I am so happy to share an interview from one week ago today with Shane and Vicky, hosts of the DCOM Clubhouse podcast. Vicky and Shane live in Ireland and met in film school. They are two of the kindest people, and I’m so thankful that they agreed to talk with me. Enjoy this multi-faceted, timely conversation with me and my new friends!
Allison: So, I love your podcast. I think that it’s creative, it’s fun, but also, you take the time to talk about important real-world events. You take the time to say what’s problematic in these movies, and it’s really cool that you bring your unique experiences to this. I feel like a lot of us in the US have this one-sided mentality about these movies. It’s amazing and enlightening to hear from your perspectives. First, how did you decide you were going to start the podcast, and what was it about it that excited you and still does?
Vicky: Yeah, so I grew up, like, absolutely the biggest Disney kid, so obsessed with Disney Channel; it’s all I would watch—to the point where my favorite ones were always Halloweentown or ‘Twas the Night (which we just released), but I had it saved on the DVR and I would watch it all throughout the year, and then my dad would delete it, and I’d like freak out. Like, these are my movies; they’re what got me into anything. I listen to other movie podcasts, and I was always like, “I wish someone would talk about DCOMs.” Also, from the perspective of someone who didn’t grow up with them very easily available on the Disney Channel, the Disney Channel is such a privilege to have had as a kid in Ireland because so many people didn’t. And then me and Shane love musicals; we would always talk about fun fantasy things, so I was like, “Shane, we should do a podcast about Disney Channel Original Movies,” and Shane was like, “I’ve seen High School Musical and old Halloween ones. Let’s do it!” So, it’s nice to be rewatching them because I’ve seen most of them from a very, very young age, but it’s really fun, considering Shane hasn’t seen a fair few of them and is seeing them as an adult for the first time. Kind of getting that perspective on the two, I always thought was fun.
Shane: We were talking about being privileged having the Disney Channel. On the other end of the spectrum with me, I’m a little bit older than Vicky, which we talk about on the podcast a lot. I kind of watched it, just the Halloween ones, like Halloweentown, Don’t Look Under the Bed, those were kind of my main ones. I watched them until, I would say, 2004, and then I thought I was too old for Disney Channel, so I didn’t watch any of them for years, until High School Musical when I was 21, because my friends were like, “It’s a travesty that you haven’t seen it.” But I think it’s interesting, when we do the podcast, that I’m listening to someone who grew up with them, and then I’m kind of coming in without that kind of attachment to a lot of the films. And we do want to try to promote [the idea], if you were a child, what would you take away? We have the segment, “What did you learn?” I don’t really have much of an attachment to them. I’m getting better at them. We talk a lot about the repetition and themes as a through-line of all the DCOMs, in particular, identity being the biggest theme. Also, I find it interesting that Disney is all about individuality, but it’s packaging a certain type of identity, too.
Allison: I agree, and I’ve picked up on that; you guys are very good at pointing out some of these tropes that they rely on over and over again. It’s a lot of fun to poke fun at that but also to see what made these movies so successful and kept people watching them over and over. It’s interesting that you bring up the privilege just of having the channel. So, I was born in the 90s, and by that point in the US, it had largely switched over from a premium paid cable option to basic, so me, almost everyone I grew up with had it, it was just a given. But I read that Disney Channel UK didn’t even launch until 1995, over a decade after the US channel. So one main question I have is, is [Disney Channel] pretty uniform across the UK or is there a lot of variation from Ireland to Wales to England and so on?
Vicky: Disney Channel UK was England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, so anything that was airing on Disney Channel UK, any of the Disney Channel UK websites, for years after is what people in Ireland had, but it was an attachment to your TV subscription that you had. So, I think in the UK, it was a bit more easily available within certain TV packages, but because Ireland isn’t the UK, we would share the same one but the channels that you had would be Sky TV or NTL. So that would be included in a separate package, so you had to pay to have the Disney Channel. It would be like the exact same broadcast that would be happening in the UK at the same time. I always thought it was so weird, and so frustrating because I’d be trying to watch some videos when I was six on the Disney Channel website, but some of the videos would only be available in the UK, but we only had access to the UK website. That was very annoying. But I made it through. It was fine, I lived. I made it here.
Allison: And so, Shane, since you came to [Disney Channel] when you were a little bit older, once you two came together and started talking about what you remembered watching, were those memories fairly similar, of the movies you had both seen and what [the channel] would program, I don’t know if that’s something you guys talk about much. Since you grew up in a different part of Ireland [Cork], do you feel like even within that, there was a little bit of change, or do you both mostly remember some of the same things?
Shane: [Vicky] Have we talked about this?
Vicky: Weren’t the DCOMs you had seen shown on RTÉ?
Shane: They were, yeah. It was mainly the Halloween ones.
Vicky: Oh, RTÉ is like our nation’s broadcast station. It’s Raidió Teilifís Éireann in Irish. So, I think they had maybe bought some licensing from Disney for seasonal films. So I think you [Shane] probably saw them for that.
Shane: I think the only difference would be that some of the older ones that I grew up with, I would be a bit more defensive of whereas Vicky would be defensive of the ones that I didn’t see, as well. It’s the nostalgia thing. You will defend it…[The movies] are like little time capsules of what people were wearing and I suppose, the values that people had, like, what was important. It’s interesting to shift to music but also at certain point, they became more diverse and then less diverse, which is interesting.
Allison: Yeah, that kind of goes in waves.
Shane: Yeah. I feel like in the mid-2000s there were The Cheetah Girls and Wendy Wu [in terms of representation]. It also wasn’t seen as an overly political thing. You see it a lot in video games, in particular, how it’s political to have someone who’s not a white man.
Vicky: Yeah, also, every DCOM now is a musical.
Shane: Which is great, and we’re big fans!
Allison: Yeah, I like that you guys are covering some of the newer ones because that’s one of my downfalls, I have not taken a ton of time to do that yet. I’m pretty much illiterate when it comes to Zombies, so listening to your episode is very helpful. I don’t know a lot about Descendants…You had Caitlin from the Cait Loves Disney YouTube Channel on there for Zombies, and I really give her credit on her channel when she talks about the old versus new Disney divide. And to bring in representation and diversity, that’s really cool that you are making it a point to trace how the network does with that through the years.
So, on that note, when you do talk about identity and things that age well and don’t age well–we could go negative first, like what’s something that probably bugs you the most about looking back on some of these films from any era out of the ones that you’ve talked about so far?
Shane: Certain stereotypes, I think, particularly with young girls; a big one we talk about in Princess Protection Program is this idea, I don’t know, it just doesn’t sit well with me. There was a line about eating carbs and not eating carbs. We now know in hindsight that Demi Lovato was dealing with an eating disorder at the time. And it’s just, it’s weird, that that’s going on and with the culture of the time, Disney was part of the reason that girls were having issues with their bodies and having eating disorders, and obviously putting her on Disney Channel is part of the reason that [Demi] had an eating disorder. So those kinds of lines. Also, the stereotypical boy/girl gender roles kind of annoy me. But then I also get annoyed at them pushing too far against them.
Vicky: Yeah, I think it’s interesting, on Princess Protection Program, it’s such an issue that Demi Lovato’s character is very feminine. And that’s seen as something that’s such a massive weakness and as something that she should be bullied about or made fun of for, as opposed to Selena Gomez’s character. I’m 21, so my main Disney Channel era was Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place for the continuous airing of it. And I loved Selena Gomez and Alex Russo, and [Selena’s] character in Princess Protection Program. I was kind of like a tomboy as well, which also—can we ban the word “tomboy” once and for all?
I wanted to be Selena Gomez. I was like, 8; I would think that I had to reject anything inherently feminine or wearing dresses or whatever so I was like, “I want to be cool. I want people to like me,” because that was all I had seen: if you are feminine people are gonna think you are weak and boys are going to be mean to you, as opposed to you being cool and not showing emotions and being strong. And I think that’s such a bad message. I do genuinely think Disney has gotten better on that particular thing, in terms of Descendants, even, because Evie as a character is so fun, and she’s so delicate. She’s such a strong-willed person also, so it’s really nice to see her for that as well, she’s never torn down for it at all…she is literally a princess. But I think another thing that annoyed me, and Shane, I’m sure you probably agree, is that Disney has a lot of gay-coded characters. But obviously it’s like, because it’s Disney, they’re not going to actually push the envelope to be like, “This character is gay.” But to make it so blatantly obvious, and then make the characters date a woman, for example, in High School Musical, Ryan is clearly gay. Kelsi is clearly a lesbian. High School Musical 3 comes around; let’s just throw them two together! Like, no. that doesn’t work.
Shane: But even more recently with LGBT in DCOMS, they had a novelization of Descendants, and [Harry] Hook and Gaston’s son [Gil] have a relationship in the novelization, but it’s not something that was put into the films.
I have such a weird relationship with Disney as a whole. For everything they push for, for example, in Beauty and the Beast, they talk about LeFou being gay. Or there’s a gay couple in this one shot in Star Wars and it’s like, “Oh, we’re representing!” And everyone gets so excited, but it’s something that can very easily be edited out of the film when they air it in countries that wouldn’t quite like that. It just feels very disingenuous, and it is like they are capitalizing on identity, which I believe kind of started with DCOMs. Even something like Camp Rock, it’s like they’re writing songs, but it’s not their real type of music, so they end up writing the music they really want to write, which is the music that Disney is forcing the Jonas Brothers to write.
It’s so complex, and it’s so interesting. They’re selling identity. All companies, in the last ten years, are really capitalizing on your ideas, your sense of self, and Disney has caught on. So, it’s like, I don’t know, it’s really inauthentic because it’s capitalizing on people’s needs to find themselves in their identity but also like, is it bad if people are being themselves? And with kids, are they only acting this way because of the movies they watch? It’s a really complex issue, and I still don’t know where I lie with it, to be honest.
Allison: I completely track with that, and I think as far as racial representation goes, to go back to those different eras, I can definitely see [a change] from That’s So Raven and The Proud Family in the early 2000s to it becoming a little more predominantly white with the Hannah Montana era. That’s definitely something I’m interested in unpacking.
So, I don’t want to totally put a pin in that, and we can keep coming back to that some, but I do also want to know, what have you most enjoyed rewatching for the podcast or just for fun with Disney+ in the last year or so?
Vicky: With Disney+ in particular, I’ve been enjoying watching these films in a decent quality. I’ve been trying to find the films anywhere, like I might have like a taped over version from when it was airing on the TV and or a DVD or whatever that’s 4:3, terrible quality. It’s nice to have them so accessible because for the amount that I have seen, there’re so many that wouldn’t have been aired over here at all.
And for some reason I have such a deep-seated dislike for Buffalo Dreams, and I do not remember a thing about Buffalo Dreams. I dread the day we have to do that episode, and I see it on Disney+. I know it’s there, but I just don’t want to watch it; in my brain, the color palette’s like brown and boring and I think it looks gross…But I think the film that I probably enjoyed the most, I really liked watching Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off again, because I hadn’t seen that in so long. And again, I always love the Twitches films, so I love to go back to that as well, which was really fun. And I think it’s funny that we still haven’t done the first High School Musical. I loved doing Lemonade Mouth. That’s one of my favorites.
Allison: What about you, Shane? What have you most enjoyed watching again, or watching for the first time?
Shane: Definitely for rewatching, Don’t Look Under the Bed. The visual of that is just something that has stayed with me in my brain. It was really weird to see the image, but it was like I was a child again. How I was seeing it as a child, I saw it again. I’m like, this is so weird. New ones that I’ve enjoyed, definitely Lemonade Mouth. Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach 2.
Shane loves the music of the Teen Beach Movies. We talked a little bit about the change in the flavor of DCOMs in the last several years. Vicky smartly pointed out that the faux texting bubbles are very weird. Shane noted the problems of talking down to kids through the use of such techniques and writing strategies. That led us to talk about what eventually happened to Disney Channel UK:
Allison: So actually, I read that the Disney Channel UK itself disbanded this fall. Is that true?
Vicky: So, I was eating breakfast and looking through channels and thought, “Let’s see what’s on Disney Channel.” Sometimes reruns of old shows are on in the morning, or like, my favorite thing ever was when I was in primary school (which is like elementary school for you guys), every single night, 9pm, Fillmore would be on, Recess would be on and I was like, “I’m in the zone. I’m ready to sleep.”
So I was like, “Let’s see what’s on Disney Channel,” and it just wasn’t there. I like had do so much research because I was like, did my dad delete Disney Channel without telling me? I was ready to fight. Yeah, I assume they got rid of it because Disney+ is now available here. It sucks [that they got rid of the channel], but you had to pay for Disney Channel, it’s kind of the same difference of having to pay for Disney+, as well, like, even though I love Disney+ and I definitely use it a lot more than the Disney Channel now, it’s nice to just like throw an episode of something on in the background, and there is a difference [between] watching something live and [putting] an episode on. Even just having the ad breaks there, it just has a different feeling, so [it was] really weird because I rarely rewatch old episodes of TV shows on Disney+. It’s mainly just the films I use it for, but I would always watch like reruns of episodes on the channel itself. And so I was shocked when I saw that it was gone and shocked that, also, no one was talking about it.
Allison: Yeah, this happened what, in October? I think maybe I saw like one headline earlier this season, but I was kind of like, why isn’t this a bigger deal? I don’t know what the future of it is here in the States, but I can see the streaming world taking things over here, too.
Vicky: Yeah, I wonder how it will work because there were some TV shows that were specifically made by the UK Disney Channel. There was The Lodge.
Allison: I read there was one called Evermore Chronicles.
Vicky: There was a UK version of As the Bell Rings. Shane, it was the weirdest thing ever. It was like eight to ten minutes long, and it just took place at a school window (single-cam). And the kids would come in and out of the window in between the bell ringing, what would happen in between classes and stuff like that.
Americans didn’t like it. British people ate that up, though. British people loved it.
Allison: Wasn’t Gregg Sulkin on it from Wizards?
Vicky: Yeah, Gregg Sulkin got his start in it, as well…But I wonder if that will be affected because I don’t see those shows transitioning to the Disney+ network, necessarily. So I wonder how that’s gonna work; there’s a lot of international shows, as well; there’s a lot of Spanish ones, so yeah I wonder how that’s all gonna be affected. I’m intrigued.
Allison: Me too. I think we have The Lodge on our service, and I think we might have Soy Luna, so I haven’t really checked either of those out yet but that’s, you know, nice that it’s giving people here exposure to what some of those other shows are.
I asked Shane and Vicky about Nickelodeon versus Disney Channel and found that the competition is not as severe between the two networks in Ireland. Shane only had four channels growing up, and the one kids’ channel would run various children’s programming during the daytime, so it was more about the shows than their networks. Listen to the podcast to hear more about Shane’s interactions with Spongebob!
Shane: …Kids’ TV would kind of run from early in the morning to about half-four in the afternoon, maybe five; they would pick and choose shows from Nickelodeon or Disney. You didn’t really care where they were from; it was more the shows themselves. I certainly didn’t really know if something was Nickelodeon, because I think to me, Nickelodeon growing up was like Rugrats and kind of cartoony stuff, not so much like Zoey 101.
Vicky: It was a scandal when Jamie Lynn Spears got pregnant; we all knew about it, too.
Nickelodeon shows definitely kind of like push the bar a little bit because they didn’t have their whole shtick of identity and that kind of thing. They definitely had a bit more adult themes because we also had Nick at Nite, as well. I think Nick at Nite came over here and was more available here when I was probably like 10 or 11. So then I finally saw What I Like About You with Amanda Bynes.
Shane: That was on the Irish-speaking channel as well.
Vicky: I would think I was like a rebel for watching Nick at Nite. So Nickelodeon made me feel older, but Disney channel made me feel happy.
Shane: …I feel like Disney movies are more sentimental, and DreamWorks movies are more goofy; jokes first and then message. I feel like Nickelodeon is more like Dreamworks than Disney Channel. [Everyone loves The Boss Baby!]
Allison: Sentimental is such a good word for [Disney Channel] movies because there have been a few that we’ve rewatched this year where I’m surprised at how emotional I feel just watching them, watching the story.
I brought Shane and Vicky into an interesting side conversation on Santa in Ireland, inspired by the thoughts they shared on their ‘Twas the Night episode. Shane and his family held The Santa Clause as one of their sacred movies, so he wanted to be Santa growing up. I’ll let you listen to their episode to hear more about Christmas traditions. That led us to more broadly consider American culture in Irish television.
Shane: In the 80s, there was a huge explosion of American culture; I remember my parents would talk about how when MTV came to Ireland, it was a huge, huge thing. The Americanization of the Western world is absolutely massive. Everyone wanted to watch American shows, so it was the center of culture for so, so long. I was on the French exchange when I was 16, learning English from Veronica Mars and all these big shows. And I just remember, like when Lost came, too, because I love Lost. That was an event. And if you got it just a few days after America, you were like a special country. Another big thing: When Disney Channel came to the UK, it was like, oh my God, this big thing that we all know and have heard of from America was here. It’s interesting just thinking about it, when you guys are saying that channel has gone. I think it wasn’t as precious to British people, because it was an American thing.
It’s like it comes from an era where American culture was taking over, and I think people really wanted to grab a part of it. But now, I don’t think there’s as much of that going on.
Vicky: We would get films and TV shows a few months after the US for DCOMS airing, so like the Halloween DCOMs, they would either be aired the next calendar season or maybe a month later, or in the new year. So I think with that sort of event stuff, [it’s] like waiting to hear buzz about something. I was on forums and stuff like that way too young, I was on all the Disney Channel things I could find or YouTube videos or whatever.
And to kind of have that anticipation for something to come, I think kind of built a lot more of a viewership, so now everything kind of comes out maybe a week after or the same day or whatever. So I think people kind of were like, not too excited for stuff anymore and then also, streaming has come about, downloading stuff illegally has always been there, but it’s so much more accessible now that there just wasn’t a need to have that much event television built into your network anymore, which I think is so interesting across the board.
Vicky: I noticed younger cousins of mine wouldn’t even care that much about watching television live, whereas, like I mentioned it in the Twitches episode, me and my sisters used to do swimming lessons. And every Friday we would come home and if there was a DCOM event premiere, we would have it on record and shower and get sweets, and it would be such a family night where we’d have friends over. And that was such an ingrained, built-in theme to my childhood, that I think that [losing that] event-ness of it in a way has made the intrigue and the joy of it kind of dissipate a bit, which I think is so interesting to see and also kind of sad to see, as well. That excitement is such a fun thing about being a kid, getting so buzzed over a new film…
Shane: Talking about it the next day at school.
Vicky: Seeing what that meant to people of our generation. Now people just don’t talk about TV even, anymore.
In the last part of our conversation, we take one more look at DCOM memories and step back to examine yet another piece of Disney Channel’s history–the scant representation of religions in programs we grew up watching.
Allison: Just a couple more things. I love what you said earlier, Shane, about how you watch certain things, like you mentioned with Don’t Look Under the Bed, and you can put yourself back to where you were when you were younger. I have that feeling so often. That’s something I’m really trying to unpack with this blog on my personal journey. I feel like nostalgia has evolved a lot in the last decade to the point right now where we’re all thinking on it and meditating on it. So how has doing the podcast amplified that for you guys or maybe made that more challenging to add this layer of being a little bit more critical versus just having the memories?
Shane: I think we’re more critical, I think you can be more critical of the time the movies came out. We know more now than we did at the time. So it doesn’t take it away, I don’t know. I have to think about this.
Vicky: I think in a sense, we kind of got more critical of them, but also, still understanding and putting it all in context of its time and that sort of thing. But I still get a lot of enjoyment out of watching the films. It’s fun to watch them years later, and in the lens of being film students, having studied film, I’m very much the type of person that if I like a film and enjoy it, I like it. I’m not like, “I only like art house films.” That’s so boring. Like, I definitely still get a lot of enjoyment out of the films, but I think it’s kind of fun to put on that film student critical lens, as well. Even with the Twitches episode again, we made so much fun of the ADR (automated dialogue replacement) at the start of the film because it’s so bad, and they do that a lot in DCOMs where you can clearly see that the characters’ mouths aren’t moving. And it’s so funny what they get away with, with kids, so often. It’s kind of fun to make a joke out of some aspects of the film but also keep it rooted in the fact that these films aren’t made for us as adults, they’re made for children, and to have that understanding there, as well. I do think we are more critical, even with talking about racial issues and making it very clear that we are white people talking about it.
Allison: Right, as we are now.
Vicky: But I think it’s fun to add that critical layer to it without being like, “These movies are bad.” They’re for enjoyment, and they’re for entertainment. That’s what we want to get across.
Allison: Is there something you thought, preemptively, was going to suck, and vice versa, something where you thought, “I’m going to love this film, this is going to be great,” and then it sucked.
Vicky: I thought Zombies was going to be bad, and it was so fun. And I rewatched it, and all through Halloween this year, I was listening to the soundtrack. I love Zombies, I think it’s great. Shane’ll probably get mad at me for this, but I don’t love Teen Beach Movie. I think it’s fine, but I expected, because it’s a musical, like I’m gonna love this. It has some bops and good songs, but it just didn’t catch me the way that any other DCOM ever has. I guess in comparison to the newer ones, because I love the Descendants franchise and was watching that kind of as it was coming out, at first I was being all secretive trying to watch Descendants as a fifteen-year-old, and then I was like, “Who cares?” because I got all my friends hooked on it.
Shane: You know, speaking about nostalgia, I think Teen Beach Movie was really nostalgic for me because that was one that I watched with my housemates in my first university house. And we made an event when Teen Beach 2 came out. We got together, and maybe I have more of an attachment to it because of a slightly more simple time in my life. Lemonade Mouth surprised me. I so didn’t want to watch it, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to like it, but then I loved it. It was great. I wanted a sequel by the end.
Allison: Just to touch on external media, and the music a little bit. Two things maybe we would have differed in (in the US and Ireland) would have been our Disney Channel websites. Shane, since you didn’t have very reliable Internet at a young age, you probably were not playing on disneychannel.com and doing all the games, or did you have a way to do that somehow?
Shane: I think I did in school, but I think in my head by the time I was 10 or 11 I was like, “I’m too old for Disney Channel.” I used to hear a lot of the songs, people used to play “Breaking Free” and Bluetooth a lot of the songs to each other.
Vicky: We had some of the games on the UK website, like The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
Allison: Pizza Party Pickup?
Allison: I love that one. Sorry, I’m such a nerd. I still go and play that game sometimes. There are people who have preserved them. I’ll find it and send it to you, and you can have at it.
Vicky: There are ones like that and a Hannah Montana closet dress-up game, and a Wizards one. So I’d play them a fair bit, and then I had the Hannah Montana Wii game, which was great. You would be on a world tour as Hannah Montana, so I was like, I am a performer, I am so good. I don’t have a musical note in my body. But when I played that game, I was Hannah Montana. And I think there was a That’s So Raven game where you played through the game and you’d be having the visions. And that kind of thing. Yeah, I’m not sure how many, but there definitely were some.
Allison: They had a very similar game for Lizzie, which someone has preserved.
Vicky: I was always dressing up Miranda because her clothes were more interesting.
Allison: I think you can only do Lizzie now and you can’t do Miranda.
Vicky: It’s so weird, this is bringing back so many memories. This is fun.
Allison: Lastly, in addition to the music, I’m interested in representation of different religious backgrounds. Especially this time of year, there’s been a lot of interesting stuff about how we only get one Hanukkah DCOM, but really we only have three Christmas DCOMs to date. So I remember when I was young, I always wondered what characters believed about God, about life, and I would really latch onto these little snippets I would get. I was just wondering if, growing up, if you have any recollections of responding to these slight things. The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Christmas episode leaned more religious. Because it didn’t happen all that often, I’m curious about your reactions to religion on the channel, and what could have been improved.
Vicky: Yeah, I think (because we would have grown up Catholic) there’s that baseline assumption, especially around seasonal stuff where you’re talking about religion a lot more. You’re kind of seeing predominantly white characters on your screen celebrating Christmas and you’re like, “Ah, fellow Christians/Catholics. You kind of assume that. But also, as you get older, you think that Christmas has become so capitalized on. I know and am friends with people from different religious backgrounds who still celebrate Christmas because it’s gift-giving and that sort of thing. That’s so interesting because I never would have thought about religious icons or symbolism in it at all, or seeing the characters celebrate religion. I would like to see it a lot more. I could kind of see them be more in touch with their heritage or their background…On Wizards, they would still be quite in touch with their Latin roots. And they would kind of touch on that a lot more. Alex had a Quinceañera, and that was really interesting to see because that’s not something that was predominantly there in Ireland at all. Most people you know in schools are Catholic, or even Catholic and Protestant schools would be separate. And It was kind of funny later on that we had multi-denominational schools, but you would never learn about different religions, and it was something that I really wanted…
I don’t think Disney has ever really handled religion very well or portrayed religion explicitly in a good light, which I think would be nice to see. Even if you stray from your religion growing up, as a kid, your parents are your parents and if they tell you to go to church, you’re in church. But like, I think it would be interesting for kids to see their religion be represented and their faith be represented on screen. There’s kind of a baseline assumption that they’re probably Christian, if anything. I think that is a representation that could be worked on a lot more in the channel overall, I feel like in the earlier years they would talk about it a lot more, but I feel like now if they had religion be a main factor in a show or film or whatever, you would have people having an issue with that. I think the network is being a bit weak about doing, like, “Have your own identity, but one that’s digestible for every audience everywhere.” Which I don’t think is fair, either.
Allison: That’s a good point.
Vicky: Shane, do you have anything to add?
Shane: As you were saying, growing up in a Catholic country, I think because Vicky’s from Dublin, the capital city, you would have had more of a diverse childhood than me because I went to a Catholic school. Everyone went to church or mass, and you would see the person that was an atheist and you would be like, “You didn’t make your communion,” that’s so weird. But I think Disney doesn’t really push anything…Later on [in Ireland], you could do religion as an exam subject, learn about different religions. But it was not an exam subject at my school. You just learned about Catholicism…so when I moved to the UK and went to Cardiff, which has more religious diversity than anywhere else I’ve lived, I’m really at a disadvantage, I haven’t grown up with any media telling me about different religions; when people talk about Eid or Ramadan, I really have to teach myself about them. I felt stupid or uninformed. Nobody I had interacted with before told me why they feel this way. It’s important and something that they [Disney Channel] need to work on.
Allison: Those are really good responses. Thank you both for sharing so much with me!
Thanks again, Shane and Vicky! There is so much more for me to research and learn, and you’ve both really inspired me! 🙂 Everyone, go listen to their amazing podcast here.