Disney Channel never got worse, we just got old

It’s time to stop competing over which generation had the best childhood

Children's TV may be changing, but it's no worse.
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Growing up, I had a bone to pick with 90s kids. 
 
Every time I opened Facebook or YouTube, I was hit with nostalgia-heavy posts about a time period I only vaguely recognized. It made me feel mocked and excluded. 
 
“Only 90s kids will understand” was plastered across the internet; “Things people born after 1998 won’t understand” was slapped onto media, toys, and snacks that were definitely part of my childhood. I felt like people weren’t giving my generation a chance. Offended, I was always quick to protest—my childhood was going just fine, thank you. 
 
As I grew older, more of the shows I enjoyed in my childhood began to go off-air. Eventually, there was nothing on Family Channel or YTV that was recognizable to me. I turned on the TV unable to find the stars I had looked up to for years: Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez had been replaced by teenagers my age, some looking like they might be even younger than me. 
 
The new actors’ portrayals made me cringe. It was official: Disney and Nickelodeon shows had become worse. 
 
Disney+ has existed for nearly a year now, and it’s given us all a chance to go back and re-watch the TV shows and movies we grew up with. With not much else to do in a pandemic, I’ve found myself revisiting a lot of my childhood staples. 
 
What I found wasn’t the same, hilarious humour that had defined my youth. While there were some genuinely good pieces of television—like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Phineas and Ferb—strong enough to enjoy as an adult, watching most of the shows felt little different than the recent programming I used to mock. In the earlier seasons of Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place, the young actors had yet to come into their own. The jokes were stale, relying on bad puns and situational humour. The nostalgia factor wasn’t enough to keep me from constantly cringing.
 
Out of sheer curiosity, I found myself sifting through some of the shows that came out when I was too old to come across them on television. What I found wasn’t much different from what I spent my childhood watching. The storylines of Girl Meets World’s later seasons sucked me in and kept me invested, even as a 20-year-old. I was more than impressed by the boldness of Andi Mack, a show about a young girl who comes home one day to find out that who she had always thought of as her older sister was actually her birthmother who had her as a teenager. I guarantee that storyline never would’ve been aired in the early 2000s. 
 
After re-watching half of Disney Channel’s content, there was an obvious conclusion in front of me: kid’s shows today aren’t any worse than the ones I grew up with, despite how much those shows mean to me. The whole time I was sharing posts and liking comments about how “Disney Channel isn’t what it used to be,” I wasn’t living in reality, but nostalgia. I was no different than the 90s kids I used to despise. 
 
Idealizing our childhoods is fine, but it’s time to admit that we don’t have an exclusive lease on the ‘perfect childhood.’ As long as kids and tweens are enjoying the shows on Disney and Nickelodeon, it doesn’t really matter what the rest of us think. 
 
Shows like iCarly and Zoey101 will always have a special place in my heart, but my nostalgia doesn’t warrant bashing programs that weren’t made with me in mind. There’s no need to turn our childhood into a competition over who grew up in the best decade. A 12-year-old on social media shouldn’t have to feel like they somehow missed out on a good childhood because they’ve never seen Life with Derek
 
At the end of the day, Disney Channel hasn’t gone sour or lost its magic. We’re simply too old to enjoy it anymore. Next time I see posts online claiming otherwise, I’m just going to scroll past. After my deep-dive into tween television, I’d suggest you do the same. 
 

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