Disney’s first Black American cartoon and the one show that a lot of people argue about. The show focused primarily on the life of Penny a 14-year old girl, her eccentric family, and their day to day lives. The show received a lot of mixed reviews from viewers. Some people liked the show saying it was funny, touching, and a good watch while others saw it as just a show full of stereotypes insulting Blacks.
As a Black American I paid very close attention to this show because at the time we were getting a lot of black sitcoms but this was the first time in a while that we got an animated black sitcom and the last time they did this we got Bebe’s Kids (side note: Bebe’s Kids was an alright movie. I admit it had problems but I still like it) and the fact that this show was coming from Disney scared me a little bit since they haven’t been known for representing other races all that well in the past. Here, from my perspective I think they did a good job. Yes, there are a few stereotypes here and there but it was never insulting or degrading to other races. Penny is your typical teenage school but she has a good head on her shoulder. She’s pretty smart for her age, engages in school activities, has a good sense of right and wrong, listens to her parents most of the time, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for what’s right. Her family is also quite funny to watch as well. We have the immature, childish, and over-protective father who loves his daughter and is just trying to protect her; the sweet and strong-willed mother who understood her daughter but at the same time was the dominant one in the relationship and wasn’t afraid to put her foot down when she needed to; twin brother and sister who really don’t do that much in the show because they’re babies and the cool grandmother who despite her age does a lot of wild things and isn’t afraid to fight her own son. At first these characters can seem like stereotypes but a lot of black sitcoms had these character types because yes some black families do have parents like Penny and a no nonsense grandmother who doesn’t act her age. I wasn’t a big fan of Penny’s friends however. One of them is her friend/enemy, the other is a follower who really doesn’t think for herself, and her best friend is a backstabber who will turn on you in the blink of an eye. The show had a number of stories that ranged from realistic to parodies. The realistic episodes did have some pretty good themes to them. In one episode Penny goes on a group date where she gets stuck with a fat guy. At first Penny doesn’t like him because he’s not her ideal guy on the outside but as she spends time with him and gets to know him she starts to get pass his appearance and sees him for what he really is. The lesson was don’t judge a book by its cover but instead of just coming out and saying it they show it something a lot of shows fail to do. In the parody episodes they would often make fun of past movies and shows. One of my favorites is the American Idol episode where the show says that American Idol is just a rigged popularity contest that favors those who are beautiful instead of those who are talented. The show also had realistic themes with unrealistic circumstances. These episodes were kind of meh in my opinion. Like in one episode they try to teach the dangers of overusing your credit card and Penny gets a talking credit card that tells her to go overboard. A good theme and one that teens should learn but did they really need to have a talking credit card? In another episode Penny somehow gains the ability to talk to a tiger and her mom believes her but once the episode is done it’s never bought up again and just leaves you with so many questions. Other than that I found the series to be very enjoyable. It had a good main cast of characters who were funny, realistic, and relatable. Episodes that ranged from good to decent and it had some pretty good themes and stories to them. While I admit the show had a few stereotypes (i.e. the smart Asians) they were never insulting. Was the show great, no, but I think it was a good watch and I always did enjoy watching it when it was on TV.