No Ordinary Girl

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 àla Zoolander with the model. Raven wins over the crowd and the ideal girl she’s competing against.

Huzzah!

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.

Comments

  1. scarlett says

    We hear in Australia voted an obese half-aboriginal girl our Australian Idol because, well, she had the best voice. I was so proud :p

  2. Gategrrl says

    When my daughter was 7 to 9, she was really into this show for a while, and although I strongly dislike much of what Disney sells on its channel (programming and commercials alike), I did come to like this show. I remember this episode, too. I also liked how, even though the main character, Raven, has precognition, it wasn’t always the center of the show, and she didn’t always (read: NEVER) got it right, even with the help of foresight – but she made the stupid mistakes many kids make or fear they’ll make, at that age.

    And Raven is one of those child-stars that I actually still liked after hearing about what she was like in RL. I didn’t hear a lot, but I have a feeling that a lot of what she says is pretty much the way she is. And she doesn’t make herself out to be a teenage sex symbol. What a relief.

  3. sbg says

    She actually seems to be a decent role model, which is pretty rare in kids’ shows. I find most of them (okay, so I watch others) are far too geared to childish hijinks, where the parents aren’t respected as parents. The kids always get the last laugh.

    But that’s another topic. ;)

    I like that Raven is confident and sassy…and full of flaws.

  4. Gategrrl says

    There’s one Disney sitcom that my husband forbids my daughter to watch – The Live of Zach and Cody, a pair of twin boys who live in a hotel. Their mother is a dancer for the hotel (I don’t know what hotel besides a Vegas one that required dancers to live at their location…but oh well). The reason for this is, these two boys sass at just about every adult they meet, they try going around the rules and “fooling” the hotel staff, etc and so forth. Our daughter is sassy enough without needing to imitate kids like this on a television show.

    At least Raven doesn’t sass back at her parents and live a life of *too* exaggurated privledge. (you could argue that ALL these kids on these shows are that way, but that’s part of the genre) I also like the mother and father and the little brother on Raven. AND her red haired friend – she gives Raven Simone a run for her money.

  5. Revena says

    Oh, man – I -hate- The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. And I -love- Raven, by comparison, for almost exactly the reasons you raise here…

    The kids I sit for like to watch both those shows, but I’ll only endorse the one that has characters who respect each other. :-P

    (and Raven’s “realness” is one of the things I really like about the show – she exudes confidence, and I love that about both the character and the actress)

  6. sbg says

    (and Raven’s “realness” is one of the things I really like about the show – she exudes confidence, and I love that about both the character and the actress)

    That she does, and I do as well. She’s the closest thing to an actual role model for young girls that I can think of, at least at the celebrity status.

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