The (Bitter) Suite Life of Zack & Cody

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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.

Comments

  1. scarlett says

    This sounds really bad. It would be kind of amusing is Carey was IN on the scam, but why not tell her? That just set itself up for disasters like, oh, I dunno, her accepting a job that isn’t real and the whole scam being blown :(

  2. sbg says

    This sounds really bad. It would be kind of amusing is Carey was IN on the scam, but why not tell her? That just set itself up for disasters like, oh, I dunno, her accepting a job that isn’t real and the whole scam being blown

    Yeah, perhaps. But to do that, Carey would have to be there as more than a foil for the boys.

  3. sbg says

    I haven’t seen that episode, but it sounds about as charming as all the ones where Zack sexually harasses the three-years-older Maddie. Oh, Disney Channel, why?

    You mean, like every episode? It galls me that in response he’s usually given the, “Aw, aren’t you a sweet little boy?” treatment. Not exactly discouraging his behaviour, that.

    And I didn’t mention, but in this episode Cody, who usually fares better than Zack, is paid to help London and Nia with their science projects. He bails before they’re finished and so they band together on their projects and get As for their efforts. (Efforts that had more to do with luck than brainpower, of course.) Good for them, right? Yes, but at the end Cody actually tries to weasel in on their success, like he’d helped them the whole way through.

    He was surprised when they laughed in his face.

  4. Gategrrl says

    There’s a reason why this show is on our viewing Shit-list in our house. The overt reason is that the boys are obnoxious and talk back and act like cock-of-the-walks. But whenever it is on, by accident (or my daughter sneaks in a viewing), everything about it atrocious. The premise is ridiculous, the kids are…beyond the pale, and as SBG said, all of the adults are characitures.

    Whatever happened to programming that had adults acting as adults? And children *needing* adults.

    At one point we were heavily thinking of cancelling the cable tier that carries the Disney Channel because of the majority of the sewage they show. I still might, if I can figure out how to use the parental control on our DVR.

  5. sbg says

    Whatever happened to programming that had adults acting as adults? And children *needing* adults.

    This really bothers me about these programs. I understand they’re told from the POV of kids…but parents aren’t the enemy or obstacles in the kids’ way or simply punchlines for jokes. Even at my snottiest pre-teen and teen worst, I still knew my parents were the, ultimately, the law and for a reason, though often that reason eluded and irritated me.

  6. Gategrrl says

    The way I see it, shows like Hannah Montana, where the father IS present and IS an “authority” figure, he still comes across as a teacherly buddy more often than not – and his kids are in their early to mid teens.

    Ned’s Declassified is hysterical, and really tunes into the wackiness that is junior high, BUT again, the adults are all seen as eccentric weirdos…but then, the kids are, too, so it’s all across the board.

    There have been shows with a parental authority present, but they are few and far between.

  7. says

    If there was a reason why the mother let him do that… nah, there’s no plausible reason you’d entrust your job to your child, except that you are a marble-free zone. Okay, what if he did it behind her back, thinking he was helping? That could’ve hit a lot of the same notes without making her look beyond stupid, right?

    Except the most important note: “Women need men, even boys, to tell them what to do. Especially in careers, where the poor little dears are just in over their heads.”

  8. DNi says

    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?

    Not to sound contradictory, but since we’re talking about kid’s sitcoms, I’d say yes. It’d still be violently stupid, and possibly every bit as insulting, but I could see that happening.

  9. says

    Huh. Like SBG, I totally can’t imagine that. I can imagine Dad putting his career in the hands of his 13 year old son, but not daughter. Partly because I doubt anyone writing kids’ sitcoms has ever considered that girls might fantasize about telling their parents what to do.

    I can’t even think of a show where a girl gets by with half the stuff these boys do, let alone when it includes wrecking something as important as his mom’s career advancement.

  10. sbg says

    I can’t see them even making the show if it was The Suite Life of Megan and Jenny, twin girls who live in a hotel with their single father, let alone the premise of this one episode.

  11. says

    “Partly because I doubt anyone writing kids’ sitcoms has ever considered that girls might fantasize about telling their parents what to do.”

    I’ll second that. I’ll also say what drives me really nuts about this is that it shows that Disney has no clue why High School Musical is so popular. They need to get more inspiration from old Haley Mills movies and less from shows like Two and a Half Men.

  12. says

    I’m pretty sure there’s also been an episode where the twins endanger Esteban’s (the bellboy’s) job and end up having to scheme to get it back…I’m pretty sure they also almost get Mosby fired and have to do the same. It is a recurring trend, not just with Carey.

    The gender politics of the show are pretty much just screwed up regardless, though.

  13. sbg says

    I’m pretty sure there’s also been an episode where the twins endanger Esteban’s (the bellboy’s) job and end up having to scheme to get it back…I’m pretty sure they also almost get Mosby fired and have to do the same. It is a recurring trend, not just with Carey.

    Through plain ol’ shenanigans, or did they claim to know how to procure Esteban or Moseby better job perks? Did Esteban or Moseby put all their hopes on a little boy for these things? THAT’s what I don’t think they’d do with a gender flip. Maybe Esteban, but as far as I can tell, he’s characterized with that lovely Naive Non-Native stereotype (trusting and clueless with how things really work).

  14. says

    Did Esteban or Moseby put all their hopes on a little boy for these things?

    That’s the exact bit where I can’t see a gender swap – the bit where the adult actually thinks the kid is going to help. Specifically, I can’t see a white, staight, middle class man relying on the help of a little girl. Sadly, I think I can imagine a storyline where, say, a comic relief immigrant of color relies on the help of little girls because that would fly under the banner of Great Honky Rescuer, and Red America would think those girls are so sweet and tell their kids what a great anti-racist message that is, and how all us white folks should help poor, stupid immigrants while handing the gardener his below-minimum wage payment for the week.

    I gotta go throw up now.

  15. Lihtox says

    Have you never seen a “henpecked husband” on television? Such a character would easily be dominated by a know-it-all daughter. Or there’s the doofus father, very popular (cf The Simpsons…although that’s a bad analogy because Lisa probably could get Homer a better job). This wouldn’t happen in real life, of course, but The Suite Life is clearly (even to someone like me who hasn’t seen the show) about child wish-fulfillment, not real life.

  16. Annie says

    I`d rather see people venting about shows like the Simpsons and Family guy that are crass and crude and teach total disrespect to authority than anything on the Disney Channel.

    Annie

  17. Gategrrl says

    Actually, I find Zack & Cody to be more obnoxious than The Simpsons (I don’t watch Family Guy): instead of one Bart Simpson doing “ordinary” juvie stuff, you’ve got two kids living with a single mother in a fancy hotel with apparently no school work, no responsibilities, and living a complete fantasty life in live-action. The Simpsons are cartoons meant to be satire and are shown as a “complete” family (with a notable lack of brains sometimes).

    I find Zack & Cody much more offensive in general. That’s why the Disney Channel is blocked in our house.

  18. says

    Old post is old but sometimes a daughter might help a father badly, but it’d be seen as her being some sort of shrew. I’ve seen it done where it’s the sister of the main male character.

    Shows for kids where parents are morons have been around since the 80s at least though.

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