TV shows are taking modern culture by storm. As a child, I remember waking up early, turning on the TV, and watching whatever Dish TV was playing on Cartoon Network that morning. Usually, that meant Dora the Explorer or Spongebob Squarepants before my mom drove me and my brothers to school. To be fair, I am currently 20 years old, and may not have some of the same early television experiences as my fellow Creators.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that despite our past experiences, modern TV is changing. Now, I don't even own any sort of cable TV. Instead, my viewing experience is filled with Netflix, HBO, Hulu, or Disney+ TV series binges (and the occasional movie night).
I'm sure I'm not alone in this. But just as the manner in which we watch TV has changed, so have the TV shows themselves. In particular, children's TV. How? Well, like I said, a lot of kids don't have a regular TV provider anymore. How have these alternative streaming platforms changed children's viewing experiences then?
New Children's Shows — Breaking Traditions
The new age of children's TV is perhaps my favorite. While there are many different genres, they seem to be trying to break the traditional norms.
One of my favorite new children shows (though it is geared towards any audience) is Netflix's reboot, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Adora is a soldier quickly rising in the ranks of the Horde army. Her best friend, Catra, shares Adora's stubbornness but not her feelings as Adora decides to turn against the Horde. Adora soon realizes she is the fabled hero, She-Ra, and fights with the princesses of the Rebellion to stop the cruelty and violence the Horde has been inflicting on the innocent people of Etheria.
I would consider this is a nontraditional action adventure series in that most characters are women in the show, almost every character being queer or queer-coded. Most prominently (and carried through all 5 seasons) is the connection between Adora and Catra, best friends turned enemies turned lovers. Their relationship is quite honestly heart-breaking and kept me captivated through the entire show.
This show, among countless other new ones, is groundbreaking in how it normalizes queer people and BIPOC. One of the main characters, Bow, is a black man with two fathers. He too joined the Rebellion to fight the Horde.
One of the enemies we meet in later episodes, Double Trouble, could be most accurately described as nonbinary, from the way they can shape-shift and their changing pronouns.
She-Ra is one of many shows that continues to normalize nontraditional storylines and characters. A more well-known show though, Steven Universe, first aired in 2013 and features an entire universe of women-warriors known as the Gems. Together, the Gems and Steven fight against the tyrannical mother planet.
The new generation of TV shows normalizes queer people and BIPOC in ways never seen before. Other shows, like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, among others, do the same. And most importantly, these shows' target audience is young people. Though their effects cannot be measured, these shows allow people to immerse themselves in a world without the stereotypes around people we would normally deem "different." I can only hope that this lends itself to a more open-minded, accepting generation of individuals during a time of political and racial turmoil.
The Nostalgic Binger
Netflix, Hulu, and other platforms have made it a point to not only turn out new viewing material, but old stuff too.
For those my age, you may have been just excited to see that childhood classics like iCarly, Victorious, and H20 were released on Netflix. Or perhaps you're a bit older. You may have seen The Twilight Zone or Golden Girls on Hulu. These shows aren't just time-fillers or entertainment for most of us. They are unique memories we hold close. I distinctly remember watching T-Bo from the Groovy Smoothie trying to sell everything on a stick on iCarly. Or watching a woman find out she was actually dead the whole time on The Twilight Zone. When these characters come up with my friends, it is a common experience that we can share, even if we grew up in different places with different backgrounds.
And maybe you've never seen Golden Girls, like me. My partner wears Golden Girls apparel all the time and I have no way to relate to it other than ask why they have a giant old woman on their t-shirt. In this case, we are able to build new experiences with each other by watching shows together that we held dear as children. My partner can explain why the various old white women are so iconic in their beloved sitcom, and I can laugh and attentively nod over a bowl of popcorn.
It's nice to take a trip down Memory Lane with these classics, no matter how old you are. But one thing's for sure, the new age of kids just wouldn't understand!
But it's not all puppies and play time.
I think it's safe to assume we all have Netflix. And if you don't, why not? Oh, you value the outdoors and not being distracted from the now? Lame.
There is no denying the fact that TV is not what it used to be, and as I said, in a lot of ways it has been a good thing. But in other ways, it encourages bad habits and false realities.
With access to more movies and shows than ever before, expectations also are also higher than ever. I know I'm not alone when I say my expectations of high school, college, and relationships were completely different from what I actually experienced. For one, I have never been one to go to parties. When I went to college my first year, I found myself worried I wouldn't be able to make friends without drinking a full keg every night at some frat. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I was very worried about building new relationships in a new environment that I could only relate to in the media.
This infinite access to literally anything also distracts us from what is happening in the present. I have spent countless nights binge-watching some new Netflix Original instead of going out with my friends and family. And though I'm not proud of it, I know I'm not alone in this either. So perhaps a change is in order.
Smell the Roses!
Whether it is going for a walk every once in a while, meeting to catch up with a friend, or having a meal with the family, I have found that getting away from the media I watch and read can serve as a much needed break. This is something that has become increasingly important to me in the past year as I have had to learn remotely from my college. Almost all of my work for school has been behind a screen. Taking a break from the computer to watch a show on my phone has not been as relaxing as I expected.
One of the biggest changes I made to my routine was taking ten minutes out of my day in the morning to sit with myself. It's not as weird as it sounds (hopefully). I have been using Headspace (not sponsored) to guide these mindfulness exercises. I take these ten minutes to regroup with myself for the day ahead, even if I don't have anything planned. It allows me to check in with myself and assess how I'm feeling.
Unironically, Headspace is also coming to Netflix soon.
So take a couple minutes and get away from the virtual world to step into reality. You might just enjoy it.
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About the author: I'm Lita! A college student trying to earn their bachelor's degree in English and Psych during the pandemic. I haven't attended school in-person in over a year, but I'm hopeful.
My animals, lovely partner, and family help support me during these very strange times. I'm also new to Vocal!
Read more of my work here!