While watching the first few little episodes of “Annette”, there was one thing that became clearer and clearer: nothing has really changed when comparing this series or any of the other teen “dramas” the Disney produces. “Annette” has all the classic characters that “Lizzie McGuire”, “That’s So Raven”, and “Hannah Montana” had/have.
Annette is the titular character of the show. She is the “everygirl” that audiences can identify with and fall in love with. She is good and honest and loyal. She might be a bit clueless at times, but that just makes her all the more endearing. She has friends and crushes, just like any teenage girl. This has not really changed when looking at the modern day teen heroines of Disney Channel. The three newer ones are all certainly more unique (Raven can see the future; Miley is a pop star, etc…) but they’re still the loveable good girls. Not quite part of the popular crowd, but not complete losers either.
Laura and her posse have not changed so much from show to show, either. For every “good girl”, there is always the catty queen bee who is seemingly out to get the heroine. While watching “Annette”, I kept wishing that Laura would just stop complaining about her stupid lost necklace! She seemed to be harping on about it so much simply to antagonize Annette. Looking at the popular Disney shows of today, we find that this archetypal character is still around, and still just as annoyingly bitchy.
And what is always the main reason for the “popular girl” to hate the “good girl” so much? Why– the hunky nice guy, of course! Steve is the perfect high school sweetheart– good-looking, well-mannered, and popular. Both Laura and Annette want him to be their boyfriend. This, too, is still a recurring theme in Disney teen shows.
Other identifiable archetypes in the show were the “quirky best friend”– Jet in this show; the “eccentric but loving parents/guardians”– I feel like parents in these shows are always written from the perspective of the kids. Like, this is how THEY view parental figures; and the “dorky kid”– in this case, Steady. I feel like this character usually ends up being exploited by numerous other characters. The only one missing from this show was the “annoying (usually younger) sibling”, which is very common in a lot of teen shows today.
So what does this mean? I think that these hallmarks are still around (though certainly updated) because they work. These are situations and people that a lot of American teenagers encounter in their high school years, then and now, and as long as that remains true, I think Disney (as well as other stations like Nickelodeon) will continue to produce shows with these themes.
It was certainly interesting to see basically “Lizzie McGuire” of the ’50s. The dialogue felt extremely dated, as did a lot of the clothes and customs. But already I look back at shows like the earlier seasons of “Boy Meets World” and notice how parts of that show feel a bit dated. I think it’s important to look at “Annette” as a product of its time and take it for what it is. The most interesting thing about it is how it seems to have been the start of a long line of Disney TV shows about plucky, loveable teenage girls and their day-to-day lives. And as long as people like them, they’ll keep making more.