Why the Lizzie McGuire Revival Doesn't Need to Be Family-Friendly

Disney+ has firmly cemented itself within the streaming ecosystem, and it's set to introduce quite a lot of original movies and TV shows in the coming years. That latter category has kicked up quite a lot of conversation in the past few days, after the Love, Simon spinoff Love, Victor was moved from Disney+ to Hulu (a streaming service that Disney has had full control of since last May) The decision for the move was believed to be because of Love, Victor's subject matter not being "family-friendly", as the series reportedly features "alcohol use, parents’ marital issues, and sexual exploration". This news caught the attention of Hilary Duff, who is expected to reprise her role as Lizzie McGuire in an upcoming revival series. Duff took to social media to claim that the complaint of not being "family-friendly" enough "sounds familiar", kicking up a flurry of speculation about whether the Lizzie revival has been dealing with the same problems, especially after the exit of series creator Terri Minsky last month.

A report from Variety seems to verify those suspicions, claiming that Duff and Minsky had a "more adult" vision for the revival, while Disney would like for the series to be more suitable for viewers of all ages. The series, which was put on a production hiatus after filming two episodes, is reportedly searching for a replacement showrunner, but some seem to be uncertain about whether or not the series will be able to strike a balance between Duff and Disney's wishes.

The question is -- should the Lizzie McGuire revival have to do that? Is there a need for the new series to be as family-friendly as its original, or should it be able to grow and evolve just as its fanbase has?

In recent years, Disney has tried to capitalize on the nostalgia of its past original series, both with the Boy Meets World sequel Girl Meets World, and the That's So Raven spinoff Raven's Home. Both series, which premiered directly on Disney Channel, tried to showcase the adult life of their original protagonists, but largely focused on the "new generation" of their kids. While both series definitely found an audience, it was predominantly with younger viewers, who probably didn't have a reverence for the original series unless they happened to catch late-night syndicated runs on Disney Channel.

The same generational gap would probably be true for Lizzie, given the fact that there are teenagers around who were born after the 2003 release of The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and the series finale of the show itself a year later. Sure, Disney+'s mere existence puts a lot of old Disney content - including Lizzie McGuire - into the palm of younger viewers' hands, there is no publicly-released data to suggest that they're actually watching it. But if you've checked social media at all since Disney+ first launched, you've probably been overwhelmed with tweets about millennial and Gen-Z fans revisiting the series, or being legitimately hyped about the one second of footage in the streaming service's 2020 trailer.

The logline of the revival seemed to perfectly capitalize on that audience, as it would follow Lizzie, who is now in her thirties, as she navigates her career and personal life in New York City. Sure, she would still have her family, Gordo, and her cartoon alter-ego by her side, but it was safe to assume that her life would be drastically different from when we last saw her, namely because she's...not a plucky high schooler anymore. While there's no telling exactly what "adult themes" would have factored into that, seeing Lizzie deal with them would have honestly been on brand, especially given the way that the original series dealt with adolescence. (Just ask anyone who still remembers the original series' bra-shopping episode, which normalized the incredibly awkward experience in a way that most TV still hasn't.)

So, why can't the Lizzie revival's charming, relatable take on living in your '30s work for Disney+? Sure, a lot of Disney+ is trying to capture the "family-friendly" mass appeal of an average Disney film, but the definition of that seems to ebb and flow. The Mandalorian literally cuts a guy in half using an automatic door a few minutes into his first episode, but that definitely didn't stop the series from being Disney+'s first big hit. Avengers: Endgame, which is the highest-grossing movie of all time and has been on Disney+ since late last year, has a lengthy sequence of Thanos' head getting chopped clean off. And outside of recent content, there's quite a lot of older movies on Disney+ that some would still regard as nightmare fuel. Realistically, there are many more things that could traumatize a kid or tween on Disney+ that are arguably worse than "seeing Lizzie McGuire act like an adult".

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Even before the Love, Victor controversy earlier this week, Disney+ has had a precedent for moving its "more adult" original series over to Hulu. It did the same with the Zoe Kravitz-led High Fidelity reboot months prior, and the series ultimately premiered on Hulu earlier this month. In a way, it's difficult to picture how different the series could've been on Disney+, as the Hulu version features a lot of smoking, multiple nude scenes, and an entire episode centered around Kravitz's character drunkenly swearing directly to camera while recounting a bad day. Even if the original pitch for the Lizzie revival is half as blasphemous, there's no reason why it couldn't work at Hulu, something that Minsky actually suggested in a recent statement. After all, the streaming service already hosts a TV show about Hilary Duff experiencing her 30s in all its messy glory... it's just called Younger.

Ultimately, there's no telling what the future holds for the Lizzie McGuire revival, which is a bit of a shame in and of itself. The original series was a groundbreaking and incredibly comforting staple for generations of kids, and there's no reason why an updated follow-up couldn't have the same kind of impact, whether on Disney+ or Hulu.

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