A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids will be drawn to this series by star Debby Ryan, who's familiar to most Disney fans from her roles in The Suite Life on Deck and 16 Wishes. The show offers some positive social messages about family life, with plenty of kid-friendly, gag-style humor mixed in. That said, the characters' behavior isn't always idyllic, and in some cases, both kids and adults are known to poke fun at people's appearances, engage in some bullying (using the threat of a post on the Internet to change someone's behavior, for instance), and, in the case of women and young girls, cater to society's image standards. The cast's diversity sends questionable messages by falling victim to racial stereotyping in the case of African-American and Indian-American characters, and jokes of a mildly sexual nature give a grown-up flair to the dialogue. The bottom line? There is some likable content here, especially when it comes to the relationships in this blended family, but it's a real know-your-kid scenario.
What's the story?
JESSIE centers on a small-town girl (Debby Ryan) who follows her dreams all the way to the Big Apple, where she accepts an impromptu job offer as a nanny to four kids: Emma (Peyton List), Luke (Cameron Boyce), Ravi (Karan Brar), and Zuri (Skai Jackson). What seems like a simple task results in far more complications than she anticipated as Jessie learns to balance the kids' sibling rivalry, their individual needs, and the fallout from their jet-setting parents. As if this isn't chaos enough, she's also learning the ropes of her newfound independence and attempting to carve out a career in the competitive New York atmosphere. But at the end of the day, it's the relationships with her new "family" that smooth out the rough edges of her transition.
Is it any good?
Disney poster girl Ryan delivers an exuberant performance as Jessie, a fresh-faced New York transplant who sees the world through perpetually rose-colored glasses. She's a likable heroine who tries to find the best in people, always speaks her mind, and isn't daunted by challenging circumstances, and she finds an unexpected niche as a role model to four kids badly in need of a unifying force in their lives. Predictably, Disney plays up the humorous aspects of life in such a bustling household (sibling rivalry, an unusual pet, and a grumpy butler, for example), at the same time making sure that the show's feel-good messages about family and relationships don't go unnoticed.
But Disney stumbled a bit in rounding out this promising series with impenetrable themes, particularly when it comes to respecting the cultural diversity within the cast. Central to this downfall is the character of Ravi, who keeps close ties with his Indian culture through dress and language but is often the subject of jokes because of it. Parents may also cringe over how Jessie, Emma, and to some degree Zuri perpetuate unreal image standards, as well as sexual undertones to some conversations and quips between Luke and his beautiful nanny.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family life. What challenges does your family face in staying connected in today's busy world? How do you ensure that you make time for each other? What activities do you enjoy together? How does technology (cell phones, Internet) make it easier for you to stay in touch?
Kids: Which characters in this show are good role models? What qualities do you admire in them? Who are your personal role models? How do they inspire you to be your best?
Do you think stereotyping is an issue in this show? If so, which characters are affected and how? Does this affect your enjoyment of the show? Do you think it sends questionable messages?
Themes & Topics
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