Fans are praising Disney Television Animation for the latest episode of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, which handles the autism diagnosis of main character BeBe Proud.
The series, a reboot/spinoff of the original early 2000s ToonDisney hit The Proud Family, began airing its second season on February 1 after a successful run on Disney’s streaming platform. Both series follow lead Penny Proud as she comes of age within a multi-generational Black household, including her siblings, parents, and grandmother, and presents family-friendly plots while educating viewers about African American culture and experiences.
Disney+ summarizes the episode, titled “BeBe,” as a storyline in which the Proud family discovers their son is on the autism spectrum. More specifically, the family meets with child psychologist Dr. Lord (Guest star Holly Robinson Peete) but initially reacts defensively to her diagnosis, fearful of the challenges the Prouds will face as he grows and the insinuation that BeBe might be “stupid.”
However, the show continues its positive representation and education history by assuring Oscar (Tommy Davidson) and Trudy Proud (Paula Jai Parker) that autism does not equate to harmful stereotypes of intelligence. In contrast, Dr. Lord explains that while BeBe may have fluctuating needs and require extra support from his parents, his being autistic is not a life-ending sentence some parents or even autistic individuals themselves may believe.
In fact, Peete told Essence magazine in an interview:
Navigating all of it was hard. I didn’t wake up with a big smile on my face in the beginning like, ‘Oh, we got this!’ I spent a lot of time feeling very sad and defeated and hopeless for years. I would say other people inspired and encouraged me. But mostly it’s been by example… When we were told all of these things he would never do and then we started seeing them check them off that list, I mean, how can you not be encouraged by that? Every child is different, of course, but just celebrating and being thankful for each milestone and even each small win is so important.
Furthermore, the episode had extra significance for The Proud Family’s mission for representation, as Peete herself is extremely vocal about her experiences with her autistic son, RJ, and BeBe is also played by a seven-year-old autistic voice actor named Aiden Dodson. Aiden’s father told ABC his son’s casting was “a great fit” because it allows an actual African American autistic boy to represent his own experiences through the character.
Overall, “BeBe” is a great example of the work that can come from Disney’s commitment to inclusivity, one of its five keys, especially since the streaming platform and the show itself have recently come under fire. For instance, the company just pulled an episode of The Simpsons from the platform in Hong Kong over a controversial scene, while Fox News coincidentally posted a scathing attack of The Proud family for its subsequent episode, “Juneteenth,” which focuses on the topics of reparations, African American self-empowerment, and who controls the historical narrative.
Disney fans can watch The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder now with an active Disney+ subscription.