The Disney Channel recently aired its first gay storyline in season 2 of “Andi Mack.” If you grew up in the first half of the 2000s (or were raising kids at the time), then you’re familiar with the show’s creator Terri Minsky, who also gave us the beloved sitcom “Lizzie McGuire.”
“Andi Mack” is a coming-of-age comedy that follows teenager Andi Mack (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) and her friends through their journeys of self discovery and adolescence. In the Disney Channel’s first-ever gay plot, Andi’s friend Cyrus (Joshua Rush) confides in their friend Buffy (Sofia Wylie) that he has feelings for his male classmate.
Minsky and the Disney Channel consulted with child development experts to get the scene in which Cyrus opens up about his sexual orientation just right. Additionally, they screened the episode for LGBTQ advocacy groups GLAAD and PFLAG.
“Television reflects the real-life world, and today that includes LGBTQ youth who deserve to see their lives depicted on their favorite shows,” Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, told Huffington Post. “Disney has been a leader in LGBTQ inclusion, and there are so many young people who will be excited to see Cyrus’ story unfold.”
The groundbreaking episode was met with applause, but also controversy. The conservative organization One Million Moms launched a campaign urging parents to boycott the show. To date, 12,346 have signed the petition. The show has also been banned in Kenya because of the storyline.
However, the season 2 premier saw a 72 percent surge over ratings for the series premiere in April 2017—so clearly, many viewers are pleased to see Disney portraying inclusivity.
Rush, the actor portraying Cyrus, told E! News: “I hope people, out of Cyrus’ storyline, got this feeling like, you can be who you are. If there’s something you’re thinking about, you should talk about it.”
The storyline is the first in its class to portray an adolescent coming out as gay. However, Disney has slowly taken steps toward this historic move, portraying a lesbian couple in “Good Luck Charlie” and making the character of LeFou gay in the live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast.”
“I know there are a lot of kids out there who think that they’re weird and different,” Minsky told E! News of the coming-out scene on “Andi Mack.” “I guess I kind of wanted Buffy to say it to all of them, and I wanted it to feel like acceptance.”