Let’s talk about Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide for a minute okay because that show was- and still is- great. Here’s a few reasons why:
Moze!!! She was smart, tall, extremely sporty, took woodshop (and enjoyed it AND was really good at it!), and was still attractive to many of the popular boys. She got good grades and kicked ass at sports- remember that episode where she won all the school records for sports? Yeah.
Characterized the bullies!!! Loomer and his two cronies weren’t just mean, dumb kids- we actually got to know their personalities, like how Loomer liked Moze and how the one with the curly hair was in sewing club. They had interests that went against the typical “big mean bully” stereotype.
The advice!!! It was actually useful! I was lucky enough to watch it before I went to middle school and I really did get to use a lot of the tips that I remembered from the show, such as speed walking to get to class on time and keeping an extra change of clothes in my locker. Even now I’m still using some of those in high school. And the fact that the situations that the show portrayed could actually happen to middle schoolers (well, most of them, anyway) made it even better because kids will know what to do when they run into those problems.
The people of color!!! They were all over, and they weren’t just background characters who did nothing or messed stuff up, they were main characters who contributed to the plot and had awesome achievements. Think of Cookie, Claire Sawyer, Mr. Wright, Faymen, Backpack Boy, Evelyn, Spencer, Rose the Lunch Lady, Doug, Vanessa, Timmy… Numerous examples out of all the characters on the show and only one of them was never officially named (despite being a recurring character).
There are at least two confirmed characters with mental disorders. (x) (x) They aren’t really main characters, but hey, it’s still something.
The teachers had complex personalities, just like the kids, and it exposed how hard it is to be a teacher (and custodian!). Many kids don’t understand that they’re difficult jobs, and this show absolutely proved that.
There were overweight (or near overweight) kids who weren’t made fun of for their weights!!!
The jokes were actually pretty good. Come on, let’s admit it, that show was funny.
Gender inequality issues were addressed and stereotypes were totally broken! Loomer was a total sucker for love, one of his guy friends enjoyed (and was good at) sewing, Moze tried every sport at the school, one episode completely dissed the idea that girls and boys should each dress a certain way, Mr. Monroe ran the sewing club, Spencer was completely and unashamedly into acting and adored for it, women taught the gym class and high-level math, The Huge Crew weren’t afraid to show their total affection for Ned, Cookie frequently used dressing in drag as his first plan when trying to accomplish something, Ned could be sweet and sentimental, Ned and Cookie took health class (which was taught by Mr. Monroe) and were extremely protective over their fake baby (which they “raised” together!)… And, my personal favorite example: when Lisa Zemo got her makeover before season 3 and came back all attractive, she got tons of attention from boys. Not only did she not turn down boys for being nerdy or not the most attractive, but when Cookie kept vying for her attention she didn’t drop everything to go after him again. For the past two seasons she’d had a crush on him and he barely acknowledged her. She obviously remembers that and is still willing to be friends with him, but she also remembers that he wouldn’t have been going after her if she hadn’t had a makeover, so she won’t let him suddenly have her just like that. She understands her worth and won’t go out with guys who only want her for her looks.
The custodian character was actually important and taught some good life lessons to the kids. Gordy showed an obvious and usually overlooked worth of the people who clean up your messes- they are people too, and they enjoy talking to you! The same goes for the lunch lady- she was valued and respected!
Suzie!!! She was made out to just be the pretty, popular girl, but she was so much more. She competed hard in sports, had lots of school spirit, was a loyal girlfriend, didn’t agree with Missy’s harshness, and was disadvantaged when it came to family. Her parents were divorced and she didn’t even have money to get school lunches- she worked for Rose, remember? And people stuck up for her when others (*cough* Missy *cough*) tried to make fun of her. She wasn’t entirely self-centered or vapid or stupid.
Those are just a few of the reasons why Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide was, and is, an amazing show. Feel free to add anything that I’ve forgotten, as I’m sure there’s plenty.