Disney has always been a progressive franchise. Whether it be through portraying racial tensions and discrimination in Zootopia, or environmental issues in Disney Pixar’s WALL-E, the franchise has created eye-opening media pieces that speak well to current events and controversies.
Disney lived up to its forward-thinking reputation with the presence of a budding LGBTQ+ relationship on Friday Oct. 27 in its Disney Channel series “Andi Mack.”
The television network made history by featuring its first ever coming-out storyline. The channel has portrayed LGBTQ+ couples before, such as the presence of lesbian mothers on “Good Luck Charlie” or the interracial lesbian couple in the children’s show “Doc McStuffins,” but this is the first time, however, that the cable network has centered a storyline on a gay character.
In the first episode of the season’s premiere, the titular character 13-year-old Andi—played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee—struggles with her feelings for her classmate Jonah—played by Asher Angel—while her friend Cyrus—played by Joshua Rush—realizes he has feelings for Jonah as well. The rest of the season plans to follow Cyrus as he explores these feelings and discovers who he is.
“Andi Mack” already covers mature topics for its preteen audience. Made by Terri Minsky, creator of “Lizzie McGuire,” the television series is a coming-of-age tale that focuses on tween Andi Mack after she discovers her presumed sister is actually her mother and her presumed mother is actually her grandmother.
The cast is most certainly on board with the refreshing narrative. Rush took to Instagram on Oct. 26 to share his excitement with the emerging storyline for his character.
“Starting conversations about trust, love, relationships and family dynamics is easier when you have a show that you can relate to,” Rush wrote. “‘Andi Mack’ gives young people and their parents, mentors and champions a meaningful way to talk about these topics and the power to decide their futures. I’m so proud to bring Cyrus’ groundbreaking storyline to life and for you to see what we’ve been working on.”
Although this may be a major breakthrough for children’s television and media, “Andi Mack” has not necessarily received a positive reception from everyone. One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association and a non-profit organization that promotes Christian ideals, has exclaimed their unhappiness with the LGBTQ+ storyline on their website.
“By choosing to move in the direction of more ‘adult’ stories and content, the Disney Channel—and the entire Disney media empire—may be choosing to sacrifice something far more precious … children’s innocence,” the division wrote.
Surely the presence of gay characters in a children’s show is not “adult” nor will it ruin a child’s innocence. Gay marriage became legal in the United States in 2015, so naturally a child should be exposed to the LGBTQ+ community in their daily life. The backlash was simply a product of mothers who choose to ignore the real world around them.
On the other hand, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, a non-governmental organization that observes LGBTQ+ presence in the media, has positively responded to Cyrus’ new story.
“With more and more young people coming out as LGBTQ+, ‘Andi Mack’ is reflecting the lives and lived experiences of so many LGBTQ+ youth around the country,” Ellis said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “Television reflects the real-life world and today that includes LGBTQ+ youth who deserve to see their lives depicted on their favorite shows. Disney has been a leader in LGBTQ+ inclusion and there are so many young people who will be excited to see Cyrus’ story unfold.”
With “Andi Mack,” Disney has taken a huge step forward in the representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in the media. Not only is it beneficial and inspirational for children to see a character on television express themselves, but the presence of a gay character in such a big franchise is also fantastic for the LGBTQ+ community, and will hopefully spark other television networks to follow in Disney’s footsteps.u