This weekend I sat down to dinner and turned on the TV. Rather than flip through endless reruns of 1990s sitcoms, I landed on The Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven, a silly, fluffy show that epitomizes the kind of lightweight fare TDC offers.
Imagine my surprise when the episode I watched turned out to be reasonably meaty. Raven (played by Raven Symone) is an aspiring fashion designer, still in high school. She sees an ad in a teen magazine announcing a contest, and she enters it. All other entrants have stick-thin, tall models wearing their dresses, but Raven models her own. She looks fabulous and confident and curvy. She makes a positive impression on someone who works behind the scenes at the show, who’s genuinely supportive and excited.
And Raven makes the final round…which she finds out by seeing her image in the dress of her design in the teen magazine. Only it’s not her. The editors have manipulated her body to make it appear as though she’s skinny as a rail.
Raven goes down to the magazine, rightfully indignant. She’s promptly told the only chance she has of winning is to get a model, because she doesn’t have “the look” it takes to do so. She’s crushed, and so is her confidence. Instead of standing her ground, Raven decides she must do anything it takes to get the figure she’s been told is “it.” She wants to model her design, and that seems the only way to do it. (We won’t discuss how she’s at least a foot shorter than all the models.)
She fails because the task is impossible. When the time for the final judging/runway show arrives, Raven acquiesces and allows a model to wear her dress. Her previous supporter is highly disappointed, and it’s only then that Raven realizes she should have stood her ground instead of going to impossible lengths to change herself.
She proceeds to don her dress and have a model showdown Ã la Zoolander with the model. Raven wins over the crowd and the ideal girl she’s competing against.
I think this struck me so much because we, as adult women, frequently talk about feminism and how the world is slanted in a certain direction but not a whole lot about the direct impact this sort of thing has on little girls. I watched this show and thought of my nieces. I hope they can see messages like this amid all the ones telling them they’re not acceptable if they don’t look and act a certain way.
More, I hope they’ll be able to remember these positive messages about beauty coming in many shapes and sizes and retain who they are in this scary world. And I hope they’ll get enough positive reinforcement from the women in their lives.