A timely, clever show with a sneaky sense of progressivism that’ll go down well with the young audience it’s clearly targeting.
Despite being way outside of the intended demographic, I nonetheless see the appeal of Disney+’s new scripted series Diary of a Future President. With the current state of American politics, its attention-grabbing setup of Gina Rodriguez being sworn in as Elena Cañero-Reed, a female, Cuban-American president of the United States, makes a lot of sense; especially when you consider the show’s tween target audience. It’s about, among other things, how working hard to get where you want to be is enough to knock down any other barriers you might face.
It’s also, in large part, a fairly traditional coming-of-age story, since Elena’s presidency is really a framing device for her to be gifted her own childhood diary by her mother, Gabi (Selenis Leyva), so that we can see how far she’s come and what it took to get there. Thus Gina Rodriguez (who also has an executive producer and director credits) steps aside in favor of Tess Romero, who plays 12-year-old Elena living in a Miami suburb with her brother Bobby (Charlie Bushnell) and their mother. Sixth-grade shenanigans are afoot, as Elena and her best friend Sasha (Carmina Garay) run afoul of former pal Jess (Harmeet K. Pandey) and it-girl Melissa (Sanai Victoria). Gabi, meanwhile, is in a fledgling relationship with her colleague Sam Faber (Michael Weaver), her first romantic pursuit since the death of her husband three years prior, and like Wade in The Unicorn, she’s worried about introducing this new figure into the lives of her children.
None of this is entirely unfamiliar stuff, but it’s lent something extra by our knowledge that relatively unremarkable Elena will eventually become president, and that gives the show’s underlying message of nothing-special individuals being able to rise to positions of great influence through sheer work ethic a bit of an extra kick. A lot of Diary of a Future President is apparently based on the childhood of the show’s creator Ilana Peña, which makes sense given how comparatively normal it often feels. That’s probably the show’s secret weapon and what keeps it from being as insufferable as family-fun Disney shows can often be. While the show’s potential power is a bit low-key, which can sometimes allow it to settle into all-too-familiar rhythms, it’s a really solid version of a show that just might inspire a 12-year-old girl to believe she can one day become anything she wants to be. And what’s wrong with that?
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.