Lizzie McGuire was one of the first roles for Disney Channel star Hilary Duff. The show centered around Lizzie, a pre-teen girl going through the trials and tribulations of middle school. Duff, who currently stars in the Hulu original How I Met Your Father, was the perfect portrayal of an awkward but cute early-2000’s girly—and I was obsessed.
I had a Lizzie McGuire folding chair, a Lizzie McGuire beach towel, many Lizzie McGuire outfits, and even had a Lizzie McGuire-themed birthday party, so it’s safe to say the show was instrumental in my childhood.
I had to revisit the series as an adult to determine if the Disney Channel show was really as good as I remembered it. Here’s what I thought:
Lizzie McGuire’s Cartoon Inner-Monologue Walked So Fleabag Could Run
Lizzie shares her innermost thoughts and feelings via a big-eyed cartoon version of herself. That cartoon is the reason I walked around my house as a kid, talking to myself as if there were a camera crew following me.
In my opinion, Lizzie’s cartoon persona set the groundwork for the fourth-wall breaks we see on TV today—much like the titular character in Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Amazon Prime Original, Fleabag. Both characters get the chance to address the audience without spilling the beans to the characters around them, and they both exude main-character energy.
Platonic Friendships Are Underrated
It’s so important for kids to understand that platonic friendships exist, and that’s why I loved the friendship between Lizzie, Miranda, and Gordo. The trio navigates middle school together, supporting each other through the ups and downs of being a tweenager.
You’ll understand why I was so disappointed to realize that the show tried to create a romantic connection between Lizzie and Gordo during the second season. It undercuts the friendship they’d had all along, implying that Gordo’s friendship with Lizzie only existed because of his hidden feelings for her.
Lizzie’s Rhythmic Gymnastics Skills
In the Season 1 episode “I’ve Got Rhythmic,” Lizzie decides to train to become a rhythmic gymnast. Her skills impress all her classmates, including her frenemy/bully Kate Sanders. Her routine must have been really good, right?
Wrong. I practically did a spit take when Lizzie’s ribbon routine started. Hilary Duff apparently has some experience in gymnastics, which she demonstrated during a 2004 interview on Late Night With Conan O'Brien— but based on that demonstration, I'm not sure the rhythmic gymnastics routine Lizzie performs is exactly reflective of Duff's real-life abilities. On the show, Lizzie's big routine earns a near-perfect score.
When Lizzie launches that hoop into the air, I lost it. She blasts that thing into the crowd, and Larry Tudgman catches it right above her head in the very next shot. I can't believe I used to think that's what rhythmic gymnastics looks like.
Ethan Was The Original Himbo
The Himbo: An attractive, almost golden retriever-like man who isn’t so smart but has a huge heart. That’s Ethan Craft in a nutshell.
Lizzie, Miranda, and Kate all have crushes on Ethan, which makes sense. He’s cute, athletic, and popular, which is basically everything a 13-year old could want in a boyfriend. Despite Ethan’s popularity with the girls in his grade, he’s actually proven time and time again to be a pretty genuinely nice guy.
Ethan gets a Steve Harrington-esque arc in Lizzie McGuire, with the writers originally painting him as a bully, but quickly transitioning him to a lovable dummy. The actor who played Ethan even shared in an interview with Insider that people still approach him to ask if he’s really that dumb in real life, so he clearly hit the nail on the head with his portrayal of Ethan.
The Episode With Miranda’s Eating Disorder
Lizzie McGuire attempted to tackle an uncharacteristically heavy topic in the Season 2 episode “Inner Beauty,” where Miranda begins to show signs of an eating disorder after seeing a picture of herself that she finds unflattering.
It’s a bit of a dark topic for a kid’s show, but they actually got a lot of key things right. Miranda is suffering from body dysmorphia, so while she doesn’t look any different to her friends, she thinks she needs to stop eating to achieve her ideal body. Miranda also shares with her friends that with so many aspects of her life out of her control, food was the one thing she could decide for herself.
We also see Lizzie turning to her mother for help when she realizes she can’t help Miranda on her own. For a 20-minute episode, Lizzie McGuire did a surprisingly good job of teaching kids the warning signs for eating disorders.
Lizzie McGuire Only Had 2 Seasons
Lizzie McGuire only aired for two seasons from 2001 to 2004, which was pretty standard for similar Disney Channel shows of the time. So… why do I remember the show as a long-running powerhouse of the Disney Channel when it only aired for two years?
I think the legacy of Lizzie McGuire can be attributed to the universal feeling of being a pre-teen. Kids could watch the show today and relate to pretty much everything Lizzie and her friends go through, excluding a few crimped hairstyles. I remember Lizzie McGuire as an important part of my childhood because it was. Even when the show was only airing reruns, I could sympathize with Lizzie because I was still going through the things she was going through.
14-Year-Olds Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Explore Rome Unsupervised
Ah, The Lizzie McGuire Movie—the full-length feature film that was meant to serve as the conclusion to Lizzie’s story, in which a bunch of eighth grade graduates run around Rome with the supervision of one singular chaperone.
Don’t get me wrong, The Lizzie McGuire Movie is a piece of early-2000’s art. Riding around Europe on a Vespa with a hot pop star became my dream, and I definitely tried Lizzie’s blow-dryer trick to fake a fever back in the day. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that this plot — complete with romance, modeling gigs, and full-blown pop concerts — was supposed to be about a girl who hadn’t even started high school.
Regardless, “What Dreams Are Made Of” was the anthem of my childhood. The lyrics. The outfits. The venue. They're all perfect.
It Really WAS That Embarrassing To Be Seen With Your Parents
Lizzie was always mortified of her parents in Lizzie McGuire. Upon rewatching, I expected to think Lizzie was just being dramatic, or being too harsh on her parents—but surprisingly, I actually related to Lizzie even more in retrospect.
One of the things I love about Lizzie McGuire is the portrayal of how the tiniest things seemed so important in middle school. When you’re young and you haven’t experienced being an adult, it’s easy to feel like one public misstep is the most devastating thing that could possibly happen to you. Lizzie wants to be seen as cool and independent, so being seen out in public shopping with mommy is the absolute most embarrassing thing she can imagine.
Lizzie’s parents are kind and caring, but I remember feeling equally as embarrassed of my parents when I was in middle school. Much like Lizzie, I can remember feeling ashamed to my core when my parents wouldn’t let me go to unchaperoned birthday parties or get dropped off at the PG-13 movies. But when you’re 13, those little things really are the most devastating thing that’s happened to you (at least in mine and Lizzie’s case — we’ve both lived very uneventful lives).
Episodes of the Disney Channel original series Lizzie McGuire are available to stream with a Disney+ subscription. The Lizzie McGuire Movie is also available on the platform, along with many other Disney Channel original movies that will remind you of your childhood.
She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.
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