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How ‘That’s So Raven’ Raised a Generation and Changed the Game for Disney Channel

Photos courtesy of Disney Channel. Collage made by creativemaniac.net.

If we gazed into the future in 2003, would we have seen the impact that That’s So Raven has had on pop culture and how the show raised an entire generation? Maybe or maybe not. On January 17, 2003, That’s So Raven premiered on Disney Channel. All I remember was that I got a That’s So Raven backpack for my 7th birthday and I was obsessed with it. This show set a precedent of what future shows would be like on the network. Today, I want to reflect on the cultural impact of That’s So Raven, how it raised a generation, and how it changed the game for Disney Channel. Let’s get into this.

Let’s Throw It Back

The series ran for four seasons in total. Let me tell you that this was very uncommon for Disney Channel. The network would cap off their shows at 65 episodes. It was a rule that had to do with programming schedules and budgets. Everything comes down to money. That’s So Raven broke that rule and ended up having 100 episodes. Raven-Symoné stars as Raven Baxter, a teenaged psychic, who balances personal and social issues. The series explores adolescence, family, friendship, and the supernatural.

I want to talk about a few episodes that touch on important issues. At the time, the issues that many of the episodes centered on were monumental because they weren’t often discussed in kids programming. The first is season 2, episode 8: That’s So Not Raven. The episode focuses on the importance of body positivity and acceptance. Raven has a vision of herself modeling a dress she designed and she’s accepted into the fashion industry. Unfortunately when the look appears in a magazine, her body is altered and Raven doesn’t understand why. The head of the fashion agency believes that there’s only one way all her models should look. I will always remember this episode because of its message. As a 5 year old girl, I didn’t really understand the message but I understood it more as I got older. What’s amazing to me is that the message of this episode is still relevant now.

The second episode I’d like to talk about is season 3, episode 10: True Colors. This episode came out in 2005. I was 6 years old. I’m so thankful that the writers wanted to dedicate an episode of this show to discuss the prevalence of racism. It impacted me greatly and educated me about the issue even if I was too young to fully comprehend everything that was discussed. This episode is cemented in television history.

Raven and Chelsea (Anneliese Van Der Pol) apply for a job at Sassy’s, a clothing store. Chloe, the manager, puts Raven and Chelsea to the test. Raven aces it while Chelsea does it her way. Chloe hires Chelsea but not Raven. Raven proceeds to have a vision that reveals Chloe is racist. Eddie (Orlando Brown) notices that there aren’t any employees of color who work at Sassy’s. With the assistance of her parents and a television reporter, Raven goes undercover to expose Chloe’s discriminatory policies. Meanwhile, Cory (Kyle Massey) learns about the African Americans who made contributions in life and gets the inspiration he needs to write a report for school.

The third and final episode I want to talk about is season 3, episode 29: Food For Thought. I’ve more recently rewatched this episode and believe it’s pretty significant. The episode focuses on the aftermath of eating unhealthy foods and why it’s important add healthy food to your palette.

A food corporation takes over the school cafeteria. Raven and Eddie buy into the hype and get addicted to eating the food court food. Once Raven discovers that the food is changing her body and how she feels, she fights back with Chelsea to get the food court out of the cafeteria.

Now, I just want to talk about iconic episodes. The first one is season 1, episode 18: If Only I Had a Job. Raven gets a vision of her father getting fired from his job. She does what any loving daughter would do. Go undercover with her best friends as a popstar that doesn’t exist. I bet we wished that Liz Anya was real though. DO YOU CARRY A LUNCHBOX?

The second episode I want to talk about is season 2, episode 2: Don’t Have a Cow. This is a Halloween-themed episode. Chelsea and Raven are the only ones who didn’t get invited to Alana’s (Adrienne Bailon) annual Halloween party. They stumble on Viv’s, Raven and Cory’s Grandmother, spell book and decide to wish to be invited to the party. The spell goes awry turning Raven and Chelsea into cows. This episode is so funny and the camaraderie between Raven and Chelsea is everything.

The third and final episode I want to talk about is season 4, episode 6: Hook Up My Space. Raven feels that her room is getting too small for her. She gets a vision of Cory asking their father if he can move his band to the basement which gives Raven the idea to move her room there. She gets to Victor (Rondell Sheridan) first and Cory decides to makeover Raven’s new room with the help of the room makeover show, Hook Up My Space. He uses this opportunity to make Raven’s room a nightmare which Raven and Chelsea discover when they go undercover as male workers. Cory eventually surprises Raven with the room of her dreams. Okay, now I know we all loved Carly’s (Miranda Cosgrove) new bedroom from iCarly but Raven’s new room was immaculate. This episode is full of great comedic moments and moves the show into a new era.

The Impact on Pop Culture and Beyond

That’s So Raven had a major impact on pop culture. For starters, Raven’s outfits revolutionized 2000s fashion and ignited a movement of inspiration in the show’s viewers. Teen Vogue’s Aiyana Ishmael discusses the impact that the show has had on the fashion industry with costume designer Nancy Butts Martin and talks with TikTokers. She came onto the show in its fourth and final season. 

The amazing thing about Raven’s fashion was that it all showcased her personality. Everything was colorful, patterned, and unique to her. It was unlike anything we saw on Disney Channel at the time.

Raising Gen Z and Changing the Game

The series raised an entire generation, Generation Z or Gen Z to be exact. This show played a role in raising me and my fellow member of Gen Z. It taught us important life lessons and about social issues that are still prevalent in the world today.

It changed the game for Disney Channel. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, it broke the 65-episode rule. It gave Disney the ability to light the fire in order to create characters like Alex Russo and Harper Finkle who shared their personality through their costumes and were able to be their authentic selves.

If That’s So Raven didn’t exist, I cannot imagine how different Disney Channel would be, if my other favorite TV shows would’ve been created, and how different Gen Z would be without the education that the show gave us through genius physical comedy and heartfelt moments.

Time to Wrap It Up

Well, you’ve reached the end. I appreciate that you took the time to read this piece. That’s So Raven not only impacted me but impacted many of us. It still continues to impact people today.

Happy 20th anniversary to one of my all-time favorite Disney Channel shows!

Thank you so much for reading.

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