At its peak in the 2000’s, the Disney Channel was a competitive force in the realm of kids’ television. My, how times have changed since then!
As this space demonstrated in 2017, Disney Channel and sister network Disney XD have been losing numbers of subscribers to streaming video (as per The Wall Street Journal). They joined in the ranks of other Disney-owned TV brands that have lost viewership, including ABC, ESPN, and FreeForm.
Now, how did that happen? How did a network that has a big name behind it end up not being as popular as it was when movies like High School Musical, shows like Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, and Phineas and Ferb, and musical acts like the Jonas Brothers dominated the American mainstream?
Could part of the problem some of the storylines they decided to put out to young children took a sharp turn to the left socially? Here are a sampling of stories that the Disney Channel has decided to roll out to viewers...
First, there’s a character in a show aimed at ten-year-olds called Andi Mack coming out as gay at a young age:
The story arc will mark the channel’s first depiction of a coming-out journey. The character – 13-year-old Cyrus Goodman, played by 15-year-old Joshua Rush – will begin his self-discovery in this Friday’s second season one-hour premiere episode [October 27].
“Andi Mack is a story about ‘tweens’ figuring out who they are,” said Disney Channel in a statement. “(Creator) Terri Minsky, the cast and everyone involved in the show takes great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences and sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity.”
And then a teen pregnancy plot line on that same program:
Ready for the secret? It turns out that Bex isn’t really Andi’s older sister, she’s her mother. And Andi’s mom (Friends‘ own Lauren “Not Rachel” Tom)? Yup, she’s actually her grandmother.
And along with that, there’s cartoon that’s since moved to Disney XD saying that being a princess is a “state of mind”:
On a recent episode of Star vs. The Forces of Evil, the character of Marco Diaz (voiced by Adam McArthur) disguised himself as Princess Turdina to help save the students at St. Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses from Ms. Heinous, the wicked headmistress.
Marco is about to reveal his truth to the students when Ms. Heinous storms in and outs him herself, pulling down his shirt to reveal a strand of chest hair. But the other princesses stand by Marco’s side.
These are just some of the examples of why the Disney Channel has been struggling to compete with competing channels and streaming services. Had it not been for the fact that animated Mickey Mouse shorts and animated movies like Frozen that also air on the channel, the network probably could have been doomed. These troubles can only be attributed to two people, and they are Disney-ABC Television group president Ben Sherwood and Disney Channel boss Gary Marsh.
The former, who will be leaving Disney once their acquisition of the 20th Century Fox movie studio and associated entertainment assets from Rupert Murdoch closes, has allowed all of his broadcasting and cable operations — especially ABC — to alienate conservatives with social justice storylines in their entertainment programming while trashing President Trump in “news” shows. The latter, meanwhile, has allowed Sherwood’s toxic culture into his three kids’ TV channels.
Couple that with continuing criticism of the channel causing kids to imitate the smart-mouth attitudes of most of the characters in its tween-coms and a recent incident involving a 13-year-old boy that got an adult actor on Andi Mack named Stoney Westmoreland arrested and eventually fired, and you have yourself some bad publicity.
It’s possible that the left-ward turn is the Walt Disney Company’s Hail Mary to solve cable television channels losing ground to a la carte services. After all, they are launching a new family-oriented streaming service called Disney+ later this year.
If they’re careful about staying away from inserting any overt political agenda (unlike their cable and broadcast assets) and strictly focus on entertaining the masses with a variety of views, that new service could succeed. As for they Disney Channel, they have a lot of work to do if they want conservative parents to trust them again.
Editor's Note: In the interest of transparency, the author also owns shares in ABC (as previously disclosed).