I knew Lizzie McGuire was sheer brilliance from the minute that I stumbled upon her and her friends and family, though I don't know that I necessarily knew why at the time. After years of watching shows cheesily drill home lessons learned while growing up, Lizzie (Hilary Duff) was one of the first real characters to just live her life and let you learn, without much actual preaching. A decade later, Lizzie's outlook on life and the way she handled middle school are just as applicable now as they were the first time around. The show was spectacular and absolutely worth years of syndication and future lesson teaching to daughters of Lizzie's original fans.
One of the truly lovely ways Lizzie McGuire kept us entertained was by making us laugh. But while Lizzie's animated inner-self narrations were usually hysterical, the show rarely relied on its main character for the laugh. Lizzie was by no means perfect and yeah, she was a bit of a klutz. But none of her faults were ever trumped up for the sake of entertainment. Lizzie was meant to seem similar to the viewer. Showrunners knew that making Lizzie laughable wasn't in any way beneficial to adolescents' confidence. Instead, they relied on Lizzie's cast of supporting actors to bring the real laughs while keeping Lizzie a true and undeniable hero, with relatable faults and feelings and realistic outcomes to her mistakes or inefficiencies.
Lizzie, Gordo and Miranda's bond was undeniable but not without its faults. One thing we seem to forget to tell our daughters is that even best friends fight, hurt each other's feelings or leave one another out. While this trio of besties certainly had the best of intentions, their friendship had real bumps. You saw real splits over real, relatable issues. More importantly, you watched them work through those issues and become all the better for it. Losing your best friend, even momentarily, can feel like the end of the world whether you're 13 or 30. Our daughters need to know that they're not terrible people, despite what said best friend might be saying. And they also need to see that, in the end, everything typically works out. Because, let's face it, you can tell her that a million times, but she's not going to listen. Did you listen to your mom when April got a boyfriend and totally ignored you for, like, three whole weeks? No. You definitely thought you were destined to eat lunch all alone for the rest of your life.
We're adults. We can say this. Kate Sanders was such a bitch. In school, especially junior high, mean girls seem to only exist in your personal life. The bullied kid will always feel like the only loser at school. She'll never notice the kid 30 feet away who just got called a terrible name. The world revolves around each individual middle schooler and bigger pictures just do not exist. Lizzie spent four years dealing with Kate and her snooty comments and mean-girl sneers. It took a while, but we eventually learned her beef. And sure, that didn't really change her or Lizzie. But knowing everyone has their issues and knowing that we're truly not the only loser in the world is at least somewhat comforting, right? Right now, it seems like kids' TV is overrun with popular leads. We want our girls to know there are nice girls out there with real friends and real bullies but, at the end of the day, everything turns out OK.
I've got a while before any daughter of mine will reach middle school and need to see what life is like. But as a huge Lizzie fan and a former dorky adolescent, I'm certain that when the time comes, there's not a better girl to introduce her to than the one and only Lizzie McGuire.
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