I’ve been vocal about my Disney disdain for years.
Yeah, I like Toy Story (ahem, Pixar) and Tinkerbell (sasspot) and Elsa (she’s a freaking ice queen, hello). I balked when Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, and I maintain that was the right reaction, but I can’t turn my back on Star Wars.
But otherwise? Nope.
Then the freaking Disney Channel had to come out with the their first story of a tween coming out as gay. While the boys don’t watch Andi Mack currently, opting to annoy me with episodes of Jessie via On Demand, I feel like maybe we should give it a shot.
I’ve been trying to give the new season of Will & Grace a shot. I definitely wasn’t sold after the first episode. I texted my husband, working that night, “It feels like they’re trying too hard.” I missed the second episode when it aired and caught it via repeat while the boys were in the room. At almost 10 and 12, they’re still in bed by 9 on school nights as they catch the bus before seven o’clock in the morning. They laughed but mostly played their video games.
I didn’t think anything of it.
One Thursday, they got to stay up late as they didn’t have school on Friday. They “watched” the episode entitled “Grandpa Jack.” In this episode, Jack meets his estranged son’s son. The child in question is sent to a conversion camp to make him straight. It was full of “funny” moments, but also Really Big Moments. Like the one in which Jack says to his grandson, “This place can’t fix you, because you aren’t broken.”
Because you aren’t broken.
Our children need to hear this message.
YOU’RE NOT BROKEN.
We need to tell them this over and over and over. They need to see it in television and movie characters. They need to read diverse books to discover all kinds of different ways in which they are absolutely not broken.
Our children need people in their lives who believe in them and love them, no matter what. On bad days. On good days. Ugly days. Fat days. Hurting days. Confused days. Questioning days. Realization days. All the days in between.
Of course, as tweens, they don’t necessarily believe their parents when we tell them it gets better, when we tell them they matter. That’s why representation of diversity, of differences, of struggle, of overcoming in their shows and books matters so much.
Gen X started the trend when Rickie got thrown out of his home on Christmas Eve in 1994 in My So-Called Life. It would be another three years before Ellen got her kiss on prime time television, not cable. Will & Grace premiered in 1998. We were all older than our tweens now when we saw representation hit the airwaves, though I don’t remember reading a book in the 90s with a gay character—or hell, many characters of color. We’re still working on it, but we have hope for our children.
Our tweens are witnessing something good. They’re being taught an important lesson that many of my generational counterparts are still struggling to believe.
You’re. Not. Broken.