DCOMS losing meaning

By Diana Burmistrovich
Published: December 2008

There is definitely something about Disney Channel original movies that attracts kids and teens alike, despite their low budget productions. For those who aren’t a part of this cult obsession and are unaware of what I am referring to, the Disney Channel is a division of the Walt Disney Company that focuses mainly on television and produces made-for-TV movies.

Referred to as “DCOMs by seasoned veterans, these movies from the nineties and early 21st century provide legitimate morals and down right great television. But now, with new-age DCOMs such as High School Musical becoming outrageously popular, many forget the throwbacks that originally started this fascination with Disney Channel.

In fact, Emmy award winning DCOM The Color of Friendship, taught me two new words, “apartheid and “equality, without being too pretentious. My personal high school motto is from another DCOM, 1999′s Can of Worms tagline “Who’s got time to be a teenager when you have to save the world? So accurate.

There were even some DCOMs that were amazing for pure entertainment value. I know there was a moving and meaningful plot buried somewhere within 2000′s Up, Up, and Away, and Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, but for the most part, many of us just watched it for the fact that they were funny and were on T.V. after we had come home from elementary school.

Luckily, they still show some of them once in a while and there are always the holiday spirit movies like Halloweentown and The Ultimate Christmas Present that pop up around these times. Not only were such films endearing and provided quality bonding time with the family, but where else could you find such genius ideas as sweating out a ghost in a sauna to make a potion?

I’m not quite sure when the divide between new-age DCOMs and the old-school DCOMs began, but it seems to be around 2002, when the last epic DCOM, Tru Confessions came out. Tru Confessions starred Shia LeBeouf as a mentally disabled boy and Clara Bryant, as his twin sister. This DCOM showed another side of Disney, albeit a more Lifetime side, and taught kids to accept people for their differences and take the time to learn about disabilities.

In the post-2002 movies, there is a pattern of more superficial and consumerist values rather than classic morals. Now, High School Musical is not the definition of anti-DCOM, but a new type of DCOM that is evolving into a franchise. Even as I sit here, I am bombarded by advertisements for a “HSM Track Suit! Perfect for Christmas! and “HSM LIVE! Now performing!

Why do I somehow get the feeling that these new DCOMs have lost that zest that made them so unique and became a marketing ploy for Disney Channel instead? Sure, it is understandable that the lead characters are hot and the songs are relatable, but the Disney Channel has begun to drown its fans with pounds of unnecessary merchandise.

According to a survey done by the Disney Channel, High School Musical was the seventh most watched movie on its premiere date, with 7.7 million viewers. And how many more people spent precious money to purchase HSM gear after being captivated by this overwhelmingly peppy cast?

But, the High School Musical franchise isn’t bad because it went overboard in its marketing on CDs, thermoses, couches, and whatever other things marketers could think of, its just a change that I was not expecting from the Disney Channel. As I grew older, I learned lessons, like that fitting in after transferring schools wasn’t hard (Thanks Johnny Tsunami!) and that regardless of how badly I didn’t want to go to school, I should probably never clone myself like in The Other Me. Ultimately, the new movies, although probably amusing as well, are not the same meaningful strand of DCOM as the old movies were.

I understand that you probably think I watch too much television, but this is just untrue. All I know is that I grew up watching the Disney Channel and pray that one day it can steer back to its original path of low-budget, non-merchandized, and semi-life changing movies that I grew up with.

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