In recent months, rumors have swirled that Disney was going to stop producing new episodes of one of Disney Junior’s most beloved shows, Doc McStuffins. In fact, the rumors grew so loud that W. Kamau Bell, a comedian, docu-series host, and father took to Twitter in July, urging Doc McStuffins fans to call for its renewal by tweeting at Disney using the hashtag #RenewDocMcStuffins.
And tweet they did.
This week, fans were overjoyed to learn that their passion for the show finally paid off: On November 16, the show’s creator Chris Nee and Disney Chanel PR announced on Twitter that Doc McStuffins would indeed be renewed for a fifth season.
But it wasn’t just Twitter that was celebrating — so was my entire family. Because Doc McStuffins is more than just a 30-minute kids’ show created to entertain preschoolers. It’s groundbreaking television, teaching kids important lessons in kindness, racial tolerance, and consent (among many others). And as the mother of four black children, I can see firsthand just how much it’s inspiring my own kids.
And here are just four reasons why.
1. It’s history-making.
At the center of the animated series is Dottie “Doc” McStuffins, a 6-year-old girl from an African American family. And while seeing an animated African American family on T.V. is a rare thing in and of itself, seeing an animated African-American family portrayed in a positive light is what makes this show even more noteworthy. Doc’s family mirrors real black families in America; the families we unfortunately don’t hear enough about.
For starters, the characters are the protagonists, not the sidekicks to white characters or the villains. They also dispel other stereotypes that persist about black families: Doc’s parents are married, her mom is a physician, and her father is always present (and often seen doing housework). And Doc is a strong character in her own right: She’s smart, caring, inquisitive, and kind, as is her little brother Donnie. This past season the show also broke other barriers, when Doc’s family welcomed a new baby into the family, and introduced children everywhere to the topic of adoption.
2. It defies gender stereotypes.
Little girls are almost always portrayed as beautiful, polite, and quiet; perfect little princesses who love pink, glitter, unicorns, boys, and nail polish. But Doc’s interests are in science and caring for others, and the show promotes the importance of social skills, kindness, and problem solving. In every episode, Doc sees something in need of fixing, and works to find the best solution. Yes, her outfits may be pink, purple, and white, but her essence and existence doesn’t lean on any typical female stereotypes. She demonstrates that a girl can be “girly” in her own ways, and while dreaming of one day becoming a doctor like her mother, she practices by “fixing” broken and sick toys.
3. It focuses on dreaming outside the box.
Oftentimes, little girls are asked what they want to be when they grow up, and the expectation is that they are interested in becoming a teacher or nurse. But Doc demonstrates that a girl’s aspirations can go outside the box, if given the encouragement and opportunity to do so. Doc is a veterinarian to her stuffed animals and toys that come to life with the use of her magical stethoscope. My own daughters have recently expressed interest in being astronauts, construction workers, and doctors, and I certainly think watching Doc McStuffins has influenced their ambitions, inspiring them to dream of careers beyond those that are traditionally female. Certainly, Doc’s mom being a physician sets an excellent tone for Doc to aspire to be in the medical field, as well.
4. It’s wholesome.
In my experience as a mother of four, many children’s television shows are either totally mindless or verging on vulgar. Even some G-rated movies utilize words like “stupid” and “idiot,” promoting name-calling and casting the act of bullying in a humorous light. Though Doc faces frustrating situations and encounters peers (and come-to-life toys) she may have conflict with, she doesn’t resort to name-calling or disrespectful language and behavior. Doc is a role model for children watching the show, because she’s able to maintain self-control and kindness even when she’s faced with adversity. But one of my favorite parts about the show is this: When I turn it on for my kids, I know I don’t have to worry about what they’ll see and hear, and how that might influence their behavior.
So yep — I’m just as thrilled as the Twitterverse that my kids will once again have the opportunity to see new episodes of Doc McStuffins. They love seeing characters who look like them, with curly hair and brown skin. So come Season 5, we’ll be happily tuning in — and hopefully following Doc’s adventures for many more years to come.