I’ve done well steering clear of children’s programming, specifically anything produced by Disney. This weekend, though, I caught myself heading back to that channel for reasons I can’t really define as anything other than boredom.
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody is a show about twins who live in a hotel with their mother, Carey, who is the singer for the hotel’s lounge. As with most Disney shows, the mother and all other adults are there for comedy fodder and have no real role as authority figures. Oh, sure, once in a while it happens…and yet still the adults are the butt of jokes. I could go on and on about that phenomenon in pre-teen programming, but I want to talk specifically about one episode I saw this weekend.
In it, Carey’s contract with the hotel is up for re-signing. Details are fuzzy on why, but for some reason her son Zack thinks she’s being taken advantage of and promises if she lets him speak on her behalf that he’ll get her a bigger suite, one with two bedrooms instead of just one – wouldn’t she like her own bedroom (she gets to sleep on the sofa bed at the moment)? The whole family could use more space.
For some unfathomable reason, we’re to believe that Carey thinks her thirteen-year-old son would be better at negotiating than she herself is. She agrees to let him be her agent. The very next scene, Zack looks like he’s stepped out of the movie Wall Street – he’s decked out in a miniature little three piece suit, slicked back hair, handless cell, etc, and he’s walking around like Mr. Power. Carey, meanwhile, continues to regress into Helpless (Female) Child mode. She frets, she kvetches, she fears she’s going to lose her job. Zack tells her, basically, not to worry her pretty little head; he’s got it all under control.
What he does is pay someone to pretend to represent a competitive hotel, make Carey increasing offers in front of her hotel manager, to get him to counter-offer until Zack (yes, Zack, not Carey) is satisfied. Finally, the fake competitor offers something Carey can’t refuse. She accepts, and her hotel manager doesn’t have the means to counter. Zack freaks and tells Carey the competitor isn’t real.
And she’s left scrabbling and begging to keep her old job. All she gets for re-signing is a wardrobe budget and one extra week of vacation, because her bargaining power has been shot to heck.
It’s all harmless fun, right? Ha ha ha, look at that Zack – so clever and yet so wrong. Ha ha ha, look at how Carey just goes along with a child’s plan. Ask yourself if the genders were reversed, would an adult male have been allowed to put his career in the hands of a thirteen-year-old girl, act like a Helpless Child and then grovel with someone in a position of actual power for his job, all for a few laughs?
I really don’t think so.