Fantasy Sci Fi Television

How Disney’s ‘So Weird’ Deepened My Connection to My Filipino Side

Last week, a list started circulating online that supposedly contains all the previously released content that will be made available on Disney+ on its November 12 launch date. Of all the titles, the Disney Channel Original series, So Weird, is one of them.

While I speculate the validity of the article’s source, what I will say is that if this winds up being true, then that would be wonderful for everyone who loved watching that show. Not to mention that it would make for good timing. Apart from the fact that this year is the 20th anniversary since So Weird first aired on Disney Channel, in my personal life, it comes at a time when the show has helped deepen my connection with my Filipino side.

To give some background context, So Weird is a paranormal drama that ran on Disney Channel from 1999-2001. Often compared to The X-Files, it largely centers on a teenage girl, Fiona (Cara DeLizia), and her encounters with the paranormal, while on the road for her rock star mom’s (Mackenzie Phillips) tour.

Now it might sound — for lack of better words — so weird to say that this show has helped deepen my connection to my Filipino side. So Weird starred an all-white cast, with very few people of color featured throughout the entirety of its run. In the incredibly divisive third and final season where Alexz Johnson takes over as the lead, there were several episodes where many indigenous communities were extremely misrepresented.

There’s no way this show would be made today and get away with all that. At the same time, there’s no way this show would be made today, for it was thoughtfully written, deep, and darker than any show made for Disney Channel since then. It’s what it got right that has made a bigger impact on me this past year.

Week to week, different paranormal encounters and phenomena are featured such as ghosts, banshees, Big Foot, and aliens. As creepy and out-of-this-world they all were, I could only imagine how much higher the stakes would be if the show had incorporated creatures from Filipino mythology (a feat that was actually done in an episode of Grimm).

Having been brought up in a predominantly white household, I wasn’t brought up on Filipino folktales. I had to seek them out on my own. Wanting to incorporate that particular lore into my own writing is something I’ve been working towards, and over the summer, I did just that in a So Weird-inspired story called Another World; where a Filipino American teenage girl meets a diwata who inhabits a nearby park that’s scheduled for demolition. There are two versions of the story; one being an unproduced one-act play, the other a short story. I would love nothing more than for both iterations to see the light of day in the future.

On a more serious note, So Weird is more than just an endless streak of paranormal strays. As heavily focused in the second season, Fiona is looking for answers regarding the untimely death of her father. Even though she lost him at a very young age, she stills holds a strong love for him, and even keeps a list of qualities they share (an interest for the paranormal being one of them).

This element of the show is particularly relatable to me, for I lost my great aunt — my tita — under mysterious circumstances when I was also really young. I’ve spent over 15 years learning about her as much as I can, and I too keep a list of qualities she and I have in common. Getting to see Fiona’s story parallel my experience of trying to make sense of who my great aunt was has motivated me to start something. She studied here in the United States at several universities on scholarship from the Philippines, and within the last month, I’ve ignited a search for her documents at one of those schools. Fiona and I are both on missions to find answers.

It’s been over 20 years since So Weird first aired and 18 years since it ended. While it has gone unacknowledged by Disney in the years since, there’s still a fan base for it that’s alive and well; in the form of a message board, a fan-run podcast, and even a hashtag. It’s fair to say that the show is the kind that changes as one gets older, which is why it would mean so much to so many people to see it on Disney+.

So I’m keeping the faith and I’m not giving up on So Weird. While it is not a picture of diversity, I cannot deny the push it has given me in deepening my connection to my Filipino side. Maybe in its own unique way, the show can continue to encourage viewers to deepen the personal ties in their own lives as well.

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