Questions remain regarding just how “adult” Disney will allow its original programming on Disney+ to be, and now the talent is getting involved. Fans of the Disney Channel original series Lizzie McGuire rejoiced when it was revealed that Hilary Duff and other cast members would be reprising their roles for a new revival series on Disney+. The idea was to now follow the titular character in her 30s, living life as an adult in the world.
The first signs of trouble came when original showrunner Terri Minsky was abruptly fired after completing production on two episodes. Specifics weren’t given as to why, but production was put on hiatus so that Disney+ could find a replacement. Then last week, reports arose that Minsky’s firing was on account of the show’s more adult tone. Unsurprisingly, the folks at Disney wanted 30-year-old Lizzie McGuire to be just as family friendly as pre-teen Lizzie McGuire. Minsky and Duff disagreed, and wanted to present an honest portrayal of life as a woman in the world.
Now Duff is speaking out, taking to Instagram to blast the “PG” tone ceiling of Disney+ while asking that the show be moved to Hulu:
“Was incredibly excited to launch “Lizzie” on D+ and my passion remains! However, I feel a huge responsibility to honor the fans’ relationship with LIZZIE who, like me, grew up seeing themselves in her. I’d be doing a disservice to everyone by limiting the realities of a 30 year old’s journey to live under the ceiling of a PG rating. It’s important to me that just as her experiences as a preteen/teenager navigating life were authentic, her next chapters are equally as real and relatable. It would be a dream if Disney would let us move the show to Hulu, if they were interested, and I could bring this beloved character to life again.”
Lizzie is not the first Disney+ show to run into content issues with the higher ups. The Zoe Kravitz-fronted High Fidelity was originally intended to debut on Disney+, but early on in its development was instead moved to Hulu. Indeed, it’s worth noting that Disney owns Hulu outright, and has already set that streaming service up as a repository for more adult programming from Fox and FX (which Disney also owns).
But then most recently, the planned Love, Simon spinoff series was also switched over from Disney+ to Hulu. That shift was even more eyebrow-raising given that those involved with making Love, Simon claim that the show doesn’t have any content that could be deemed “adult.” Was the move to Hulu simply about audience, or, frankly, did Disney+ just not want to put a TV series about a gay teenager on its streaming service? I sincerely hope it was not the latter.
So the question remains, what kind of programming is “appropriate” for Disney+? The streaming service successfully launched High School Musical: The Musical: The Series last fall, but that show’s original showrunner departed over reported creative differences regarding how adult the content could be. The Mandalorian is an unqualified hit, but that show’s tone is fairly family friendly (you know, despite all the killing).
I do hope Duff and Co. get to tell the story they want to tell, and if that means moving Lizzie to Hulu, it would be great if Disney+ could oblige. But it is upsetting to see that this massive new streaming service is apparently uninterested in portraying teenagers in a more true-to-life light. Teens are complicated and diverse, and storytelling that can tell them, “Hey, the problems you’re having are not unique, and you’re not alone” can be incredibly valuable. But putting that all through a PG filtered does a disservice both to the creators behind those series, and the audience taking it in.