Robyn pointed me toward the following Disney Channel video, filled with Disney Channel teen stars:
The song is a remix of a song from Cinderella in which Cinderella tells her animal friends to never stop dreaming–which is a recurring theme not only in Cinderella, but in many other Disney movies, especially ones geared toward young girls. This makes me wonder about the wider cultural effects of such messages. Isn’t it basically telling young girls to not do anything but dream, sing, and look pretty until their knight in shining armor whisks them away from their own personal hell? It seems like it’s actually discouraging girl power by telling girls not to act, but rather to dream.
As for the video itself. All the people in it are currently in a contract with Disney, and this is a little bit embarrassing to admit, but I recognize most of them from current Disney Channel shows: Raven-Symone and Orlando Brown and the redhead from That’s So Raven; the main character and his little sister and his best friend who also happens to be a girl and later becomes a love interest, who also happens to be Aly from Aly & AJ, a pop rock duo geared toward tweens; Brenda Song and the two little boys from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody; and so on. They look like they’re having a lot of fun. Even though I’m sure they’re bastardizing a classic song, it is pretty catchy (in a very sugary pop sort of way), and by the end I even wanted to join in.
What bothers me, though, is that I used to watch a lot of these actors on the Disney Channel four years ago, when I was a freshman in high school–and even then, in an ironic, ‘I know I’m being a huge dork’ sort of way–and they’re still mostly the same actors, being marketed toward kids who are younger than I was when I used to watch these shows. I wonder if preteens pick up on cues about how to act ‘cool’ and ‘like a teenager’ from videos like these–how to dress, how to wear make-up, how to dance, what sort of things it’s ok to say or think, and so on.
The obvious answer would be that, yes, of course preteens pick up on how teenagers and adults act from not only the teenagers and adults they know, but also from the media. In this case, the Disney Channel. But this is worrisome, because Disney Channel shows set among high school characters really don’t show at all some of the bigger issues that high schoolers deal with–really serious bullying, relationships, sex, drugs, violence, and really serious family problems. But we could also interpret this is as a good thing, because then the shows are being age-appropriate by not delving into issues thought to be beyong the comprehension of many preteens. However, it seems to me that by representing shows geared towards a more childlike mindset through actual young adults (people around my age now or even older) in a young adult setting (high school), we are not only infantilizing the actors of these shows, but we are also aging child culture to a point in a person’s development that the child may not yet be ready for.