‘The Proud Family’ Reboot Is an Ode to My Childhood—Here’s Why Your Kids Should Watch Too

the proud family

For as long as I can remember, Disney’s The Proud Family has been a major aspect of my life. Running to the television to watch the adventures of Penny Proud, her family, and friends gave me a front-row ticket to see myself reflected on screen. She was awkward at times, occasionally irresponsible, but always learning and growing. I resonated with Penny in ways no other TV show could give me. She looked like me, was the eldest sister (who had to babysit all the time), and navigated a world filled with difficult friendships, boys, her father’s overprotective ways, and lots of fun—her head held high, always.

When the show was cut short in August of 2005, you can imagine my heartbroken 5-year-old self waiting in vain for new episodes. When they never came, I found myself getting more caught up in shows like Hannah Montana, Sonny with a Chance, and Wizards of Waverly Place. Although Disney never disappointed an adolescent me, the representation of young Black girls wasn’t front and center anymore. The occasional sidekick, villain, or character in passing became the only representation of Black girls I saw. If I wanted to be anything more, I was forced to see myself as someone I wasn’t and never would be.

 

Why The Proud Family Meant So Much to Me

Years later, I would still occasionally watch reruns of the show and make it a ritual to watch the movie at least twice a year. Remembering my snug The Proud Family comforter with Penny’s face etched across it, I made it a priority to expose my little sister to the show (even if it was so old it didn’t fill the screen anymore.)

I found myself eventually relating to wonderful actresses like Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, Zoë Kravitz, and KeKe Palmer, finding a galore of content that put Black women front and center. But the lack of diversity on TV as a child impacted me in ways I’m still trying to dissect. But with lots of healing and sprinkles of diversity in current media, I’ve become more confident in speaking up and speaking out about the importance of diverse casting in TV, especially for little Black girls.

 

the proud family

Source: Disney+

 

When I Heard About The Proud Family Reboot

When I heard about the Disney reboot, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, my extremely excited 22-year-old self counted the days until its release. I worried the show wouldn’t completely depict the diverse culture of both Penny’s family and her friends, though.

Besides showcasing a Black family front and center, the importance of discussing LaCienega Boulevardez’s Hispanic culture was also something I hoped for. I wanted the lovely Dijonay to find womanism and self-love rather than aimlessly trying to pin down (and stalk) a boy. Even showcasing Zoey’s life as a young white girl, being an ally to her predominately Black and Hispanic friends was essential. Most of all, though, I worried the show would cater to an audience that wasn’t Black children and their families. With The Proud Family being a staple for Black culture, my fears of it forgetting its original audience in exchange for high ratings became a murky cloud above my head. But after viewing the first three episodes of the Disney reboot, I can genuinely say it was everything I wanted and then some.

Penny’s madcap father is still a kooky yet well-meaning inventor, set on perfecting his formula. Her mother, Trudy, finally takes on opening her own veterinarian clinic. Suga Mama is still just as sweet, while the adorable twins, BeBe and CeCe, still manage to get into occasional mayhem. While battling current-day issues like social media, feminism, relationships, and “becoming women,” Penny and her friends are still the same fun-loving cast, just a few years older after puberty strikes unexpectedly. Michael, the former occasional friend in the series, is now a staple of their friendship, becoming their close gay friend who serves as the group’s fixer when it comes to anything fashion and beauty. The Gross Sisters found their purpose in music but won’t ever miss a chance to bully Penny and her friends. KeKe Palmer and A Boogie wit Da Hoodie join the cast as Maya and KG Leibowitz-Jenkins, the son and daughter in a household of two dads.

 

the proud family

Source: Disney+

 

Why The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder Should Be Must-See TV

Besides feeling like a big hug to my child self, this show should be a regular in every kid’s allotted screen time. When so many shows have white protagonists operating in a world that sees them as a default, it makes shows like The Proud Family seem different and outside the “norm.”

But that’s the problem. This family should be a default. The Prouds operate and take on the world just like everyone else. Penny’s balance of obeying her parents and failing waywardly from peer pressure is something all teens and preteens deal with. Trudy’s surface ability of balancing being a wife, mom of three, active veterinarian, and moral compass for almost everyone in the show is something all moms can relate to. Oscar’s ability to try over and over, no matter how many times he fails with his homemade recipes or as Penny’s “bodyguard,” is a reminder that dads don’t have all the answers but that showing up is what’s most important. Suga Mama, although hilarious and still just as crazy about their next-door neighbor Papi and his laugh, is a rendition of what it means to love and be there for family through the good and the bad.

The only difference is the color of their skin.

 

the proud family reboot

Source: Disney+

 

Penny’s friends, all coming from different walks of life and cultures, also show that families aren’t limited to blood relatives. Like Penny, our friends are our family. Even though we don’t all look the same, that doesn’t mean the relationships can’t be just as strong.

Anyone can be the boy-crazy Dijonay with a bunch of annoying siblings. Your next-door neighbor may be just like LaCienega, walking the fine line of seeming confident but feeling insecure at times. You may even know a Zoey, a young quirky girl who spends most of her time busting moves that ultimately lead to winning an intense dance battle against a ragtag team of dancing peanuts (if you haven’t watched the movie, just know she’s a saving grace). You may know or have a BeBe and CeCe, friends like Maya and KG, or experienced some mean girls like the Gross Sisters. When we can see ourselves in characters, we can recognize that we, too, are a default, not a cultural phenomenon.

For little Black girls everywhere, I hope that this show finds you when you need it most, when you need a fun-loving, state-of-the-art animated series that shows a family who may look just like yours. Because no matter how many times you may feel invisible, media representation that showcases Black girls as a default—not “strong” or “bold” or “exotic”—is what will make you feel seen.

So next time you’re snuggling up with your little one and debating between watching Frozen or Cocomelon (again), remember The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder is, and will forever be, an all-American family TV show experience.

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