The coming-of-age series, which debuted in April, follows the adventures of Andi Mack (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) and her pals, Buffy Driscoll (Sofia Wylie) and Cyrus Goodman (Joshua Rush) as they navigate adolescence.
In Friday’s season premiere, Andi is struggling with a crush on a middle school boy, Jonah Beck (Asher Angel). Later in the episode, Cyrus begins to realize that he, too, has feelings for Jonah. That realization marks the beginning of Cyrus coming to identify ― and eventually embrace himself as ― a gay tween.
Although the Disney Channel has referenced same-sex relationships on animated shows such as “Doc McStuffins” and “Star vs. The Forces of Evil,” Friday’s episode makes history as the network’s first to feature a coming out arc. In an effort to portray Cyrus’s story “in an age-appropriate and respectful manner,” creator Terri Minsky and the Disney Channel consulted child development experts. Meanwhile, the episode was pre-screened by a number of LGBTQ advocacy groups, including GLAAD and PFLAG.
″‘Andi Mack’ is a story about tweens figuring out who they are,” a Disney Channel spokesperson told HuffPost in an email. “Terri Minsky, the cast and everyone involved in the show takes great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences and sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity.”
The episode got a thumbs up from GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, who praised it for “reflecting the lives and lived experiences of so many LGBTQ youth around the country.”
“Television reflects the real life world and today that includes LGBTQ youth who deserve to see their lives depicted on their favorite shows,” Ellis said in an email. “Disney has been a leader in LGBTQ inclusion and there are so many young people who will be excited to see Cyrus’ story unfold.”
Echoing those sentiments was PFLAG’s National Executive Director Dr. Jaime Grant, who said “Andi Mack” captured the coming out experience with “thought, care, and authenticity.”
“It will be a memory moment for some,” Grant noted, “and a teachable moment for many.”
No doubt the episode has the potential to make a massive impact among the tween set, as “Andi Mack” has quickly become one of the Disney Channel’s most popular shows for young audiences. To date, the show is ranked as the year’s top TV series among girls 6-11, 9-14 and 6-14, according to Deadline.
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