Wait, Lizzie McGuire did an episode on racism? Kill me!
Lizzie, Gordo, and Miranda get sucked into an absurd game show called El Oro de Montezuma because Miranda’s cousin Carlos from Mexico is supposed to be on it the following week. The game show is in Spanish, but it’s decidedly never made clear if it’s shot in Mexico.
At school, there’s a new kid from Indonesia. Lizzie babbles a whole paragraph of information at him and he responds slowly, “I am Li.” Lizzie reacts by repeating what she said but in a more aggravated tone, as if she’d never heard of anyone not speaking English before. She continues trying to talk to him without speaking more slowly or simplifying her vocabulary, and Li continues to struggle to understand her. Cartoon Lizzie makes jokes and screams to let the audience know that speaking to someone who’s not fluent in English is a real nightmare.
It’s a social studies class, of course, so we’re going to double down on the cultural insensitivity. Mr. Dig is their sub because no teachers show up to school anymore. Mr. Dig teaches everything now. He talks about different beauty standards around the world, except he actually just says a bunch of stereotypes like talking about Chinese women binding their feet as if it were still happening in 2002. He asks Li to stand up and explain how Americans can benefit from learning about Indonesian culture. Jesus, Mr. Dig. First off, it’s not considered best teaching practices to put the only minority in class on the spot and make him do your job for you. And also, Li doesn’t fucking speak English well. He doesn’t understand the extremely complicated question Mr. Dig asks him, obviously, so everyone laughs at him, even Mr. Dig.
Lizzie says, “This might take a while!” real jokey, like an asshole. Mr. Dig assigns them a paper on any other culture even though he’s a substitute and shouldn’t give assignments. Cartoon Lizzie jokes that homework isn’t as fun as a free trip to a waterpark. No shit?
Lizzie asks her parents, “Where did I come from?” like anyone would ask about their family’s origins like that. Her parents stammer awkwardly about sex and Lizzie clarifies her question. Jo says she’s from Walla Walla and Sam says he’s from Kalamazoo, I guess because the writers thought it be funny if her parents came from towns with silly names. Lizzie clarifies again because this family sucks at communicating, and the McGuires seem fully stumped by their own lineage.
“Sam, your family’s… what? Scottish or… Irish?” Jo asks, seemingly taking a guess even though their last name is McGuire so that’s completely obvious. “Something like that,” Sam confirms vaguely. How do you not know? Jo says that she’s Swiss, German, Hungarian and Polish. Clearly Sam came from a family where parents don’t tell their children anything and he’s decided to could keep the tradition alive by largely ignoring his own family.
Matt and Lanny start a game of hide-and-seek. I am loving Matt this season! His plotlines have so far been so dumb that I can ignore them completely.
Carlos, Miranda’s Mexican cousin, visits and hangs out with them at the Digital Bean. He complains that his team for El Oro de Montezuma quit on him, so Lizzie volunteers the trio. This is one of those moments where Lizzie feels badly defined as a character, because this is an insane thing to volunteer for, so I’d say it should be the more confident Miranda urging her to sign up. But who cares! Clearly not the writers. Lizzie decides that this will be a part of her report on Mexican culture.
Again: do they shoot this show in Mexico? Are they traveling to Mexico? Did Carlos just travel from Mexico and is now turning right around? Why is Carlos in town right now? Is this game show live? If he was supposed to be on the following week, wouldn’t that mean he taped his episode at least a month in advance?
They all practice a single obstacle course and seem to think that’s enough preparation for the show. Gordo and Miranda try to practice some Spanish phrases but Lizzie is all “fuck other languages, that’s what we have Carlos for,” even though she knows less Spanish than your average three-year-old who’s seen one episode of Dora the Explorer. Lizzie gets stumped by the word bueno in this scene.
At the game show taping, they get asked a trivia question about a Mexican artist, which Carlos translates. Luckily, the answer was one of the two Mexican artists that Americans know about, so they had a 50-50 chance of guessing it right (it was Diego Rivera, not Frida Kahlo) and Miranda knows it.
They do a lot of stunts with Carlos translating the instructions for each one. Lizzie knocks a huge tower over at one point in case you forgot that she’s a klutz. For the final round, Carlos of course gets taken away from the team for no reason. They get a big vat of rice pudding but have no idea what to do with it. “I feel like I’ve just transferred into a school from Indonesia!” says Lizzie in possibly the most on-the-nose line in the series to date. They try all kinds of stuff and end up just getting into a pudding fight. I think that this scene was legitimately very fun for the actors because they all seem on the verge of breaking character.
At school, Lizzie starts to present her report. She begins by explaining that she went on a game show and asks fairly condescendingly, “Do you understand, Li?” and Li has a doofy response about Hollywood Squares that’s clearly supposed to be a joke. You can’t have it both ways, show! You either respect Li or think that his foreignness is a punchline. Lizzie says her experience taught her that it’s actually super hard to be in a place where you don’t speak the language. I think basic empathy could have taught her that as well. She says that we should all try to understand other cultures and apologizes to Li for losing her patience with him for being bad at English. All of this is still in front of the class and is probably humiliating for Li. She then presents her report on Indonesia instead of Mexico and Li smiles and nice music plays like Lizzie is an inspiration to whites everywhere.
Matt and Lanny’s hide-and-seek game has escalated so much that they’ve been hiding all over the city, and the episode ends with Matt hiding in a train that starts to move away with him stuck on it. I don’t appreciate the tease, show. I know he’ll be back next week. Don’t get my hopes up.
I hated this episode. It was boring and stupid and condescending and made no sense. In her speech at the end, Lizzie says to her teacher and classmates, “For my report, I thought it would be a good idea to go on a Spanish-language game show,” and nobody reacts or think that’s the craziest fucking thing they’ve ever heard. I feel like that moment sums up just how nonsensical this episode was.
Notable fashion moments: All last season, both McGuire parents had set uniforms: Jo wore plain cotton tees under either unbuttoned cardigans or crisp unbuttoned button-downs, and Sam wore button-downs with ties. This season, they’re mixing it up and I AM UNCOMFORTABLE!
You’re blowing my mind, Season 2 costume designer Cathryn Wagner!
Other interesting tidbits: Matt gets in a cab to travel the city looking for Lanny, and someone on set covered the real cab company’s name with an extremely shitty sticker.
This season is shot a lot differently, with a ton of wide shots. The lighting in the McGuires’ house is different, too, with more natural light than warm studio lights. There’s also so many more locations this season. They must have gotten a better budget after America fell in love with Lizzie’s whiny ass.
Li is played by the same actor who played the hot guy Jake Behari on Unfabulous, a show that was actually about ten million times worse than Lizzie McGuire.