Editor’s Note: Babble and Disney Junior are both a part of The Walt Disney Company
If you’ve got young kids at home, then you know the power of Disney Junior. It saves us, almost on a daily basis, when our kids wake us at 5 AM wanting to ask how big baby elephants are or share that they’ve just peed the bed.
We creep downstairs before the sun even comes up, switch on Disney Junior, and pray that we don’t hear “Mommy!” for at least 10 solid minutes while we get in our first sips of coffee.
And if we’re really lucky, Doc McStuffins will be on — a show that’s certainly saved my sanity on more than one occasion.
When Disney gave our kids Dottie “Doc” McStuffins, they gave them a living, breathing little girl whose world didn’t look so different from their own.
She’s not a princess living in a castle or some far away land. She’s playing in her house or out in her yard, with her little brother and her friends, just as real girls do.
Doc has big dreams, too — she hopes to one day become a doctor just like her mom, and diligently practices on her stuffed animals in the meantime.
Even her mere existence — a young black girl as the leading lady — is pretty groundbreaking, and further proves that diversity and representation in entertainment matters.
The significance of all of this certainly isn’t lost on parents like me.
When kids see themselves in a show or a character, they are more likely to hear the lessons being taught in each episode. They turn them over in their minds, trying to make sense of them in their own world.
Speaking with series creator and executive producer Chris Nee, it’s clear that Doc was written with all that (and more) in mind.
Nee says that the idea for the character came to her after she rushed her son to the doctor during an asthma attack many years ago. He visited doctors and hospitals more than most kids he knew, and she realized that there wasn’t a kids’ show out there that helped demystify doctors.
So what if there was one? And better yet, what if the main character was a doctor herself?
When asked why she chose the main character to be a girl, rather than a boy like her son, Nee says simply, “We didn’t need another boy lead in a TV show.” But also, she adds, “I never expected my son to not watch it because it had a female lead. When you create a show for kids, you write a mix of characters and they’ll watch.”
They sure did — surveys have since shown that viewership of the show consists of 51% girls and 49% boys.
Although Nee says that she doesn’t believe kids always fall into the gender stereotypes adults create, she does tell Babble that “it’s important for boys to see how important girls are in their lives.” And the series has certainly achieved that.
Doc has shown kids that girls absolutely can be doctors. That they can have a career and a family and be amazing at both. She exemplifies kindness, but also leadership. She’s shown the girls watching at home, drinking out of their Disney cups and eating their morning cereal, just how to work together as a team. How to rise above jealousy and envy, and always remember that true friends forgive each other.
Far too often, girls pit themselves against one another in an “us” vs. “them” battle. You’re either in the circle, or you’re out. The ugliness of the “mean girls” epidemic starts as young as kindergarten and never truly seems to end. But in Doc McStuffins, Disney has shown girls another choice — the road of compassion, fairness, and teamwork. And in the end, all of the characters are better for it.
The series has also gained critical acclaim for touching upon a wide range of important social issues, including race, working parents, and gay parenting. Nee says these storylines unfolded naturally, though she’s well aware of just how influential television can be for kids, and always had the desire to “use the power of TV to help kids expand the way they see the world.”
So far, Doc has certainly accomplished that mission — and I for one can’t wait to see what our favorite stethoscope-wearing girl is up to in Season 5, which premieres this week.
Don’t miss Season 5 of Doc McStuffins, premiering Friday, October 26 (11:00-11:30 AM EDT/PDT) on Disney Channel and the DisneyNOW app.