I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
Disney Channel Threw Me for a Loop
I've been an ardent supporter of all things Disney through the years. I used to take my friends' kids to Disney movies well before I had any kids, and generally speaking, if it's got the name Disney attached, I'm all over it. I was even okay with Disney's purchase of the Star Wars franchise; that's how much I support Disney and its decisions.
Generally speaking, I like what's on Disney Channel. As a rule, the programming is lighthearted, fun fare that has pretty positive messaging to go along with it. The one glaring exception to all of this for me recently is their new television show Bizaardvark. I support the right of kids to be creative, and several friends of my daughters have YouTube channels, largely devoted to either science or Minecraft, and that's fine. My youngest tends to like family-oriented YouTube programming, which tends toward the goofy side of family life, and that's OK too.
I don't get Bizaardvark, but I suspect that's probably OK. After all, I'm 43 and not exactly in the target demographic for the show. I do, however, respect my kids' right to explore different types of programming, and I'm generally in the room with them when they're watching television, or at the very least, I'm within earshot.
It was Bizaardvark's "Superfan" episode that got me unsettled, to the point where I had a chat with both my girls and didn't exactly sleep well. It's great that Disney wants to explore different ideas and issues, and it's a sign that the network is growing up.
With a target demographic of 2 to 14 years of age, Disney didn't exactly meet the best interests of its fans with the "Superfan" episode. The channel would have been hard-pressed to meet the best interests of anyone with that episode.
So What Is the Bizaardvark Issue?
In short, Bizaardvark is about Paige and Frankie, two well-meaning kids who are working hard to become internet sensations with their YouTube show "Bizaardvark." Once they hit 10 thousand subscribers, they are invited to start using the Vuugle Studios alongside some of the other big internet names (none of which really exist, but that's OK).
In the "Superfan" episode, the girls learn that they have a superfan named Belissa and are originally excited about the prospect. However, Belissa soon moves to Frankie and Paige's city from Nebraska, shows up at Frankie's house to take measurements, wear Frankie's pyjamas (what??) and take snips of the girls' hair for her collection of "Bizaardvark" memorabilia. She admits to wanting to watch the girls when they sleep, to having applied for a new, out-of-state job for her father (which he apparently inexplicably accepted) and to enrolling in a grade behind where she actually was in school in order to be in the same class with her idols.
Where in the name of all that's holy were the script supervisors?
Do the supervisors and big guns at Bizaardvark not understand that there are preteens watching the show and could be getting very wrong messages from it?
Disney has been known to discuss tough subjects, but through all of the Disney programming, there was the understanding that at the backbone of every character's major problem there was a healthy relationship there to help them understand the ins and outs of the challenges they were facing.
There is no healthy relationship here.
At the end of the episode, shortly after the girls tell Belissa that she is causing them grief and is therefore no longer their superfan, they end up apologizing to her because she hustled to get them a packed house for their live show at a coffeehouse.
To an extent, I get the apology in the episode. They freaked on Belissa because she was interfering with their live show and was therefore not helpful, but then she turned out to be helpful because she filled the coffeehouse where they were performing as her way of saying sorry. However, it almost seemed as though the girls completely ignored the creepy, stalkerish behavior in the episode which in the real world would have likely gotten Belissa a restraining order at the very least.
I had to sit down with my girls after and ensure they understood that Belissa's behavior was not acceptable by any means, and they kind of looked at me strangely like, "No duh, Mom."
I was still unsettled, though. There are several great shows on Disney Channel that highlight positive relationships and good problem-solving. How in God's name did Bizaardvark get through the vetting process?
I don't have an issue with the kids in the show. They are your (stereo)typical stars from kids' shows - cute, smart and possessed of a relatability that most television shows look for in their stars. It's the producers and the writers - and "Superfan" isn't the only questionable episode.
At one point, "Bizaardvark" is on the receiving end of hateful comments, so Frankie and Paige go hunting through town to determine who the offender must be.
In another instance, Bernie (the girls' "agent") pretends that another YouTuber is his girlfriend because he wants his grandmother to be proud of him, and she later praises him for lying to her as other members of the family have done.
Finally, Calum Worthy (Austin and Ally) makes an appearance on an episode as a YouTube star with over 5 million subscribers. The thing is, he has garnered his fame by being mean-spirited and playing very hurtful pranks on people in the name of humor.
When did being mean get funny, at least as far as Disney is concerned?
Sure, there have been episodes of other shows in which characters have done mean or silly things, but the characters generally come around in the end, like Trish from Austin and Ally. She was definitely not the nicest girl or character on the show but, ultimately, was a very redeeming character.
I'm struggling to find the redemption in Bizaardvark, but sorry, Disney - you blew it.
Jelly on April 13, 2019:
First of all, none of your points are legitimate. All of the episode examples that you listed are false. Either you lied about the dramatic structure of these episodes, or you can’t even comprehend the details of a children’s show. For instance, when Paige and Frankie (the two main characters of the show) become upset at the hateful comments that they receive via video comments, they realize that they’re actions were not appropriate and decide to have an actual conversation instead. Next time, before you downgrade a perfectly innocent and lovable kid’s show, watch the episode through and let your daughters have a conversation with YOU so that they can make sure you are capable of understanding that the behavior of the characters on “Bizaardvark” is 100% acceptable.
Caroline on April 13, 2019:
I believe that just cause they messed up one episode in the whole 3 seasons that you should get over the fact that this is a bad show. Yeah, they hired a bad guy to come on the show but they made a good decision in the end. And the show is meant to teach kids to be funny and creative.
Bailey on October 27, 2018:
Im watching the superfan episode now and if you dont think that its appropriate for your kids thats fine but they already knew that it was wrong. Id believe that kids would have more common sense. Im not trying to spread hate or make you feel stupid. But the premise is for it to be dumb.
Im 13 btw
Audrey Myra on April 10, 2018:
Bizaardvark is the worst show Disney Channel ever made. Period. You do make some good points, but you left out that Bizaardvark hired Jake Paul, who isn't someone I think parents would ever want children imitating. He pisses off and aggravates his neighbors, plays mean-spirited pranks on people, does a lot of dangerous Jackass-esque stunts, uses racist and homophobic slurs on social media, is a bully to nearly everyone in his path, abused his ex-girlfriend and faked a sexual assault allegation. Yeah, Disney fired him but they should never have hired him to begin with. I'm 19 and I grew up watching shows like Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, That's So Raven and Kim Possible and I even enjoyed some of the new shows- Austin and Ally and Good Luck Charlie are the ones I like best. I will say though, as soon as Dog with a blog came, Disney went in a huge downward spiral. Nowadays the only good shows on Disney Channel are Andi Mack and Raven's Home. Stuck in the Middle is also kind of underrated and looks like Friends compared to Bizaardvark. But if it wasn't for those shows, I would have cut Disney Channel from my life for good after Austin and Ally ended.
Elexi on March 18, 2018:
not helping me
Molly on March 06, 2018:
Are you kidding me... this show is meant to be dumb, even your own kids know that, stop being so scared of a kids show. Sorry if this seems like hate I am just expressing my opinion :-).
Anon. on August 13, 2017:
If you are concerned about your children seeing an episode like this then the channel is not for them. There is dark humor hidden all over Disney shows. If you apwant something age appropriate then make them watch Disney jr. Disney is for a targeted 10-15 audience rather than 10 and below.
James on January 22, 2017:
Ok wow, no offense but what a helicopter mom. You do realize that it's supposed to be comedy, right? They only think of this stuff if you talk to them about it and bring attention to it.
And it really is common sense to know that what Belissa did was crazy-person-ish.
John on September 06, 2016:
Well I think this paragraph sums this non-issue up pretty well.
"I had to sit down with my girls after and ensure they understood that Belissa's behavior was not acceptable by any means, and they kind of looked at me strangely like, "No duh, Mom.""
Sounds like kids are smarter than you give them credit for, and can understand context.