Is Avalon High the Best DCOM?

A handful of weeks ago, I was in dire need of some feminist films. And, at the same time I wrote that article, Disney+ premiered, and I signed up almost immediately, even if it is a threatening example of a company taking over the world through horizontal and vertical integration. The first thing I did was watch the first episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. While I can talk about that wonderfully aware and zany series for hours on end, I'm here to talk about the second thing I did: I browsed the DCOM banner on Disney+.

If you don't know what a DCOM is, it is an acronym for Disney Channel Original Movies. Need some examples? The iconic High School Musical series, Camp Rock, Lemonade Mouth and The Cheetah Girls are all iconic DCOMs. Disney Channel executes the musical scores in their movies well, and it puts out some really great movies that still interest me today. But along with all those classic DCOMs are the forgotten, yet amazing, movies of years past. These include Stuck in the Suburbs, Minutemen and Cadet Kelly (though can we really forget any Hilary Duff movie?). As I scrolled through the DCOM section, my eyes landed on a movie I hadn't thought about in years: Avalon High.

Does it sound familiar? Did I just reawaken a decade-old memory? If so, I'm glad I did. If you don't remember this underrated DCOM, let me set the scene for you. In the leading role of Allie, a teenage girl who moves around a lot due to her academic parents' responsibilities as they research King Arthur, is Britt Robertson. You might recognize the name from the short-lived television series The Secret Circle on the CW (R.I.P.) or Girlboss on Netflix. She's also been in a handful of movies as well, such as Tomorrowland and The Longest Ride, à la Nicholas Sparks. Opposite Robertson is Gregg Sulkin, playing Will in the movie. Sulkin is better known as Mason in Wizards of Waverly Place (he's the werewolf who dated Alex) or Chase in Hulu's Runaways. Both of these actors have pretty solid careers, and, over the years, I've been following both of them and their new projects. When I saw Avalon High on the new streaming service, I decided to give it a go; I thought I was getting into some mindless movie watching, nothing special. Boy, was I wrong.

Remember how I was wishing for some more feminist flicks? Avalon High is the adolescent answer to my prayers. Sure, I might want something a little more refined with more subtle foreshadowing, but hey, I'll take what I can get. I won't get into spoilers here, in case you want to relive the amazing experience that is Avalon High, but I'd consider it one of the most feminist DCOMs out there. We have an outspoken protagonist who shirks popularity and social circles, two parents who are both equally respected and no damaging stereotypes. Yes, Allie is traditionally pretty, but she doesn't care about appearances and popularity. Instead, she focuses on a relationship with the dorky and socially ostracized Miles. Allie might be a jock (she runs track), but she's also smart, showing that teenage girls, and women in general, don't fit nicely into socially constructed stereotypes.

Avalon High is a refreshing DCOM, and not just because it isn't another musical, but rather because it dismisses gender stereotypes. We quite literally have Robertson playing a mythological hero, with the males acting as side characters in assisting roles. Robertson's character might pine over Will, but she acknowledges his boundaries, since he has a girlfriend. She doesn't try to wreck the relationship, but is patient and respectful instead. Sulkin's American accent might struggle throughout, but Avalon High might just be one of my favorite DCOMs, upon rewatching. The movie is fun, unintentionally humorous and even empowering.

If you're like me and have given in to subscribing to Disney+, give Avalon High a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised, just like me.