• Teen Pregnancy Coming to Disney Channel?

    by  • March 15, 2017 • Cable Choice, Sex • 13 Comments

    Andi Mack

    The children’s network is pushing more “adult” fare.

    Until the turn of the new millennium, most of television was a “safe space” for young viewers. With a very few exceptions, such as premium networks like HBO, even most cable networks ran programming which could be enjoyed by the entire family; and the same was true of prime-time broadcast networks.

    Since about the year 2000, however, the story has changed. The major broadcast networks have abandoned truly family-friendly original programming, which has steadily been forced into a ghetto of small, independent cable networks like INSP, UP and the Hallmark Channel. While broadcast “diginets” or “subchannels” like MeTV and Antenna TV take up some slack, most show decades-old reruns. Even fewer networks bother to program anything specifically for children. Even Cartoon Network promptly switches over to its “Adult Swim” programming at 7 p.m. each night.

    Trading on its nearly century-long reputation for clean, family entertainment, the Disney Channel has been one of the few exceptions to this trend.

    Until now.

    According to a recent article in TV Line, Disney Channel’s upcoming series Andi Mack will be Disney Channel’s “most adult show yet.” The show’s storyline will feature a  a 13-year-old girl named Andi learning that the woman whom she thought was her older sister became pregnant as a teen – and is actually her mother, while the woman Andi assumed was her mother is actually her grandmother. The first season will gradually build to the revelation of the identity of Andi’s father.

    While series creator Terri Minsky (creator of the Disney Channel series Lizzie McGuire) claims that “We’re not going to say where babies come from,” she adds that “I can’t say for a fact that we’ll never talk about sex…We don’t specifically say the words ‘pregnant teenager,’ but we have conversations about invasion of privacy and how she left home.” Indeed, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and the National Center on Adoption and Permanency were key players in helping Minsky write the show.

    While the series itself may indeed remain free of explicit sexual content, and the premise is only mildly controversial (similar situations were hardly unknown in real life, even decades ago), a deeper question is why Disney Channel feels the need to pursue such programming. Minsky states that “[The network] asked me for something different. They wanted to attract an older audience.”

    Really? The DISNEY CHANNEL – a brand-name synonymous for decades with family-friendly content “wants to attract an older audience?” Why?

    It cannot possibly be that the network has a financial need for more adult viewers. As one of only a few channels catering to children, Disney is practically unrivaled in its audience share. It has a virtual lock on entire age groups – and while children have little disposable income of their own, they do have a tremendous influence on the purchases made by their parents.

    Rather, the move comes because of changes the entertainment industry and others believe are taking place. For example, The New York Times claims that “The internet has created more curious and progressive kids, leading to  what the industry calls “age compression” — allegedly acting older while younger. (Naturally, the industry’s own complicity in this trend, with its non-stop promotion of ever-more sexually explicit material, goes unmentioned.)  Thus, having deliberately created the demand for more sex and adult material  – by choosing to abandon family-friendly, all-ages entertainment to begin with — the industry now feels pressure to fill it. This downward spiral is the inevitable result of twenty years’ worth of  Family Guy, Two and a Half Men, and dozens of similarly sexually explicit shows…and now, it is affecting even Disney (which, rather than battling the trend with its huge library of quality family-friendly fare, seems rather to embrace it).

    Disney’s inexplicable choice to move toward more “adult” fare may ultimately prove to be as misbegotten as the decision by the executives at Nick Jr. to embrace the more “adult” NickMom programming block – a decision which devestated and, ultimately, destroyed the entire network.

    While Andi Mack itself may prove to be acceptable for families, make no mistake: this show is just the beginning. The Disney Channel is deliberately choosing to “lean forward” and promote adult content to children. By choosing to move in the direction of more “adult” stories and content, the Disney Channel – and the entire Disney media empire – may be choosing to sacrifice something far more precious…the trust generations of parents have reposed in the name “Disney.”



    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    13 Responses to Teen Pregnancy Coming to Disney Channel?

    1. Matt
      April 23, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      Disgusting. I think that Disney has a big problem now, because once you cross a certain line, you can’t get out of it.

    2. Walter & Donna Lapp
      March 24, 2017 at 8:22 am

      Being the great grandparents of 12 wonderful great grandkids (ages 5 and under) it saddens us that Disney is and has been drifting downward toward more and more sexual content in chosen programming! We have enjoyed the TV medium for a long time in entertainment and Good/wholesome fun but are saddened by the fact that previously wholesome programming has been replaced to keep ratings high along with profits at the expense of a deteriorating availability of choices appropriate for children. This cultural choice by Disney is making it more and more difficult to feel comfortable in allowing our children to choose and watch Disney productions without fear of having to filter content to assure pure fun and enjoyment which is “age appropriate” and builds family standards which are acceptable to a God-honoring society! I hope this input from us does not get placed in the proverbial “circular file” (trash) without due consideration and subsequent consideration by the “powers that be”! We will look for needed changes going forward! Thank you for your needed changes!

    3. Doris Galloway
      March 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      I have grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and I am concerned about their future. But I’m afraid their parents are not being very careful of what they see, etc.

    4. AltSolution
      March 17, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      Disney should just get rid of The Disney Channel completely if it’s doing so bad. They should make a new channel called SmartDisney, which would feature episodes of Bill Nye The Science Guy and shows that are designed to make kids smarter, similar to “Ultimate Factories” on The National Geographic Channel. How about a game show where you have a team of adults against a team of kids? A game show like that might cause kids to treat their parents with more respect.

      If Disney can’t compete with Nickelodeon, maybe they can compete with PBS and National Geographic, especially since PBS is going to lose federal funding.

      • You like jazz?
        March 22, 2017 at 6:48 pm

        But what about Tangled Before Ever After and Elena of Avalor and the new DuckTales? Those are our only hope for good Disney shows

    5. Cheryl Fendon
      March 17, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      Please keep your content clean and apppropriate for children. Your brand is based on family, children and fun. Don’t push the envelope or you’ll lose family’s trust and business in all venues… beyone tv!

    6. James Horner
      March 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      What is Walt doing, rolling over in his grave? Give us a break Disney Channel!

      • Futilitarian
        March 17, 2017 at 8:52 pm

        If Walt Disney was still alive right now, this show would not be airing on Disney Channel. He could still be alive right now if he hadn’t smoked so many cigarettes. He had a personal set of rules that he always followed at all times.

        However, by doing so, his company would probably have gone out of business by now. He would have followed his rules right off a cliff and taken thousands of his employees with him.

        Times change. Customs change. And sometimes rules need to change. Sometimes situations arise that those who wrote the rules never could have imagined. When those situations arise, blindly and robotically following the rules gets you nowhere. You need to adapt to your circumstances to succeed. If you can’t adapt to your circumstances, find a different set of circumstances-if you can.

        Evidently you care more about following rules than getting results.

        You can’t win a boxing match by standing still.

        You can’t win the Daytona 500 by driving 55 miles per hour.

        People who care more about following rules than getting results are people who are less likely to succeed.

        Let me give you an example. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, NYPD detective Donald Sadowy’s team used corrosive acid on the metal component that showed the VIN number of the van that held the bomb. This violated every guideline for evidence collection and preservation. An FBI supervisor chewed out Sadowy at the top of his lungs in front of all the other officers and agents working on the case. Sadowy didn’t sleep at all that night. He thought his career was over.

        But when he came to work the next morning, he was congratulated. The VIN number lead to the vehicle, a Ford Econoline van with Alabama license XA 70668, and the arrests of the three bombers. Later Sadowy was promoted.

        If Donald Sadowy had blindly and robotically followed all the rules the way you think The Disney Channel should, the three bombers would have not only gotten away, but also probably committed another terrorist act that would have killed thousands of people. Or two. Or three. Or as many as they could until a cop like Donald Sadowy got involved.

        Think about that for a minute.

        • Christopher Gildemeister
          March 21, 2017 at 8:52 am

          Actually, it could be argued that, by changing its programming to be more “adult” and sexually-oriented, it is *Disney* that is “blindly and robotically” following the herd, and which “cares more about the rules” followed by those in Hollywood today. Where is there a teen-centered TV series today that’s NOT about sex?

          In today’s media environment, it would take far more courage — and be far more innovative — for Disney to make entertainment for children and teens that *DOESN’T* talk about sex. The presumption that more sex in a program automatically equals “progress” says more about those doing the assuming than about the audience.

    7. sara
      March 16, 2017 at 6:46 pm

      Nick is ONLY doing well because of SpongeBob and The Loud House!

      As long as they have those 2 shows they can’t fail

      Unfortunately for them SBSP could be getting cancelled soon since the creator has ALS disease!

      Disney knows they can’t beat Nick, hence their change in direction

      What will happen to Nick once SpongeBob is gone?

      • sara
        March 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

        The only solution is to cancel SpongeBob and Fairly Odd Parents so Nick/Viacom loses all their power

        This is why Disney Channel & CN are losing ratings!

        • sara
          March 16, 2017 at 7:15 pm

          I meant to say: “The only solution to CN & Disney Channel’s problems is to cancel SpongeBob and Fairly Odd Parents so Nick/Viacom loses all their power”

          (well more so the former than the latter since FOP isn’t relevant anymore plus it may be cancelled)

          Disney & CN know they can’t compete with such a heavyweight show like SpongeBob so in order for them to rise to dominance again the Sponge Overlord MUST be taken down!

    8. J
      March 16, 2017 at 9:33 am

      “It cannot possibly be that the network has a financial need for more adult viewers. As one of only a few channels catering to children, Disney is practically unrivaled in its audience share.”

      Actually? Disney’s audience share has been falling. (Cartoon Network appears to either be falling or experiencing a slight dip while Nick is holding fairly steady.) HOWEVER, Disney focuses a little less on viewing numbers proper since they sell sponsorships and not ad space, but I think the dip may be concerning them, and perhaps wanting something like Andi Mack is the result of research into why. Personally, as a teacher, I think Andi Mack (so far) is very developmentally appropriate for the audience it appears to be attempting to reach (9-14, the mid-to-upper target for the channel). I don’t think their choice to greenlight Andi Mack is at all like NickMom especially considering the nature of NickMom compared to Nick Jr. vs. this compared to Disney’s recent programming.

      On a personal note rather than a “this is what I think as a professional” one (as someone who watched Disney in the 2000-2006 era and has watched on/off since), this–or its two episodes that are out, anyway–feels more like a return to form than anything else. It has a really Lizzie McGuire feel to it, and it also feels like some earlier Disney series (Lizzie and not-Lizzie) that weren’t afraid to explore some deeper topics in an age-appropriate way. But I don’t feel comfortable using that to argue my (“professional”) point, since it is based on more on my “I watched this as a kid” feelings rather than something like my watching it recently in an analytical fashion (which I did do some of the times I watched Andi Mack).

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