The American Medical Association’s “Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S., 2012 Edition,’’ states that black female physicians made up less than 2% of nearly 1 million US doctors in 2010. That seems extraordinarily low, but think about it, how many black female physicians do you know? (Melanie from “The Game” doesn’t count!)
Could a Disney cartoon starring a young, black, female doctor improve those dismal statistics and encourage more young women to aspire to be doctors?
We soon shall see.
Disney is definitely taking a step in the right direction with “Doc McStuffins.” The show’s Wikipedia page describes Doc as a a six-year-old girl who, one day, wants to become a doctor like her mother. As a kid, she “pretends” to be a doctor by fixing up toys and dolls. A twist of Disney’s Toy Story franchise, when Doc puts on her stethoscope, toys, dolls and stuffed animals come to life and she can communicate with them. With a little help from her stuffed animal friends, Stuffy, Hallie, Lambie and Chilly, Doc helps toys “feel better” by giving them check-ups. Each 11-minute episode includes original songs and the “Time for your Check-up” song, and during ending credits, Doc gives advice to viewers about staying healthy. The show is described as a sophisticated, CG-animated series that doesn’t talk down to its young audience.
The series was created by Chris Nee. who isn’t black (or an Asian male as her name may lead you to believe), but the show stars several black actors including young black actress Kiara Muhammad and seasoned black actress Loretta Devine.
Nee says she created the series to demystify doctors for little kids after a particularly scary trip to the hospital with her son as she detailed in her interview with AfterEllen.com. However, Nee is credited for creating a show that is doing much more than that. The show is also portraying a young black girl in a role that we don’t often see. Boston.com reported that Nee said Disney encouraged her to create Doc as a minority character from the beginning and she hopes the series resonates with all of the kids who watch it, especially girls who tend to develop a negative view of science at a young age.
That’s a lot of pressure for a cartoon, but not far-fetched considering how powerful television can be in creating role models for young children. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says American children spend an average of three to four hours every day watching television and children of color spend the most time viewing television, so this is definitely a show that Black families should consider actively supporting.
Last week, the show sent out a press release saying Doc McStuffins is a hit for kids age 2-7 and has been ordered for a second season on both the Disney Channel and Disney Junior. Disney will also introduce “Doc McStuffins” books, apparel, party goods and role play toys, dolls and accessories.
This is great news for a company that was once rightfully accused of ignoring the black children that watch their network and movies. And it’s even better news for the kids who are watching.
As Dr. Myiesha Taylor points out on her site Coily Embrace that sure young kids can aspire to be Beyonce, Lebron or even NeNe Leakes but kids need to know there’s more than entertainment, sports or fashion industry success, and instead pursue careers in higher education, medicine, or as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
Here’s hoping that Doc McStuffins is only the beginning of a new trend.
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