Coming Of Age: Disney’s ‘Andi Mack’ Gets Its First Gay Character
Disney might have just made TV history in a moment with what they just pulled. Much to everyone’s surprise, goofy 13-year-old Cyrus Goodman came out as gay by trusting his good friend Buffy enough to divulge to him that he had a crush on a boy. The said boy he has a crush on is the cool kid Jonah Beck, who just started dating Cyrus and Buffy’s best friend, Andi Mack.
The show we are talking about is none other than Disney Channel’s hit tween dramedy, Andi Mack. It marks the first time the channel has featured a coming-out story for a teen in a live action show. Although the series hinted its viewers that Cyrus might have a crush on Jonah through its first season, no one seemed to pick on it as it is not the kind of twist you expect from your usual teen show, and last Friday’s episode was when the writers thought was the best time Cyrus finally said it out loud and cleared the air of all doubt.
The way in which it was revealed was dramatic (like we expected otherwise from a dramedy)… In one affectionate scene, we saw Cyrus confess he was in the closet before going on to open the door wide enough for his friend Buffy to have a look inside. Admittedly, it would be a complex storyline for any series to manage, talk less of one that focuses on tween characters who are better off being worried about homework and school sports along with questions about who is dating whom.
Barring the surprise of how it happened, it is actually little or no surprise that a storyline like this would happen on Andi Mack, a series created by Terri Minsky (who is also responsible for creating Lizzie McGuire), as the show thrives on a reputation developed for handling complex subjects with a direct, realistic technique.
The show’s title character, portrayed with an earnest and optimistic spirit by Peyton Elizabeth Lee, is multiracial, of Chinese and white heritage. In the show’s pilot episode last season, Andi discovered that her carefree sister Bex was, in fact, her mother. Discovering in the process that the woman she believed was her mother, Celia Mack, was really her grandmother.
Also, through the whole of last season, Andi found out who her biological father is and met him. The episode aired last Friday showed Andi egging on her biological father, who still has feelings for Bex, her mother, to propose marriage.
The most prevailing thing about Andi Mack (in our opinion as a TV critic) is the manner in which the show portrays basic situations that kids deal with all the time, but that most other kid-focused television shows either avoid discussing entirely or sugar-coat.
For example, a writer, who reiterated in an article about how his late father was an adult by the time he found out his family situation was similar to Andi’s, except the woman he thought was his mother was an older cousin, also typed the following “I often wondered how different his life would have been – and, by extension, mine — if he had lived in a time where TV shows openly discussed circumstances like that. It might have lessened any stigma”.
Cyrus’ confession in last Friday’s episode looked likely to spur discussions about coming out and romantic connections that could possibly help real-life tweens soldier on through those issues. That’s one of the reasons why advocacy groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation hailed the storyline before it even aired.
As a TV critic, I honestly liked the vastly understated performances from the actors who play Cyrus and Buffy (Joshua Rush and Sofia Wylie, respectively). Too many TV shows centered on kids make use of stars who depend on shameless mugging and overly dramatic flourishes; but not these young actors, they acted the moment perfectly, and much more realistically, as Sofia Wylie (Buffy) met Joshua Rush (Cyrus’) confession with affection and understanding.
It all summed up quite nicely in a historic exchange that had the right actors to make it perfectly ordinary, a superb scene that is sure to make anyone want to see where the story leads to and what the writers plan to do with the storyline.
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