Earlier this year I wrote a post celebrating Disney’s Andi Mack for its cultural forwardness. From Cyrus growing into his understanding of his own sexuality to Jonah’s struggle with anxiety, the show created by Terri Minisky (of Lizzie McGuire fame) and Michelle Manning (co-producer of John Hughes teen opus The Breakfast Club), speaks to the complexity of identity and has a resoundingly fresh perspective on who teens are and their relationships with friends, family and everyone in between.
In watching with my own children then and now, I have come to grips that as the show progresses the character of Andi has sadly regressed. Whereas Andi of old was coming to terms with her newly founded family dynamic and did so with a mixture of grace, confusion and complexity, this season finds her creating and fulfilling a self-centered opus.
This is where in watching the show with my own children (8 and 5 years olds), I’ve found myself pausing the PVR recording to provide spontaneous lessons in media literacy; recognizing self through the character of Andi in all forms: the good and the bad.
What is up with Andi?
As the latest season continues to unfold with teen angst and the coupling of Becks and Bodhi, I have been asking my own children to explore Andi through a personal lens of friendship.
- Would Andi make a good friend?
- Would they want to be Andi’s friend?
Although they would be encouraged to respect Andi as a person in real life, they do not need to be friends with her. Frankly, at this moment I hope the would choose not to be.
In the most recent episodes which have been about her breakup with Jonah and her torn feelings about Buffy and Walker’s evolving romance, the inability of Andi to see her own selfishness is debilitating. Equally, lack of direct assertion of her sensibilities by either of her parents or the moral guiding Cyrus is disenchanting. As the show in the past had provided rich moral guidance and richness in character, the fact that Andi is turning into a bad friend without any realization from those around her. Why is she being enabled?
From Andi asking Buffy not to include Walker in their social outings to also placing herself at the center of every conversation, Andi is incredibly enabled and also inactive. She no longer creates, she is never seen doing homework and she doesn’t engage in extra-curriculars at school. Andi’s ultimate preoccupation is romance and herself. This alone merits an active dialogue with young children as their self-worth is not to be defined by their young romantic entanglements, but rather their sense of self and purpose.
Hence, although Andi Mack is about Andi (it’s her story), the character I reference must often to my children is Buffy. From braving being on an all-boys basketball team, to supporting a once sworn enemy with his learning disability to starting an all-girls basketball team in the most recent episode, Buffy is a resilient young person who is mature, intelligent, self-directed, motivated and self-ensured. Also, she actively cares about others and is a caring friend who is deeply concerned about those she cares about.
With all of this, although Andi Mack continues to be one of my families favorite shared watches, an active dialogue is warranted. Spending time watching television with your children doesn’t have to be a passive time. Although entertaining, there is a real opportunity to promote critical literacy and exploration of self.
With all of this, I hope we will get to see Andi a new and redeeming light sometime soon. The old Andi is definitely missed.