“That’s So Raven” premiered on Disney Channel on January 17th, 2003.
Today marks the 15th anniversary of Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven — another subtle reminder that we’re all getting old. We’ve all grown up so much that many of us tuned into the Disney Channel for the first time in years to watch the spin-off Raven’s Home, which recently scored a second season. Our beloved Raven Baxter might be a struggling divorcée now, but when That’s So Raven aired from 2003-2007, the show gave us a central Black female character, paving the way for actresses like Zendaya to rise from the network.
In many ways, the character was ahead of her time: She was a Black teen girl from the city with psychic powers and a knack for bold fashion and spot-on comedic timing.
Before shows like HBO’s Insecure and Netflix’s Chewing Gum gave us quirky Black female protagonists, we had Raven Baxter.
Here are five ways that beloved character was the original “awkward black girl.”
1She was an un-masterful master of disguise.
Raven’s disguises were usually meant to either help her prevent a vision or make sure that something positive came out of them — but situations often turned out better when she was her regular degular self.
2Her vibrant, colorful fashion sense was a perfect blend of Clueless inspo and carefree style.
She ruled the street-style game, constantly giving us “this outfit shouldn’t work but it does” slayage. To see a Black girl on TV wearing clothing that exuded joy and boldness was hella inspirational.
3She was allowed to be unapologetically Black.
There never seemed to be any question that Raven Baxter was Black, and when an episode of the series — “True Colors” — depicted racial discrimination, she used her usual awkwardness and sense of humor to show that she was very much a Black girl who demanded fairness.
4She was as inept at dating as the rest of us.
There’s the “Worst Date Ever” episode, wherein Raven finds out that a guy she thought was the bee’s knees was actually a hot mess. Then there’s Devon, her true love, and the fact that they never seem to get it quite right — leading Raven to crush on lesser men in-between.
5She was hilarious.
What awkward black girls lack in social prowess, they make up for with comedic finesse. Raven Baxter’s humor — and ability to inject humor into uncomfortable moments — was one of her greatest strengths.
Today’s television characters, like Issa of Insecure and Tracey Gordon of Chewing Gum, show us that you can be an awkward Black girl who is funny, complex, and still dope AF despite, or rather because of, your quirks.
The character Raven Baxter did the same thing, more than a decade earlier.