When I was little, my absolute favorite show was Lizzie McGuire. For those of you who did not watch TV in the early 2000s, I will explain the premise to you. Lizzie goes to middle school looking fabulous every day with her two best friends, Miranda and Gordo, and lives in a nice home in the suburbs with both of her parents and her silly younger brother, Matt. Conflicts include, but are not limited to: an embarrassing unicorn sweater, sneaking past security guards to meet Aaron Carter, awkward father-daughter bonding time, and crushes upon crushes upon crushes. Oh and narration is provided by a cartoon version of Lizzie.
As a 9 year old, this show was awesome. There is nothing I wanted more than to be exactly like Lizzie. But now that I am older, I’m wondering what kind of an effect shows like this have on the way kids perceive reality.
The concept of the “perfect” household is hardly a unique idea in television, as seen from shows like “Leave it to Beaver” or “The Brady Bunch.” Nobody in these shows take the time to do the necessary daily things that we, as mere functioning humans, spend most of our day completing- going to the bathroom, doing homework, dealing with unsightly pimples, going on an uneventful grocery shopping trip etc. In addition to these mundane daily tasks, these perfect families don’t deal with controversial and “real” topics such as death, divorce, or drug abuse.
So- we recognize the ridiculousness of these shows. So why do we keep watching?
Growing up with divorced parents, I would vicariously live the life of Lizzie McGuire when I would watch her come home from school to both of her parents. Watching these shows became an escape from my own reality, where life wasn’t perfect. I did my best to act like Lizzie and dress like Lizzie, but my reality was a reminder that I did not live in a Disney Channel show. Comparison is dangerous, but it is human nature, and the media industry plays off of this.
This type of media offers solace to everyone without perfect lives (meaning, everyone). By not portraying life the way it actually is, audiences are manipulated into thinking that if they act like the characters on these TV shows, they too will reach this seeming perfection. Audiences must be wary when watching shows like this, as to not believe that perfection is attainable- because life isn’t perfect. As we have learned from our two articles, media manipulates audiences to feel emotions they would not necessarily feel. In this case, that emotion is inadequacy.
That said, there hasn’t been a better show on Disney Channel since Lizzie McGuire.