Marvel’s new show Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur gives us the originality and joy we need. Lunella Lafayette is a spunky, sparky 13-year-old living in a loving, colorful world filled with youthful exuberance while recognizing things just aren’t fair sometimes. For anyone who remembers the comics, Lunella is a teenage genius, the smartest character in the Marvel universe which, she proves at the end of issue #12 when she solves the Banner Brain Omnicompetence Examiner (B.O.X.).
In the new Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur TV show, that airs on the Disney Channel starting February 10 and Disney+ on February 15, we all get the perfect representation of a 13-year-old genius building relationships with her family, friends, the world around her, and herself.
Lunella: Developmental Dissonance Done Right
Lunella is the perfect representation of the developmental dissonance we see in kids with high IQs. Although intellectually beyond her age, she’s emotionally a 13-year-old. The writers of the series use this cognitive and emotional dissonance inherent in sparky kids to address social justice issues while retaining an emotionally optimistic feel.
Lunella is intellectually aware enough to feel that she needs to protect the LES because institutions like the government won’t. However, as a teenager, she has a hopeful, optimistic attitude rather than a cynical, jaded response giving us all a sense that we, too, can save the world.
Learning From Family and Friends
Even the smartest girl in the world can learn something from other people. Although her PE-teacher-turned-science-teacher relies on her to do some of his job, TV-show Lunella also recognizes that she might not have all the answers to life, the universe, and everything. In the comic, Lunella emits a sense of superiority, believing that she knows better than her family and peers. However, in the show, we get a much more empathetic and realistic sense of what an intelligent teenager looks like.
Pops shows Lunella how to give and accept love. His unconditional love for his family models what healthy emotional relationships look like. Even further, Pops gives us a male role model whose entire personality is sensitivity and love, giving us a strong male character who is the exact opposite of toxic masculinity and something we rarely see in superhero narratives.
Meanwhile, Casey shows Lunella how to be a teenager. Intelligent kids like Lunella often feel out of place when with their peers. Their brains process things differently. They look at the world differently. They try to fit in, yet still feel lonely. Casey accepts Lunella just for being herself, giving Lunella a way to put into action all the lessons she gets from Pops. The interplay between the two characters gives equal parts girl power vibes and typical teen angst.
Building a Relationship With Yourself
Self-discovery is the core of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. For Lunella, this journey is one most of us remember from when we were teenagers. The teen years are, if nothing else, a period of self-exploration. As parents, we all hope that we can create an environment that also enables our children to embrace loving themselves during this time.
As a genius superhero, Lunella’s path may look different from the ones our own kids take. However, the similarities are still obvious. Teens can identify with Lunella and her friends. Parents can gain insight into their children’s experiences. Without spoiling anything, the episode “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” is a must-watch for parents and their kids. For Black women and parents of Black female teens, this episode gives the representation that I so often hear they want, and it’s done in the most joyous way possible. For parents of any teen, the underlying story is about learning to accept things about yourself that you wish were different and learning to love them.
Similarly, Devil is on his own personal journey. Through Lunella, he learns what love and friendship mean. As much as Devil furthers Luella’s personal growth, she acts as a catalyst for him to build a new relationship with himself—one that definitely includes hot dogs.
Shoot for the Moon, Girl!
More than anything else, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a pleasure. It’s the story of a brilliant, empathetic girl with a strong personality who’s learning to navigate the world. She has the optimism and joy that we’ve all been missing lately, and the show gives us a cast of characters that we want to see win because we want to believe that the best happens to the best people.