9 Disney Channel Original Movies That Addressed Complex Social Issues

Movies Not Included: The Luck of the Irish —A treatise on the destructive power of ethnic stereotypes.

1. Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century: Cyber Terrorism

If you missed the entire point of this movie on first viewing, I’ll briefly recap it for you. Zenon saves a high-tech space station from a cyber terrorism attack by deploying her own counter-attack on the space station’s computer system. Then everyone attends a Proto Zoa concert (Zoom Zoom Zoom, You Make My Heart Go Boom Boom, My Super Nova Girl).

In a post Edward Snowden world, such cyber “terrorism” actions will become increasingly debated within society and government. While there may be no correct answer, as long as the ones doing so wear pink and chrome outfits, we may all be able to sleep a little better at night.

2. Full-Court Miracle: Homelessness and Social Obligation

Objectively, I could of addressed the religious side of Full-Court Miracle but we all expect a little more out of this article than that overplayed discussion. Instead, think back to the man coaching the Philadelphia Hebrew Academy’s basketball team, one Lamont Carr; a homeless failed college basketball stand-out. What Full-Court Miracle addresses is issues of social obligation towards members of our community. Does the status of a specific individual (i.e. a homeless basketball coach v. a habitual substance abuser) afford a higher degree of social obligation to them? Does Lamont have an obligation to use his talents and wisdom to help Alex as he struggles with his family’s non-acceptance of his love of basketball?

3. Brink: Monetary Compensation of Amateur Athletes

The moral of the story here is that Andy “Brink” Brinker chooses fun over money. While this is all well and good in the professional world, a growing debate on whether to compensate college athletes is in the mainstream public dialogue. What Brink brings to this discussion is a strong stance on the morality of accepting financial incentives for athletic performance.

4. Smart House: Technological Progress

Technological progress often has unclear future implications. Here, Smart House voices concerns on the ill effects of such unchecked progress.

Smart House IS Self Aware.

5. Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire: Single Parenting

It might come as a surprise to some of you that single mothers are still looked down upon in today’s society. Besides the many faulty assumptions that go into this, Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire raises the issue of predatory (literally) partners taking advantage of a difficult situation. The movie’s suggested remedy however raises a whole new set of moral problems (Thanks Lizzie McGuire’s dad for saving the day though!).

6. Motocrossed: Gender Roles

Only dudes race motocross right? Nope. Disney says that gender roles are wholly individualized in their nature and construction. While on the surface it may seem to be a simple statement that “girls can now do all the things that guys can do” I assure you that there is a deeper meaning here.

Also, Disney reinforces the fact that ‘Murica still hates French people.

7. True Confessions: Behavioral/Cognitive Mental Health

The discussion of mental health debate is often treated as a pariah topic within social fora. People with mental disorders are often treated the same way; stigmatized, ignored and misunderstood. Tru Confessions not only brings this issue up, but also shows how whole families are affected. I would make a Sean Penn reference here but I don’t want to be in bad taste.

8. Johnny Tsunami: Xenophobia

Xenophobic resentment towards certain cultures within our society is prevalent. Johnny Tsunami just shifted this paradigm to the battle of surf culture v. New England prep and skiers vs. snowboarders. Effectively these are just Disney styled microcosms of own modern world. What’s “different” might just be what’s needed (and in Johnny’s case, it saves the whole winter sports industry of an unnamed Vermont town).

9. The Color of Friendship: Racism

So this movie was literally about apartheid South Africa. Thank you Disney for making my work easy with this one.

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