The Disney Effect

I am of the age that I grew up watching Grease. The classic movie about the Pink Ladies, the T-Birds. Everyone else was a “square” and not good enough for screen time. We absorbed the Back to the Future movies, the paramount of different cliques, and what happened when you tried to step out of your assigned group. Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210 only stood to reinforce these dynamics into our brains. This is the way high school was. The way the world was. There were cool kids, band nerds, jocks, and dweebs. We were spoon-fed this, and we accepted it as truth. (For the most part.)

My kids, however, grew up with High School Musical (1, 2, AND 3). They watched Camp Rock on repeat. The images and ideology they were inundated with were different. The message was a new one.

That message was simply, “We’re all in this together.”

As my kids have navigated through elementary, middle, and high school, I have seen this evident in the way that they and their peers interact. Yes, there are still bullies. There always will be, because people are flawed, and let’s be honest, “hurt people hurt people.”

The overall feeling is different though. As a generation, Gen Z is more accepting of differences and uniqueness. They have come of age during the movement of body positivity and self-worth.

You want to be in the band? Ok, cool.

You want to be an athlete? Great!

You want to work for that 4.0? Awesome!

This can be three separate kids, or the same one and it is fine.

It is for this reason, and so many more that I see hope when I look at Gen Z. They are not divided in a way that previous generations were. They are a collective group made up of individuals. Through scenes like the final dance scenes in each Disney movie, they see the power in being themselves, not competing for a place at the table, but being part of the group.

I honestly believe that we will see dramatic changes to society in the next decade as Gen Z fully becomes adults. They are going to change the world, and we are going to be along for the ride.

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