And so, upon discovering that T.D.C. would be turning 40 this year, I turned to Google to deep-dive into what I assumed would be a nostalgia-fest. But strangely and surprisingly, every “Best Disney Channel Shows” roundup was a list of shows I’d never heard of—or at best, I had heard of in passing after I was already in my twenties and beyond.
Indeed, Buzzfeed and Collider made no mention of Rescue Rangers or DuckTales (or Drakespeare) but were all about Wizards of Waverly Place, Phil of the Future (never heard of) and Hannah Montana and Lizzie McGuire (two titles I knew of but was way too old to have watched). For each of these, I had either been in college—or older—when they came out. What were these shows and why were they making up the entirety of these “Best of” lists? Seriously, nothing from O.G. Disney Channel content? Buzzfeed did include the 2017 reboot of DuckTales in its roundup, calling it “much better than the original,” something I knew was Kim-possible (a pun I’m only able to make because I spotted Kim Possible on the list, not because I know what it is). What, what, what was going on?
And this is where my existential crisis originated. Prior to this moment, 40 didn’t feel old. It just felt like a number, one I was prepared to embrace and enjoy. But suddenly, this content produced by the also-40-year-old Disney Channel did make me feel old. My nostalgic feelings for the kid-centric network were replaced by a keen awareness that I was too old for its biggest hits—hits that featured Zendaya, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus when they were mere children. Some of today’s biggest names in entertainment had gotten their start at a time when I was already too old to enjoy their content. It was something I guess I’d always known but never fully considered. The whole thought of it was a gut punch I wasn’t ready for.