I used to love That’s So Raven! But I will admit that into my adulthood I’ve forgotten most of the characters and storylines. One episode I will never forget, however, is the 2004 masterpiece, “That’s So Not Raven.”
In this episode, Raven’s fashion designs are chosen for showcase at a runway show. Raven is thrilled, and she imagines herself modeling the styles in the show and in a subsequent magazine feature.
And then the magazine Photoshops someone else’s body over Raven’s.
I don’t need to explain why that is wildly unacceptable, on a moral level–it’s everywhere we turn, and it tells our youth that they have to look a certain way to be attractive. The recent wave of celebrities speaking about the exact same problem shows that it hasn’t changed a bit; actresses Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes from Riverdale recently spoke out against Photoshop, and Alicia Keys is known for rocking a makeup-free look all the time so that people know what she looks like.
That’s So Raven handles this sensitive topic with incredible grace. When one of the organizers says that Raven does not have “the look,” Raven retorts, “The look?! Who says that’s the only look?” Continuing in her diatribe against the unfair bodily expectations placed on her, Raven says, “In case you haven’t noticed, people come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re all beautiful. Put that in your magazine.”
I don’t know about you, but I would like “put that in your magazine” embroidered on a pillow as soon as is humanly possible. Not only is that a stinger of line, but it’s impactful and meaningful, especially on a television show marketed to young teenagers and pre-teens. I was seven years old when I saw this episode, and it made such a lasting impression on me that I still remember it vividly fourteen years later. This is the kind of positivity we need in children’s media.
Unfortunately, Raven has pointed out that behind the scenes Disney Channel was not as body positive as their storylines would make them seem; she attributes a lot of her mental struggles to the body shaming she faced from a young age. While this is saddening, I have hope for the future: the spin-off of That’s So Raven is currently airing on Disney Channel, and hopefully Disney is treating their young actors and actresses better than they did before.