This must be the era of television nostalgia because every time I turn around there seems to be a new announcement of a reboot tv show.
This year alone, popular shows like Gossip Girl, Are You Afraid of The Dark, and even High School Musical have confirmed reboots. As a firm believer in leaving the past in the past, I’ve made a vow to boycott these shows in the name of creativity. But with the recent announcement of the return of The Proud Family, I have no choice but to make an exception.
The Proud Family first premiered nearly 20 years ago and since then there’s been a serious lack of TV shows, especially cartoons, that authentically portray the upbringing of a young black girl in a black household. The Proud Family never held back in its references to black culture in order to attract and assimilate to a larger audience (aka the TV version of code-switching) but at the same time, it was a show that encouraged inclusion and diversity.
Even though Penny’s friend group was mostly filled with minorities, the show eagerly explored the topic of race, even airing an episode set in the 1950s when racism was blatant. Her white best friend Zoey refused to acknowledge her but, of course, the episode ended with Penny and Zoey coming together and convincing the entire school that in the end, race didn’t matter, friendship did.
The show didn’t shy away from heavier topics because they were real and often took on issues like religion, feminism, money, family, and so much more.
But at the same time, Penny was going through trivial issues just like most black girls and her life was as relatable as it gets. She was raised in a middle class home with an overprotective father and a caring, yet stern mother. Her crazy, hilarious grandmother lived with them along with her dog (and the show’s best character), Puff. On numerous occasions, she couldn’t go out with her friends because she had to babysit her siblings and her dad wouldn’t let her date until she was 16 years old. What 14-year-old girl can’t relate to this stuff?
Sometimes we forget that black girls live the same lives as most teens everywhere because we don’t get to see their coming of age stories on screen often, but a reboot of a positive show like The Proud Family would be a great reminder. Earlier TV shows like Moesha and The Parkers that achieved the same level of authenticity served as a blueprint for The Proud Family but what made this show unique was its ability to transfer that magic to animation and tap into a new, younger audience. Not only could pre-teens facing the same challenges as Penny and her friends relate, but children would grow up laughing at Oscar Proud and Suga Mama’s shenanigans that only a cartoon could capture. Plus, they had a role model in Penny, who was spitting gems and learning lessons every single episode.
It’s been almost 15 years since the last episode premiered and while we don’t know where in Penny Proud’s life the new series will pick up from, fans are hoping she’ll now be in college (preferably at a Historically Black College) and the LPDZ gang along with Sticky will still be tight. While we already have Grown-ish, which has become more relatable recently, the new Proud Family reboot has the ability to capture the black girl college experience much better if it keeps its same magic from the original. Penny Proud isn’t blackish, she’s straight-up black and her experience at an HBCU (which hasn’t been explored since A Different World) should be fun to watch.
While some reboots (ahem, Gossip Girl) are completely unnecessary, there’s a space for a cartoon that is aimed at not only young black girls but at any young girl who’s coming of age. Plus, for the black girls who grew up dressing as Penny Proud for Halloween *pulls out costume from 2004*, a little nostalgia couldn’t hurt.