Disney Channel Makes Strides with ‘Andi Mack’

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

About a year ago I began seeing ads for a Disney Channel show called Andi Mack, which caught my attention because the commercials were shrouded in mystery. The only detail revealed was that there would be a secret come to light on Andi’s birthday. Intrigued, but sure that I wasn’t going to actually watch the show, I did a Google search and found an article that revealed the big secret that Andi would learn. It turns out, Andi’s older sister, Bex, returns home just in time for her 13th birthday. During the visit, Andi accidentally discovers that her older sister is actually her mom. The revelation turns Andi’s world upside down as she begins to navigate her life as a typical middle schooler with her friends, Buffy and Cyrus, while adjusting to the new roles within her family. On a whim, I recorded the pilot episode, and I admittedly have fallen in love with the show. Disney continues to push the boundaries of what is discussed on shows geared towards preteens in the second season of Andi Mack, which is now airing. Below are some of the topics that have been addressed on the show so far.

1. Teen Pregnancy

The first and most obvious topic addressed on Andi Mack is teenage pregnancy. Bex had Andi when she was in her late teens and decided to allow her mother, Celia, to raise Andi as her own following an argument over parenting. She made this choice because she felt that Celia could take better care of Andi than she would. In turn, Bex was able to experience young adulthood, like everyone else. She traveled the world and is seen as the rebellious “sister” that walks to the beat of her own drum. Although she left Andi physically, she was always thinking about her daughter, which is apparent through the many trinkets she sent her while she was traveling. Another dimension in Bex’s story is that she never told Andi’s father that she was pregnant. Part of the storyline in the initial episodes revolves around Bex grappling with how and if she should tell her high school boyfriend about their child.

The relationships between the Mack women adjust and adapt during this transitionary period in their lives. Andi and Bex begin to evaluate their relationship as mother and daughter while Celia takes a step back and assumes her role as grandmother. The relationship between Celia and Bex is fraught with tension. Their personalities are polar opposites, and they often butt heads, but there is love between the women. Over the course of the show, they begin to understand each other more with Andi being their common ground.

Courtesy: Disney Channel

2. Sexuality

Like most of us did when we were in middle school, Andi has a crush, and it’s on Jonah Beck, the popular boy in her class. She over-analyzes interactions she has with him and even joins the Ultimate Frisbee team that he coaches after Bex attempts to set them up. Unbeknownst to Andi, her best friend Cyrus also has a crush on him. This is a storyline that is hinted at throughout the first season, which is confirmed during season one’s finale episode and the premiere of the second season. Cyrus has an internal struggle with his emotions for Jonah, and eventually confides in Buffy, the third member of the Good Hair Crew, which is what Andi and her friends call themselves. This makes Cyrus Disney’s first openly gay main character. Cyrus’ story is still developing as he has just articulated his feelings for Jonah to Andi in the most recent episode of the show. This is the third time that Disney has incorporated LGBTQ characters into their television shows—the first being on the Disney Channel show, Good Luck Charlie, which featured a lesbian couple as the parents of a character, and the second instance being same-sex couples featured in an episode of Star vs. The Forces of Evil on Disney XD.

Personally, I look forward to seeing how Cyrus and his story will develop over the course of the show. I can also praise Disney for being inclusive with its characters, even if they are only shown momentarily. It’s important to see characters that are just like you in the shows you consume, regardless of age. Andi Mack has started conversations among families that may have been avoided because of age while also showing the younger audiences that it is okay to be your authentic self.

Courtesy: Pinterest

3. Mental Health and Learning Disabilities

Mental health is an issue that has been introduced recently as well. Jonah experiences his first anxiety attack at Cyrus’ Bar Mitzvah, which could have been linked to his relationship with Andi. He had the attack shortly after having a conversation with her. He quickly disregards the situation and shows up on Andi’s doorstep to talk with her once more, ignoring his issues.

Learning disabilities are also beginning to be addressed on the show as well. Buffy is tutoring TJ, a fellow basketball player in math; she believes that he has a disability. When she suggested this as a possibility to him he grew angry and stormed off. However, TJ is coming around to Buffy’s suggestion and may soon seek help.

Andi Mack is unexpectedly progressive for a Disney Channel show, especially considering the audience it’s geared towards. While I have covered some of the topics that are discussed in the show there are many more important subjects addressed including privilege, different hair types and being a part of a military family. It is also important to mention that Andi Mack is the first Disney Channel show to be centered around an Asian-American family. Chinese heritage is explored more in the episode entitled Chinese New Year; hopefully, this will be the first of many episodes to do so. Regardless of if you’re 13 or 20, Andi Mack is a show that everyone can enjoy. It allows you to take your mind off things while also reminiscing your awkward middle school years.

Courtesy: Access 

Andi Mack was renewed for a third season on Feb. 19. You can view the show on Watch Disney or you can catch it on Fridays at 8 p.m.