A Walk on the Child Side: Drake and Josh Was Way More Progressive Than We Thought

Think back to the last time you watched Drake and Josh. Was it ten years ago? Maybe even five, when it was still, blessedly, available on Netflix? How old were you then? I think I was around sixteen--and I was certainly not aware of the messages this show was sending (positive messages, of course)!

At the outset, Drake and Josh just seems like a typical, teen/pre-teen-oriented sitcom about two teenagers boys who become step-brothers when their parents get married. It’s a pretty common baseline for a plot, especially from Nickelodeon or Disney. But there is something that makes Drake and Josh different: its portrayal of masculinity as both secure and family-oriented.

 

It may seem like the bare minimum of a positive portrayal of masculinity to say that Drake and Josh meets these requirements because they occasionally hug. But I would argue that it is more than just that--it’s Josh’s constant refrain of “hug me, brotha!” when he is celebrating, it’s their close-knit family structure even with step-siblings and step-parents added into the mix, it’s Drake’s refusal to stop fighting for Josh’s friendship (Remember that episode where Josh says he’s just done with Drake? Gosh. I’m getting emotional).

 

I would actually acquiesce and say that this IS the bare minimum of a positive portrayal of secure, family-oriented masculinity. I still feel strongly, however, that in comparison to other shows from similar networks and time periods intended for similar audiences, Drake and Josh was actually doing something super important: it was telling teenage boys that it’s okay to hug your friends, or hang out with your lame family, or experience emotions regarding your friendship. Even Drake, a character who oozes masculinity (which can occasionally be rather toxic) is capable of being vulnerable--and he’s the cool one, so it must be cool to be vulnerable. Right?

 

I was never a teenage boy so I can’t speak for how this message would be received by the people I think it would most benefit, but at least in a theoretical sense, it sounds incredibly productive for countering the constant stream of media that demonstrates masculinity as reliant on manliness--as in, not letting men have emotions or feelings or do anything even remotely feminine. Masculinity doesn’t need to be about muscles, or fancy cars, or anything like that--and Drake and Josh was crucial for teaching teenagers that they can be masculine and actually, you know, feel things.

 

So, Netflix...How about adding it to the lineup? It’s for the betterment of the younger generation, I swear.