(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Ruby Bridges)
Doug (vo): I'm not sure what really persuaded me to see Ruby Bridges. I was looking through Disney+, saw it was a Disney Channel movie, and the first thing I thought was, "Oh, God. Disney Channel's gonna try this? The same people that brought us Can of Worms, Zenon, and High School Musical?" But it was the middle of January, I just got back from a vacation, I thought, "Why not? Let's give it a chance. Maybe Disney will do this one pretty well." And I'm telling you, with all seriousness, this movie is fucking great. Like, it's not just a good Disney Channel movie, it's a good movie, period. I was blown away how well they handled this. The first thing that came in my head was, "Oh, we're gonna see her just mostly being a normal kid, maybe throw in a few one-liners like they usually do in Disney Channel movies, and maybe either halfway or maybe at the end, they'll show her going into the school, and people are yelling at her and everything", 'cause, come on, it's Disney Channel, they're not gonna do anything that heavy. I mean, even that Color of Friendship movie, I mean, mostly, it just shows them hanging out and having fun, and that's the idea. Kids are supposed to like them before we feel really bad for them. But this movie leaps right into it, but not too fast either.
Story[edit | edit source]
Doug (vo): The story, as I'm sure most of you who know history know, is about the first black girl integrated into a white school in New Orleans. The film opens with the proposal being made to the family, but it doesn't just jump to her going to school yet. It shows what this family is like, what she's like, what her interests are, how everybody looks at them, and how they get along pretty well in the neighborhood. And they're chill and cool and likeable and everybody is relatable and stands out. When she is finally allowed into the school, though, well, you know what happens. There's protests, people screaming, everybody saying she doesn't belong here.
Review[edit | edit source]
Doug (vo): And if you're like me, that's about all you know. That's what they tell you in the history books. (An image of a painting of Ruby Bridges walking through a school area is shown) There's that Norman Rockwell painting. Oh, man, what a terrible point in our history for everyone to act so mean, but I never really asked how the rest of the year went. How did Ruby cope? How did her family cope? How did the teachers cope? Was the school understanding? Did they stand by her, or did they have some arguments, too? The entire movie is about how everybody is affected.
(Clips focusing on the characters of the school teachers are shown)
Doug (vo): Some teachers are okay with her entering the school, others don't know how to feel, and others are die-hard against it. But they're also very clever at showing that they kind of disguise it sometimes, like they say Ruby has to be in her own classroom, and they're like, "Well, isn't that against the idea?", and one of them says, "It's for her own safety." Now is that a real concern, or does she just want to keep them separate? Both these educators seem to walk that fine line of what's safe and what's right, with Ruby's main teacher leaning towards what's right and being very kind and welcoming, the other one leaning much more towards what's safe, and, yeah, you could easily see some racist under, over, every tone in there, but...they kind of play around with that, too. You can tell she's kind of convincing herself that this is the right thing to do or isn't the right thing to do, and by the end, when you see her looking at Ruby and she has tears in her eyes, you don't know. Is she sad because Ruby is so inspiring, or is she sad because she lost, she's still gonna be in that school, and other black people are gonna be coming as well? A friggin' Disney Channel movie is leaving that vague, it's not hammering it in.
(Clips focusing on a scene about to be described are shown)
Doug (vo): There's another great moment where Ruby is doing these drawings, and a doctor who wants to help them with the transition, played by Kevin Pollak, notices she draws black people in kind of a weird, deformed way and white people in a normal way, like she sees them and herself as ugly. But there's another layer to it. She draws herself with no mouth, she draws her friend with no ears, and I immediately thought to myself, "Is she drawing them that way because it's like she has no voice, and then the friend has no ears because she's not listening?" They never come out and say that, but you can interpret it that way. The movie is that smart.
(Clips focusing on the characters of Ruby's parents are shown)
Doug (vo): The parents in this movie are also incredible. The mother wants to see all this injustice done to black people stop, and the father, yeah, he wants to see it, too, but not at the sacrifice of his daughter, not at the sacrifice of his job, not at the sacrifice of his friends, not at the sacrifice of his family's mental health. And he's not bad, like, "Oh, how can he not see how this'll help things in the long run?". No, he does see. That's why he goes through with it. He just hates seeing his daughter suffer and his family suffer. And the arguments they have feel real, and the fact that they show this entire year, and what they went through, and all the times she has to walk through that crowd every day, and all the little bits of suffering building up, you really recognize what a sacrifice this is.
(As various clips continue to show, the majority of them focus on a moment when Ruby is at a class filled with white children)
Doug (vo): Because of this, when it gets to the scenes that could be interpreted as a little corny, like her turning around and praying for the protestors or one or two speeches that some of the teachers give, it doesn't feel forced. There's a moment that really caught me off-guard in the way they use the "N" word. Again, Disney Channel movie, you don't think they're gonna say that. But they're brilliant at slowly working it in to the point where it's the most effective. First, you see people mouthing it, but you can't really hear it, there's just too many people screaming. Then, you see it slightly written, but it's never fully spelled out. And then, suddenly, when Ruby is allowed with the other kids, this one boy just says it. It caught me completely off-guard. Holy shit! That little boy just said that word like it was nothing! And this poor kid had to just sit there and take it, because if she fought back, she'd be seen as difficult, and it could screw everything up. The way the film slowly introduced that word to ultimately the most shocking point possible is friggin' ingenious. If you heard all the protestors saying it, yeah, it'd be shocking at first, but, you know, that's the way you'd expect in a movie like this. But the fact that they saved it, they built it up, and it's a little boy who obviously doesn't even know the weight of that word saying it, it's hugely effective.
(Various clips resume showing)
Doug (vo): If I had one gripe with the movie, I'd say it's probably the music. Where everything else is elevated to, like, a great, fantastic movie, the music is still...Disney Channel music. It's corny, there's a lot of piano, it kind of sounds like something you'd hear on Full House. But...what do you expect? It's a composer I'm sure just doing what they normally do for a Disney Channel movie. It's not like they have a grand orchestra waiting for them. But even that's utilized very cleverly, because there's not a ton of music. The movie has a lot of quiet moments, a lot of scenes of just people talking. And I don't think it's in a way that kids would find really boring, because the main character is Ruby. It's kind of like Flight of the Navigator. Yeah, there's a lot of talking in that, but it's mostly from the point of view of the boy, and him being concerned, you want to know if he's gonna turn out okay. It's the same thing here. Most of it is still from Ruby's point of view. And I don't care who you are. If you're a little kid that has to go to school every day with people screaming at you, you're gonna wanna hope that kid's okay.
Final thought[edit | edit source]
Doug (vo): So, yeah, I used to say my favorite Disney Channel movie was probably Smart House or Luck of the Irish or one of those that was based on a popular TV show. But, no, man. Hands down, it's this one. It's wonderfully written, wonderfully directed, wonderfully acted. I couldn't believe how enthralled I was by a Disney Channel movie that's based on a true story, a true story about prejudice. (Title cards of various Disney movies, including Frozen II, Descendants 3, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, and Zombies are shown) I feel like Disney is talking about this over and over recently, and it's getting so tiring, there's nothing that new to it. But this, this gets it right. And it doesn't feel preachy, it doesn't feel like it's talking down to you, it just gives it to you straight, and it does a fantastic job doing it. I can't recommend this movie more, man. It shocked the hell out of me how good it was. If you haven't seen it, check it out and see what you've been missing.
(A scene showing Ruby and a little boy playing at a playground is shown)