Dear Disney Channel [and or Nickelodeon], I had a great idea for a new teen show. It would feature a cast of cute, spunky little know it all kids, and bumbling, awkward, clueless adults. The setting for my new masterpiece will largely consist of the local Jr. High school, which the students actually run while graciously allowing the grownups to work there. The children’s lives and relationships should be as complicated as those of… well real grownups. Of course, those on the show should float by blissfully unaware of the responsibilities carried by the students they pretend to teach. The characters should be diverse personality types. Meaning, there could be the overachieving central character, the bad boy / girl side kick, the slightly nerdy-but-sweet friend, who loves the central character from afar; and the clueless older sibling who could serve as comic relief. Oh! And one more element, maybe we could incorporate some kind of secret super power, or hidden identity! Please let me know if you intend to use my idea. If you do I expect to receive royalties. I look forward to working with you. Anxiously, TRHague.
Ok so I don’t expect the check to be in the mail. In fact, I’m sure this is pretty much the same letter that went out to NBC (eventually Disney Channel) shortly before the pilot of Saved by the Bell, or Nickelodeon prior to the release of iCarly. I’ll stop the name dropping there, but I promise; I don’t have to. The formulaic properties of nearly every show on the networks reflects a profound lack of either creativity or writing ability present in children’s programming today. And the complete lack of any moral or even social themes make the shows the character equivalent of straight sugar and pixie sticks on a child’s dental hygiene.
Here’s the thing Disney, (and anyone else I wish would read this and won’t) Children aren’t capable enough or smart enough to run the world, or even their own lives. Trust me, I have one. And what’s more, we shouldn’t be teaching them that they’re all that important. Oh, sure we love them. But the world probably won’t and we shouldn’t teach them that their importance to those they don’t know is what determines their value. On top of that it’s dangerous for us, as grownup society to devalue ourselves by depicting all adults as not so funny buffoons, always ten steps behind the juvenile population.
My last objection is I think the most significant. So much of the programing in question teaches its audience that the only meaning and value in life is found creating drama, which is usually created by bad decision making. Living complicated, dramatic lives is depicted as interesting, sexy, and ultimately fulfilling. What is not communicated is that constant drama creates unhappy adults incapable of authentic relationships, who move from person to person creating chaos in other people’s lives and destroying anything healthy in its wake.
Of course, I’m not blaming every instance of millennial irresponsibility on Disney, any more than I (or hopefully anyone else) would blame Barbie for eating disorders. What I am suggesting is that kids will learn the lessons we continually teach them. And that maybe we could actually spend our time, resources and (please!) a little talent, teaching lessons that can help produce confident, intelligent, rational adults who will value things like hard earned wisdom and experience as keys to a fulfilled productive life.