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‘Proud Family: Louder and Prouder:’ a revival to be Proud of

Disney’s “Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” is a surprisingly successful revival of the early 2000s show “The Proud Family.” Interestingly, the show is not a sequel or reboot but seems to be a true revival or continuation of the original. As a result, some of the cultural elements can seem a bit weird, considering the central characters have remained tweens from 2001 to 2022. But the addition of new and updated characters, along with a sleek animation style that still respects the original show’s art style makes this revival of a classic Disney show all the better.

The revival follows the plot of the original coming of age animated sitcom following the adventures of 14-year-old Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt) and her family, including her mother Trudy (Paula Jai Parker), her father Oscar (Tommy Davidson) and her grandmother Suga Mama (JoMarie Payton). All these voice actors return to their iconic roles in the 2022 revival. Also returning to the series are Penny’s core friend group Dijonay Jones (Karen Malina White), Zoey (Soleil Moon Fyre) and Alisa Reyes as Penny’s frenemy LaCienga Boulevardez.

Another returning character is Michael Collins, originally voiced by Phil Lamar but now voiced by EJ Johnson. Michael was a character in the original show who was originally portrayed as, or at least coded as, queer. Episodes like “Who You Callin’ a Sissy” called into question Michael’s sexual orientation, though it was never specifically expressed. The revival confirms that Michael is gender non-conforming. Micheal is not the only visible LGBTQ representation in the revival: There are also the new characters Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins (Billy Porter) and his husband Barry (Zachary Quinto), who are the parents of the new kids at school Maya (Keke Palmer) and KG (Julius Dubose).

The main plot of the first episode of the revival continues the series’s coming of age storyline, following tweens as they deal with the trials and tribulations of being 14. It starts with a magical light, visiting each of the tweens overnight and waking up completely different. Yes, that’s right, the show starts with a puberty episode. I was a bit nervous as to how this plotline would play out, as it could have easily been really cringey. However, the show avoids the pitfalls of a puberty episode for two key reasons. First, it’s used mostly as a means of justifying the updated character designs in the show. Secondly, the show not only treats the topic with a lot of respect but also ties it into a plotline showing the perspective of both Penny and her parents as she grows into a young woman.

The show is overall entertaining, and more importantly, retains a lot of the humor of the original. A lot of the humor is derived from the patriarch of the Proud family, Oscar Proud. His desperate and increasingly embarrassing attempts to keep his daughter from growing up too fast are equal parts cartoonishly over the top and also heartwarming and relatable for many viewers. Another returning aspect is Oscar’s hilarious dynamic with his mother Suga Mama, who serves as both a source of frank “tell it like it is” wisdom for Penny, as well as a pain in the neck for her son.

While the show thankfully retains a lot of the humor and charm of the original series, it also has a minor continuity problem. Jumping from 2001 to 2022 is quite the time skip without any characters aging. Now that Penny and her friends are closer in age to Gen Z, some aspects of their world have also been updated. For example, one thing I noticed was that Penny and all her friends now have smartphones. I also remembered, after binging the original show over February break, that there was a holiday episode that made a big deal of Penny freaking out after getting a cell phone resembling an old flip phone. My, how times have changed–nowadays kids usually get their first smartphone by 12 years old. Other than the odd culture shock I had watching the original series and then the new show (which reminded me of the inevitable march of time), the show is still the same at its core, the same family and character dynamics with an updated modern setting. That being said, the show is still clearly one for tweens, and everybody who watched the show as a young tween when it aired would be in their 30s by now. Although the show maintains the same style of humor and characters and updates the setting, it might have difficulty reaching both new audiences of young people and appealing to the nostalgia of those who watched it growing up.  

Despite this issue, I truly believe that this revival will find its footing somewhere. “Proud Family” is such an earnest revival that attempts to introduce a classic Disney cartoon for a new generation while still honoring the original show’s characters and themes. At the end of the day and after 17 years, the Proud family is still Prouder than ever.

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