Lessons for the Future From Disney Channel and Nickelodeon Original Shows

Author: Kerrin Frappier, Entertainment

Kids shows: dumbed-down, predictable, unfunny… right? Pause for a minute. Actually, children’s programming can reflect the attitudes and fashions of a generation that is first learning the power of self-expression.

If you were one of the lucky children with basic cable, chances are your favorite channels included The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. These were channels specifically geared toward younger audiences! Their shows did not show family and school life from an adult perspective; they were made to make us feel like Clarissa Darling, Arnold and others were more than characters — they were people we knew.

If we were to look back on the programs we grew up watching, we might find that not only did those shows reveal something important to us then. More surprisingly, they might be able to provide us with some important lessons we should hold on to, things that are still relevant to our experience as millennials in the year 2017. Here is some good old-fashioned wisdom from the shows that made you laugh till you cried or in some cases, scared you. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.


Balance is the key to life (from The Famous Jett Jackson)
The Famous Jett Jackson was Hannah Montana long before Miley Cyrus rose to fame for donning a blonde wig. It was a show revolving around a teenager who was attending a school and making friends but also fighting crime on his very own hit television series.

While his character Silverstone struggles to restore order to his fictional universe by battling evil, Jett must balance school assignments with his filming commitments, red carpet appearances and some semblance of a normal social life. Who hasn’t been overwhelmed by all the things that are expected of us on a daily basis? There are the hours we devote to our work, trying to lead a healthy lifestyle by taking walks or heading to the gym, cooking meals and keeping up with the plans we’ve made for our few hours of downtime. Sometimes it all feels a bit much.

The Famous Jett Jackson tells us though that if we find people that support us when we have a lot on our plate, we will feel more equipped to tackle our seemingly never-ending to-do list. It should also be noted that Jett never put his work (his paid job or otherwise) before his loved ones, because he knew that the money and fame would not always be there, but his family and friends would be there no matter what.


Your talent is worth using (from The Wild Thornberrys)
One of Nickelodeon’s best-loved animated series, The Wild Thornberrys explores the lives of a family of documentary filmmakers who are aided by their youngest daughter’s unusual (and secret) talent.

Unbeknownst to the rest of her family, Eliza has gained the ability to talk to animals which aids the family in discovering new things about the creatures they encounter during their travels. While Eliza’s father is a nature expert, it is truly Eliza’s talent of speaking to animals that the family acquires much of their knowledge of the natural world. We would do well then to remember that our own talents and passions have value not only to ourselves and our self-esteem but to others and are worth sharing.


People with different interests and opinions must learn to coexist (from CatDog)
In this day and age, everyone has an opinion on everything, from politics to music to TV and hairstyles. While we are all entitled to our differing opinions, in a time where social media dominates our everyday lives, now more than ever we must learn how to tolerate opposing views.

No two beings struggled to do just that more than CatDog, the animated duo living in a conjoined body. On one (literal, physical) side Dog is hyperactive, easily distracted and eager to take on tasks. Opposite of Dog, Cat (whose head is at the other end of the hybrid animal) manipulative, ambitious and quickly angered. In order to stay intact though, Cat and Dog must embrace each other’s interests, shortcomings and dreams.

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Our differences do not have to define us (from Hey! Arnold)
Arnold (what is his last name?) has always been unusual. For starters, he lives with his grandparents in a boarding house full of strange renters. The biggest difference between Arnold and the rest of his classmates is his odd, football-shaped head. Despite this unique malformation though, Arnold is well-adjusted, kind and a great friend to all. He even has a secret admirer in school bully Helga who keeps a shrine in her closet to the “football head”.

Arnold may have a head that is shaped differently than others, but it never stops him from being the moral center of the program or going on many adventures with his peers. Anything that we do not like about ourselves — physical or otherwise — do not have to prevent us from doing anything we wish and may even endear others to us.

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Girls and boys can in fact be just friends (from Clarissa Explains it All)
One myth that is widely misunderstood is the old adage that men and women cannot be friends — there is too much built-in sexual tension. Contrary to this, one teenage girl got revenge on her brother, got through junior high school and sought independence from her parents all with the help of her best friend and confidant, a boy named Sam.

Sam even climbed a ladder up to Clarissa’s bedroom window during each episode! While under most circumstances a teenage boy being in a girl’s private room would have been a parent’s worst nightmare, there was never any indication that Sam and Clarissa were anything but the best of friends.

In 2017, isn’t it time we threw away the idea that there is always a romance budding between friends of the opposite sex? While we’re at it, let us throw away the made-up construct of “friend-zoning,” it doesn’t really exist, people!

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You were born for success (from The All New Mickey Mouse Club)
Sure, The All New Mickey Mouse Club consists mostly of goofy skits and cringe-worthy musical numbers. But if you look closely, you will find this is where many future stars cut their teeth on performing for an audience.

From Britney and Christina to future *NSYNC members JC and Justin, these music superstars made their start on the program. No matter what Ryan Gosling might try to convince people, he did not start singing only to prepare for his role in La La Land; he sang right alongside Justin Timberlake on the variety show long before he was a Golden Globe winner. Actress Keri Russell also had an early gig on the show as did singer-songwriter Matt Morrison (not to be confused with the actor from Glee). It is remarkable to see these stars at the beginning of their long careers, before they were even old enough to vote or sometimes drive! See what a little perseverance will do?


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