FILM

9 Strange—but Great—Disney Channel Original Movies You Forgot About

Including mermaids, holograms, and aliens aplenty.

Disney+ is trickling its way into our daily dependence on streaming services.

This means we've unlocked a whole new world (Aladdin pun intended) of movies to watch half-attentively while we also scroll on our phones. You probably already know of all the classic Disney Originals that are at your disposal, but what about the Disney Channel Originals?

It's probably a given that big hits like High School Musical, Zenon, and Camp Rock are now available for your adult self to stream and reminisce, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Name a DCOM, and it's likely available on Disney+, including all the strange, ridiculous low-fliers you might've forgotten about. Here are just nine to kickstart your nostalgia trip.

1. Alley Cats Strike!

Anything goes in the Disney Channel universe, including a bowling match to settle a basketball championship tie between rival towns. Why are both towns so invested in high school bowling? Why do the teenage winners get to pick the name of a new school in the area? We don't know, but we're still chasing the high of that final scene.

2. Stepsister from Planet Weird

In this sci-fi comedy from 2000, a literal alien refugee is immediately welcomed into the popular crowd at her new high school on Earth, despite thinking her human form is "grotesque." Not to mention that the emperor of her home planet is defeated by hair dryers and wind blowers.

3. Can of Worms

On the other end of the spectrum of Disney Channel's alien fixation, Can of Worms centers around Mike, who lives an entirely normal life besides believing he doesn't belong on Earth at all. After he accidentally sends a message to space, he's visited by an alien lawyer who deems Earth's living standards subpar. Strangely eerie 20 years later, isn't it?

4. The Thirteenth Year

Cody's birth mother is a mermaid who left him on a random boat when he was a baby. Now, as Cody approaches his teens, his merman features are beginning to present themselves, and he nearly gets accused for cheating during his swim meet. It's just fins, not steroids!

5. Luck of the Irish

There's little to take away from this film other than a white teenage boy finally embraces that he is both Irish and from Ohio, but leprechauns and river dancing will never not be amusing.

6. Motocrossed

Five years before Amanda Bynes posed as her own twin brother in She's the Man, Disney Channel offered their own adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. After Andi's brother gets injured, she decides to fill in for him in an all-male motocross tournament, chopping her hair off and all. The sexism is abundant, but—spoiler alert—Andi can totally take on the guys.

7. The Other Me

Poor Will. His grades are slipping, his dad is threatening to send him to military camp, and he just accidentally made a clone of himself who turns out to be way cooler and smarter than him, so they switch places. Kinda like the Parent Trap, but sciencey.

8. You Wish!

The lesson this film attempts to impart is: don't wish away your little brother, because he might instead become a child TV star and make your life even more of a living hell than it was when you lived under the same roof.

9. Pixel Perfect

The perfect pop star doesn't exist, until, of course, you make a hologram of her. Loretta Modern might have been programmed to become an overnight sensation, but she just wants to be a regular human, damn it! She ends up being helpful in more ways than one, but like all modern technology, she can't last forever.

Maybe they didn't all make total sense, but there's a reason DCOMs became such an integral part of growing up in the 2000s. DCOM creators conceived some of the strangest, most fringe ideas, and served them to a market that didn't mind how nonsensical they were; pair that with Disney Channel's omnipresence in the typical middle-class American household, and these oddly lovable films serve as a timestamp for an era.

TV Reviews

HBO's "I'll Be Gone In the Dark" Is a Complex Portrait of Serial Killer-Hunter Michelle McNamara

The improbably fascinating "I'll Be Gone In the Dark" subverts traditional serial killer narratives.

Michelle McNamara

In the years leading up to her death, Michelle McNamara haunted message boards, libraries, and Sacramento families to get to the bottom of the case that obsessed and consumed her.

McNamara, a true crime blogger whose interest in serial killers morphed into a compulsive desire to hunt and catch them, is the subject of a new HBO documentary series. The first episode, which premiered last Sunday, presents a small window into the mind of a woman who hunted serial killers until she accidentally overdosed on sleeping pills.

It's completely enthralling, a marked subversion of typical serial killer narratives as well as a commentary on their devastating and peculiar appeal.

I'll Be Gone In the Dark (2020): Official Trailer | HBO www.youtube.com


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Music Features

Hayley Kiyoko's "She" Is an Anthem for Closeted Kids

Kiyoko's final single from her project "I'm Too Sensitive For This Sh*t" has a music video that will get you in your feelings.

When I first realized I was bisexual, I didn't know any girls who liked girls in real life.

I grew up in a community that was supportive of gay rights in theory, but queerness still felt shrouded in discomfort and otherness.

Because of this, every morning of eighth grade I'd wake up, stumble out to the kitchen table, and wish it wasn't true. I wanted to erase these troublesome, fluttery feelings I had for the pretty girl I'd seen on the dance floor that summer. I wanted to wake up and be straight. I wanted to erase myself.

I wonder how much of a difference seeing a video like Hayley Kiyoko's "She" would've made in my life, had it come out at the time. "She" is a pristine pop song from one of the most prominent lesbian artists making music today, but it's also a reminder that even though gay rights have become accepted by the mainstream media, discovering your own queerness as a teen can be incredibly scary and isolating.

It can also be a source of power and inspiration. For the "She" video, Kiyoko dons a baby butch outfit, complete with a wig that resembles the short emo-kid haircut she had at the time. At first, she's awkward and uncomfortable, but eventually she finds the confidence to pick up a guitar, and soon enough she's a rock star jamming out as crowds scream her name.

Hayley Kiyoko - She [Official Video] www.youtube.com

"I actually got emotional putting on the wig," she told Teen Vogue. "It brought on a wave of feelings and reminded me of how insecure and hard I was on myself during that time. I felt a wave of pride as well knowing I overcame my fears and I was now celebrating that moment. All my insecurities are the reason why I became me."

The video will be relatable to anyone who's ever felt the pain of being stuck in the closet, either by their community or by their own internalized homophobia or both. "When I was younger, I hid so much of who I was, and secretly felt so different and alone," Kiyoko added. "But I was really inspired by artists like Tegan and Sara and Lance Bass; they made me feel like I could turn my dreams into a reality. Having representation is so important and means so much to the future generations."

Despite increasing levels of widespread protection and acceptance, LGBTQ+ kids still face many challenges. According to the Human Rights Coalition, 4 out of 10 American teens ages 13-17 feel they live in a community that does not accept queer people. LGBTQ+ kids still face high levels of violence, being twice as likely as others to be physically assaulted. The survey also found that although 9 out of 10 kids say they're out to their close friends, 92% said they've heard negative messages about queerness.

These messages can have deadly consequences. According to the Trevor Project, suicide rates are three times higher for LGBTQ+ youth. Things are even more difficult for transgender people, who receive less acceptance and support than cisgender people; according to the same study, 40% of transgender adults say they've attempted suicide.

Queer people of color experience unique challenges as well, facing high levels of poverty and intersecting challenges. For example, "disproportionate numbers of LGBT people of colour live in places that lack any explicit state-level protections for LGBT people," said Ineke Mushovic, director of the Movement Advancement Project. "This means that LGBT people of colour face a high risk of economic harm from anti-LGBT laws."

In spite of the accessibility of these statistics, it's easy to forget how harrowing the experience of growing up queer can be—particularly for kids in situations wherein homophobia is a reality and other issues like poverty are at play. Though 77% of the kids surveyed by the Human Rights Coalition say they know things will get better, that doesn't mean that queer and trans kids should have to suffer. And until every single kid can joyfully embrace who they are in a safe and loving home, the work isn't done.

To make this work happen, we need not only to promote surface-level love for queer people. We need to address the forces that lock queer (and non-white and non-able-bodied) people in loops of poverty, that permit conversion therapy, that codify employment and housing discrimination, and that prevent trans people from using their chosen bathrooms and accessing the health care they need.

Though these realities are painful, it doesn't all have to be about suffering. As Kiyoko said, visible and high-profile examples of queer joy and acceptance can be invaluable.

press.atlanticrecords.com

Personally, I've come a long way since the day I first came out to my Siberian husky, in private, because I was too scared to consider whispering the words to another human. For me, getting to know other bisexual girls helped me learn to accept myself—shout out to the girl from summer camp at age 14 who casually said "I'm bi" in a meeting and changed my life—and over the years, I learned to truly appreciate my sexual identity. Nowadays, when every other person I meet seems to be queer (I do live in New York), it's so easy to forget about those years of shame.

Hayley Kiyoko's video sent memories of that time flooding back. It reminded me that I made it out—and that there's still work to be done to make sure every kid can do the same.

Listen to I'm Too Sensitive For This Sh*t here, and check out her tour dates here.