Disney Channel is presenting its first gay storyline aimed principally at a preadolescent television audience.
The gay narrative will debut Friday night in the youth-oriented cable network’s Andi Mack program’s second season premiere.
Young male lead character Cyrus will wrestle with his attraction to a male friend while also having a new girlfriend, a Breitbart report said, opening the door for the 13-year-old to discover his sexuality in subsequent episodes.
Andi Mack premiered in April. Billed as a coming–of-age comedy-drama, it follows the life of its 13-year-old title character as she contends with learning unconventional aspects of her family, including the fact the young woman she thought was her older sister is actually her mother. The median age for viewers of the Disney series is 10 years old.
Back around the time of its premier the series was billed as Disney Channel’s “most adult show yet” in TV Line, according to OneMillionMoms.com.
This second season’s premiere episode was screened in advance such organizations as Common Sense Media, GLAAD and PFLAG.
GLAAD praised Disney’s move to put a gay storyline into its children’s program.
“With more and more young people coming out as LGBTQ, Andi Mack is reflecting the lives and lived experiences of so many LGBTQ youth around the country,” Kate Ellis, the LGBT group’s president and CEO, said. “Television reflects the real-life world, and today that includes LGBTQ youth who deserve to see their lives depicted on their favorite shows. Disney has been a leader in LGBTQ inclusion, and there are so many young people who will be excited to see Cyrus’ story unfold.”
One Million Moms, an initiative of the American Family Association that raises awareness of exploitation of children in entertainment media, issued a warning earlier this year against the content in the Andi Mack program being unsuitable for a kid’s network.
“This show includes enough drama to be categorized as a kiddy soap opera rather than a children’s program,” it said in a release from May.
“(The network) asked me for something different,” series creator Terri Minsky told TVLine in March. “They wanted to attract an older audience. The whole thing was very flattering, because they seemed to think I could do it based on my Lizzie McGuire pilot. They just said, ‘Give us something new,’ so I pitched them this idea and they went for it immediately.”
Before Andi Mack’s second season premiere, Disney Channel said the program was appropriate for all ages and communicates a strong inclusive message.
“Andi Mack is a story about tweens figuring out who they are,” a network spokesman said in a statement. “Terri Minsky, the cast and everyone involved in the show takes great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences and sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity.”
The Walt Disney Company released a statement regarding the show as well:
“The Disney brand has always been inclusive, with stories that reflect acceptance and tolerance and celebrate the differences that make our characters uniquely wonderful in their own way. We constantly strive to live up to that legacy by continuing to create and share compelling storylines from our studios and media networks that entertain with inspirational and aspirational themes and reflect the incredibly rich diversity of the human experience. Our stories are timeless because they speak to the heart; our characters appeal to children across gender, ability, and experience because they’re defined by kindness, loyalty, humor, courage, wit, and other traits that make a good friend. Disney remains committed to continuing to create characters that are accessible and related to all children.”
The gay Andi Mack storyline is the latest instance of the Walt Disney Company inserting homosexuality into its programming.
In August, Disney Junior, geared for even younger children, featured an episode of its cartoon for preschoolers Doc McStuffins with two “married” lesbian moms.
Disney broadcast its first on-screen gay kiss in March in an episode of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, a cartoon meant for children and adolescents that airs on Disney XD, the company’s digital cable and satellite television channel.
Also this year, Disney’s film remake of Beauty and the Beast featured a gay subplot.
Disney-owned ABC’s prime-time fairy-tale drama Once Upon a Time featured a lesbian relationship last year.