utilizing Twitter to connect with their fans and share their personal beliefs. I’m not going to pretend like I’m some expert on the Twitter accounts of Disney celebrities. However, I do know that many of them use Twitter to discuss trivial subjects like their favorite songs or the release of their own music. Then there are Disney Channel stars like thirteen year old Rowan Blanchard who truly give me hope for the future. While many (not most, I’m not saying most) preteen girls are using Twitter to passionately defend One Direction every time one of the members tweets/says something slightly homophobic, Rowan Blanchard is taking advantage of her celebrity status and her hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers to actually discuss the issues and make bold statements. Statements she is under no obligation to make, but does anyway.
Whether it’s supporting gay marriage and trans acceptance or putting a light on America’s racial problem(s), she is a young voice in America’s fight for progressiveness and social acceptance. It’s easy to write little tweets or retweet other articles. However, it’s especially impressive when you write a long response to a tumblr question on “white feminism.” Well, this is exactly what Rowan Blanchard did. And she did it in one of the most articulate and elegant ways I’ve ever seen. This is the “meat and potatoes” of her argument:
“White feminism” forgets all about intersectional feminism. The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women. While white women are making 78 cents to the dollar, Native American women are making 65 cents, black women are making 64 cents, and Hispanic women are making 54 cents. Kimberlé Crenshaw said it perfectly in 1989 when she said “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” This includes trans women especially, who have been robbed of their souls when they are told they are not “real women” It is SO important to protect trans women and trans youth as they are incredibly at risk when it comes to sexual assault and hate crimes. People also seem to forget that black women are victims of police violence too- from Sandra Bland to India Clarke- a trans woman who was beaten to death in Florida just a month ago.
Do you notice the difference between her words and mine? Who is the better writer? Exactly. I very rarely see this sort of thoughtfulness and intelligence coming from a thirteen year old. Heck. if she were 20, I’d still be impressed. She even used a Kimberle Crenshaw quote. I definitely knew who she was before I read that tumblr post. The thing I admire about Rowan is (regardless of what others believe) that she is under no social obligation to share these feelings. There are many young celebrities who do a good job of staying out of political and social issues. I love Taylor Swift, but I don’t even think she publicly and overtly endorsed same sex marriage until last year. Claiming yourself as a “feminist” is not enough without understanding how that connects with racial and sexual orientation issues. Rowan Blanchard only has a couple seasons of a sitcom behind her, and she’s already shown she’s not afraid of offending people. Will this sort of openness hurt or help her career? I really don’t think so…but I think it’s more likely to hurt her. Yet, Blanchard continues to speak out because the treatment of minority groups in this country is more important than garnering an uneducated fanbase. And that’s why I admire Rowan Blanchard more than any other young celebrity out there.
I didn’t mention this before but, just in case you don’t know, Rowan Blanchard is the star of the Disney Channel Original Series Girl Meets World, which is a sequel to the popular nineties sitcom Boy Meets World. In terms of the kid cast, the most seasoned actor on the show is Sabrina Carpenter, who plays the best friend (aka, the “Shawn.”) But Rowan Blanchard has been improving greatly since the first episode. She has a bright future ahead of her. And I can’t wait to see her continue to kick butt in the entertainment world, and the real world. It’s stars like Blanchard that makes me glad there’s such a thin line between celebrities and their viewers nowadays.