Disney Channel made up an incredible part of my childhood, especially the movies with strong female characters, and the others with tons of singing. (Go Wildcats!) So you can imagine my excitement when news broke of Disney Channel hosting a Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) marathon in honor of its 100th movie, Adventures in Babysitting. Watching the movies I had grown up with reminded me of how much these movies continue to resonate today, and how much they can teach Hollywood as well.
Before I discovered Scarlett Johansson’s amazing portrayal of Black Widow in the Marvel film franchise, the kick-ass Kim Possible—voiced by Christy Carlson Romano—filled my days with unrealistic adventures in high school and made me dream of taking out the bad guys with my (non-existent) cheerleading moves. When the Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama came out in 2005, it had all the makings of a classic, and utterly fantastic, DCOM. With action, romance, and all the fuss that comes with senior prom, the movie was made all the more memorable with a strong heroine at its center. Kim’s struggle to balance her crime-fighting ways with living the life of a normal teenager came to head in the film as she struggled to find a date for prom. Her search for the perfect guy made it nearly impossible to see that the right guy had been right by her side all along. So when she and Ron defeated Dr. Drakken, and finally had their dance at prom, my little nine-year-old heart soared with the hopes that one day I too could have it all by the end of high school. Sadly, that’s neither here nor there at this point, even at 20 years old, but that’s a story for another day. In all seriousness, Kim Possible was an incredible character for young girls to aspire to be like one day.
Another heroine not to mess with would be Brenda Song’s titular character in the 2006 DCOM Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. Here’s another Disney Channel movie with a female as the lead character—and an Asian woman at that—proving that women really can headline successful films. In this film, Song’s character learns she’s the reincarnation of a female warrior from her family, and must defeat Yan-Lo, an evil spirit intent on destroying the world. Unfortunately, Wendy is so consumed with the dreams of winning homecoming queen that she is reluctant to fulfill her role. It isn’t until the Yan-Lo starts possessing her family and friends that Wendy realizes she can no longer ignore her destiny. What I really loved about this movie is that it showed for many young individuals, it’s hard to look beyond our current situation. For Wendy, becoming homecoming queen and beating her high school arch-nemesis was the end-all-be-all. But as she discovered by the end, it isn’t a crown that proves your worth, but who you are as a person to your family, friends and peers around you. And yes, that may sound a bit cheesy, but you can’t deny that Disney is a pro when it comes to imparting some great values for young individuals.
Kim Possible and Wendy Wu are just some of the brave and intelligent characters in DCOM of olden-times. The Cheetah Girls, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, Cadet Kelly, and Stuck in the Suburbs are all great DCOM films with female leads. Not only do all of these films show extremely talented girls chasing their dreams, but they also highlight the importance of female friendships. While all of the characters are independent on their own, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have your best friend by your side for support through thick and thin. These Disney Channel movies were part of the core foundation of my childhood. They showed me just how much girls and women were capable of with determination and inner strength. So as women continue to fight for more complex roles in Hollywood, we’ll always have these DCOMs to remind us that women of all ages have just as great stories to tell as anyone else, and share with the world.
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