A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Educates by exposure rather than direct instruction, letting viewers see and hear bits of traditional language, music, dance, transportation, and everyday skills passed down through generations of Alaska Natives. Molly and other characters use words and phrases of Indigenous languages, always followed by translations to English. Stories sometimes reference difficult historical experiences of Natives. Live-action segments in each episode show kids learning about Native heritage and customs from tribal elders.
Kids see that Molly is an active member of her community and an independent, resourceful explorer. She and her friends enjoy learning new skills, acquiring knowledge about how Alaska Natives live and work Strong themes of perseverance, tolerance, compassion.
Positive Role Models
Molly is a go-getter who's never defeated by a challenge of any magnitude. When she needs to know something, she turns to many different sources of information (books, the internet, maps, trusted adults), and she doesn't quit until she's satisfied her curiosity. Her friends are loyal, always happy to join in her adventures. All the adults Molly interacts with demonstrate patience, genuine interest in her needs, going out of their way to help and nurture her interests. In particular, her grandfather bridges Molly's modern life experience with culture of her Native heritage.
Molly of Denali is the first PBS kids' show to star an Indigenous main character. It's set in the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska, and more than 60 Indigenous writers, advisors, producers, voice-over actors and musicians were involved in bringing Molly's world to life. That translates to the screen, which is seen through Molly's realistic blend of modern life (solar panels, videos on social media) and Alaska Native traditions (harvesting herring eggs, home remedies). Girls and women are empowered: Molly's mother pilots a small plane, and the woman who coaches Molly's canoe team is an Olympic canoeist. Multiculturalism seen through episodes like Connie celebrating Hanukkah or Trini celebrating Kwanzaa. Aunt Midge is a respected elder who uses a hearing aid.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Molly of Denali is an animated series that centers on an Alaska Native girl (voiced by Sovereign Bill) who learns about Indigenous traditions through travels around the state and encounters with its people. The show's authenticity is the result of a creative team that includes Indigenous advisors, voice actors, and production personnel, all of whom contribute to the thoughtful representation of Alaska's cultural diversity. Molly is an excellent role model for kids, an enthusiastic explorer and gatherer of knowledge who greatly respects the adults who share wisdom with her. Some matters of history may need further explanation (as when a friend of Grandpa Nat tells Molly about how they were forced to go to boarding school and forbidden from acknowledging their heritage), but the show gives kids wonderful exposure to Alaska Natives and their modern-day experiences. Viewers who want to explore Molly's world more can try the prequel podcast of the same name.
Is It Any Good?
As the first US kids' TV series to cast an Indigenous lead character, this thoughtful, pleasant show is a welcome anomaly in the genre. Molly is a delightful pick to guide viewers through the culturally rich history of Alaska. A "typical" modern tween, she blogs and uses the internet as a research tool, but she's also deeply connected to and respectful of the experiences of her ancestors through her grandfather and other adults in her community. As she learns about her heritage as it relates to her own interests, Molly teaches kids about Alaska both now and in the past, paying special homage to its Native people.
Molly of Denali takes great care to ensure that its content isn't trite or narrowly focused, and the result is an exceptionally endearing series with quality content throughout. Because Molly's explorations -- and her parents' work as trading post proprietors and a local pilot -- take her away from her town often, she gets to learn about other Indigenous people and local traditions directly from them. The show's content is created in partnership with Alaska Native advisors, lending significant authenticity to Molly's experiences.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
TV Shows with Diverse Characters
Books with Native American Characters
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate