A Lizzie McGuire reboot for Disney+ should be a no-brainer. The show, originally airing on the Disney Channel from 2001-2004, became an instantly iconic piece of formative millennial pop culture; to bring star Hilary Duff back to the mammoth streaming service for older millennials and the new, young generation sounds like money in the bank, right? Well, things were not that simple for this reboot series. After shooting two episodes, original showrunner Terri Minsky was abruptly fired, saying that “I am completely in the dark. It’s important to me that this show was important to people. I felt like I wanted to do a show that was worthy of that kind of devotion.” Duff herself then spoke up about the creative stressors, saying that if Disney was against the more adult, mature direction the property was going in now that it follows a thirtysomething McGuire, “let us move the show to Hulu.”
That ain’t happening. In fact, any version of the Lizzie McGuire reboot on any Disney-owned network has now been cancelled, a seeming result of the inability of the creative team and the Mouse House to meet on common ground. Duff took to her Instagram to make the announcement:
“I’ve been so honored to have the character of Lizzie in my life. She has made such a lasting impression on many, including myself. To see the fans’ loyalty and love for her, to this day, means so much to me. I know the efforts and conversations have been everywhere trying to make a reboot work but, sadly & despite everyone’s best efforts, it isn’t going to happen. I want any reboot of Lizzie to be honest and authentic to who Lizzie would be today. It’s what the character deserves. We can all take a moment to mourn the amazing woman she would have been and the adventures we would have taken with with her. I’m very sad, but I promise everyone tried their best and the stars just didn’t align. Hey now, this is what 2020s made of”.
A Disney spokesperson gave this official statement:
“Lizzie McGuire fans have high expectations for any new stories. Unless and until we are confident we can meet those expectations, we’ve decided to hold off and today, we informed the cast’s representatives that we are not moving forward with the planned series.”
This is, to my eye, a very bad sign for the future of diversity and maturity in Disney+ content. In an era where the streamer is eager and keen to dump one bazillion Star Wars and Marvel properties on us in one day, with countless promises that they will differ in tone and genre and intensity level, a series that aims to tell the honest story of a woman’s life — not just “a” woman, Lizzie McGuire, a character who’s buttered Disney‘s bread for quite some time! — getting axed just boggles the brains. It speaks to Disney‘s problematic conservatism; it’s okay to watch superheroes and Jedi annihilate the stuffing out of each other in violent ways, but if you hint at a woman expressing sexual agency or LGBTQ+ themes, that stuff can’t play internationally, and must be chopped.
Why couldn’t they move it to the Disney-owned Hulu, which is what the star and showrunner asked for, which is where they moved the similarly “too adult” Love, Victor? We may never know the specific details of this behind-the-scenes drama, but we do know it portends a scary era of homogeneity in Disney storytelling, in not allowing female artists to express themselves, and in enjoying any story that don’t involve a superhero or a lightsaber.