I Love These Childhood Shows But They Have Issues

Valerie Gray

Tremira Mitchell | Recently, I’ve been looking back at shows from my childhood. I long for these shows to make a return on TV, as I very much enjoyed them when I was younger. These shows are very entertaining to watch, and I’ve grown attached to many of the characters. However, as I look back on these shows, I increasingly notice their problematic writing, especially toward Black and POC characters.

The first show I would like to discuss is Danny Phantom, a cartoon created by Butch Hartman for Nickelodeon. It tells the story of a high school student who becomes half ghost and has to protect his town from other vengeful ghosts. I enjoyed watching the fight scenes and the various designs of the ghosts. However, some of the choices the writers made were quite questionable.

One of the questionable aspects of this show is the villain named Desiree, a ghost who can grant wishes. I remember being drawn to her powers and her design, which resembles a genie. But as I got older, I began to realize that her design and backstory are very orientalist. Apparently, she was a harem girl who seduced a sultan and later died of a broken heart after being overthrown by the sultan’s wife. I can’t say whether this was racist or not as I am not Middle Eastern. But it looks bad on the writer’s part.

Another character who I believe was done horribly in the show was the recurring character Valerie Gray. Valerie was my favorite character; I really liked her design and her unique backstory. It is interesting to see one of the most popular girls in school later become a ghost hunter full of vengeance. But what upsets me about her is how her relationships are handled in the show, specifically her romance with the main character, Danny. As the show progresses, Valerie and Danny start off as enemies, later become mutuals, and eventually start dating. I really liked their romantic couple scenes as well as their dynamic. However, by season 3 of the show, some writers left the team which led to many changes.

The remaining staff thought that it would be best to have Danny and Valerie break up in favor of pairing Danny with his white female friend, Sam. It feels so unfair to Valerie, as a Black girl, to have gotten sidelined like that. She felt like a disposable girlfriend; I remember being so upset when the two of them broke up in Season 3. This is especially harmful because she is Black. The writers demonstrated their lack of faith in the character and basically deemed her unworthy of being Danny’s girlfriend because of her race.

Another Nickelodeon show I would like to discuss is My Life as A Teenage Robot, an animated series about a robot who yearns to live her life like a normal human teenager. The episodes always made me laugh and I could relate to the main character, Jenny. However, Jenny’s rivals always left me feeling uncomfortable. At school, Jenny was bullied by a duo of cousins named Britt and Tiff Crust. Britt and Tiff were the popular girls who I remember had amazing fashion in each episode they were featured in. But it always irked me that these girls of color were the bullies. It was never explained in the show what the Crust cousins’ race was, but many fans have “headcanoned” them as either Black or Asian. I’m not saying that girls of color can’t be bullies; it’s just an odd choice to have one of the darkest characters in the show play that

While I do feel bad for tearing down Nickelodeon like this, my disappointment in them is greater since the program played such a large part in my childhood. Nickelodeon was the main channel that I turned to for entertainment. I formed more attachments and memories with Nickelodeon shows than with others. Nowadays, the company feels like a mixed bag. Their newer shows are more diverse, however there are still plenty of issues within their practices. I still have a soft spot for Nickleodeon, and I just want them to do better.

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