Lizzie McGuire wincing

While Disney Channel was gaining popularity with young audiences, a new series, Lizzie McGuire, premiered on the network in January 2001, immediately taking viewers by storm. Created by Terri Minsky, the show starred fledgling actress Hilary Duff as Lizzie, a girl just trying to navigate middle school alongside her best friends, Miranda (Lalaine) and Gordo (Adam Lamberg), and her close-knit family.

Years later, Lizzie McGuire — which ultimately spawned a feature film in 2003 — is still a beloved classic for an entire generation of Disney Channel fans, and now that the series is available to stream on Disney+, new and old fans can discover (or rediscover) the show. Despite the fact that a recent reboot, announced in 2020, ended up scrapped, Lizzie McGuire lives on, though most of its audience is years older than Lizzie by now. In fact, if you rewatch the show as an adult, you might have a totally different perspective on the series you once loved. Here are just a few things that you might only notice when you watch Lizzie McGuire later in life.

Lizzie McGuire’s parents are pretty incredible

Lizzie McGuire parents

As the show begins, tweenage Lizzie is constantly either humiliated or irritated by her parents, Sam (Robert Carradine) and Jo (Hallie Todd). When you watch the show as a kid, you might agree with Lizzie completely. Sam and Jo are definitely dorky, and they also can be pretty strict when it comes to what Lizzie is allowed to do.

However, when you watch as an adult, you realize that Jo and Sam may well be some of the best parents in TV history. Though they can seem overbearing and annoying to Lizzie, her friends, and her troublemaking younger brother, Matt (Jake Thomas), Jo and Sam are loving, supportive, and kind, discerning their kids’ needs perfectly. For example, in the season 2 episode "Mom’s Best Friend," when Lizzie tries to make her mom into her BFF, Jo is understanding, and throughout the series, she does nice things for Lizzie, like buying her clothes that Lizzie ends up loving.

Sam isn’t quite as close with Lizzie, but he bonds with Matt constantly, and the two get into plenty of whimsical scrapes together. Will Smith famously said that "parents just don’t understand," but it seems like Jo and Sam pretty much have it together.

Sam McGuire is a beloved 1980s movie star

Robert Carradine as Sam McGuire

Kids who watched Lizzie McGuire in the early 2000s probably didn’t pay much attention to characters that weren’t Lizzie, Miranda, or Gordo, but any parents watching the show likely felt like they’d seen Lizzie’s dad, Sam, before. As it happens, he starred in a pretty huge 1980s movie franchise, which is why Robert Carradine looks so familiar.

The son of famous actor John Carradine — and the brother of the late David Carradine, known for his work as the title character in Kill Bill — Carradine got his cinematic start in the 1970s starring with John Wayne in The Cowboys. After a string of successes, including Oscar winners like 1978’s Coming Home, he booked Revenge of the Nerds, cementing himself as a comedy star in 1984. Ultimately, Carradine appeared in the film’s three sequels and took on a new role as an executive producer for a few of them. Though younger Lizzie McGuire fans likely weren’t familiar with Carradine’s work, adult viewers probably were.

Miranda’s brief eating disorder is really disturbing

Miranda eating

Plenty of shows directed at teenagers try to tackle tricky topics throughout their runs, and Lizzie McGuire is no exception, whether Lizzie and Miranda are fighting to make their mothers buy them their first bras or the teenagers are dealing with their first boyfriends and girlfriends. However, the season 2 episode "Inner Beauty," which focuses on eating disorders and body dysmorphia, takes a really dark turn.

In the episode, after worrying about her grades and pressure from her parents, Miranda has an extreme reaction to an offhand comment by Gordo, and she stops eating entirely in a misguided attempt to lose weight. As Miranda, Lizzie, and Gordo try to film a music video, Miranda almost faints, and she snaps at Lizzie when confronted about the fact that she’s refusing to eat at all. By the time the episode ends, Miranda is completely fine, and they never discuss the issue again. And while the show makes a valiant effort to deal with this unfortunately common teenage problem, it barely covers it at all. The truth is that Miranda, who started down a very troubling road, probably should’ve gotten some professional help to deal with how overwhelmed and scared she felt, as well as her issues with food.

Ethan Craft’s appeal is pretty shallow

Ethan Craft smiling

Throughout the series, Lizzie, Miranda, and their rival, Kate (Ashlie Brillault), pine after the school’s most popular young bachelor, Ethan Craft (Clayton Snyder), who’s blessed with luxuriously floppy hair and a seemingly effortless charm. Unlike the rest of the school’s popular kids, Ethan is kind, friendly, and warm, often bonding with Lizzie and her friends, but there’s one big red flag about Ethan — he’s a complete dolt.

In pretty much every scene that features Ethan, it’s obvious that he’s the least intelligent person not just at this middle school but potentially at any middle school. After all, he constantly forgets what class he’s even in and zones out during lectures. Lizzie’s internal monologue even acknowledges Ethan’s apparent lack of brain cells, but she also seems not to care, asking him out multiple times (though he turns her down due to their lack of "chemistry," forgetting the word outright). Ultimately, Ethan would’ve made an awful boyfriend. He and Lizzie would never have anything to talk about, and Lizzie, who’s quite intelligent, would get bored of him pretty quickly.

Kate’s cruelty comes from a place of extreme insecurity

Kate glaring

If Ethan goes against type by being an extremely nice popular guy, Kate continues the classic trend of the iconic "mean girl," serving as the series’ main antagonist. The cheerleading captain and most popular girl in school, Kate is nothing but cruel to Lizzie and her friends. But from time to time, viewers learn more about her, and it’s pretty clear that Kate’s inner life is really sad.

When Kate hurts her arm during cheerleading practice in season 2’s "The Rise and Fall of the Kate Empire," her fellow cheer squad members kick her out to dethrone her, showing her zero sympathy. (However, Lizzie takes pity on her enemy and works with Kate to help her practice one-handed moves.) Later in "Party Over Here," when Kate’s birthday party is overtaken by her older cousin, audiences learn that Kate’s mother abandoned her daughter on her birthday. Kate might be mean, but it obviously comes from a place of deep insecurity when you consider that her friends don’t truly value her and her mother is largely absent from her life.

Gordo is actually kind of creepy

Gordo looking disdainful

Gordo might be one of Lizzie’s two best friends — and eventually, her love interest — but the truth is that he’s actually kind of a judgmental creep. Even as early as season 1, Gordo constantly talks about how much disdain he has for his classmates, considering himself completely above them. And in "Gordo’s Video," he very nearly humiliates his two best friends with a homemade movie, as well as releasing embarrassing footage of other people in the class. Though he’s eventually shamed into blurring faces and changing voices, it’s still pretty cruel.

Beyond that, Gordo’s crush on Lizzie probably seems sweet to a 13-year-old viewer, but his outright refusal to ask her out — and subsequent guilt-tripping, like when he writes into Lizzie’s advice column and confesses his crush under the guise of anonymity in "Dear Lizzie" — is actually incredibly frustrating in all the wrong ways. Gordo eventually gets the girl in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, but it’s questionable whether he really even deserves to be with Lizzie.

Lizzie McGuire’s ‘hot for teacher’ plotline is extremely unsettling

Lizzie Miranda flirting

Lizzie McGuire ran for 65 episodes during its original run, and though it aired slightly out of order — with the intended series finale, "Bye Bye Hillridge Junior High," airing in the middle of season 2 — fans still got the full experience with a handful of final episodes. However, one of them is pretty upsetting, and it probably shouldn’t have been made at all.

In season 2’s "The Greatest Crush of All," Lizzie, Kate, Miranda, and several other students nearly come to blows over a handsome substitute English teacher, Mr. Keith (Grant Thompson). As the girls try to ply him with presents and figure out which one of them he likes best, the episode gets more and more unsettling, since it barely paints it as weird that all of these junior high girls are fighting over an adult man. Instead, the episode plays it for comedy. The age difference depicted here isn’t really a joke, and for the series to show it as one is definitely pretty gross.

The cartoon version of Lizzie has a few problems

Cartoon Lizzie McGuire

Part of the central conceit of Lizzie McGuire — and a feature that definitely set it apart from similar shows — is the fact that the audience can see all of Lizzie’s internal dialogue in the form of a small cartoon character, typically clad in a hot pink tank top, orange sandals, and blue jeans. In the first season, the cartoon is a bit scrappier, but by the second season, the drawing has become much more refined. With that said, the quality of the cartoon isn’t really the issue.

So what’s the main problem here? Well, while the artists may have had Duff’s wide eyes down pat, the real Duff doesn’t look anything like the animated character, who has a short blonde bob and barely looks like Lizzie at all. Since this cartoon is supposed to be the inner version of Lizzie’s psyche, it feels like the cartoonists on the show probably could’ve worked a little harder to make sure it actually resembled Duff, and by extension, the main character of the series.

Miranda, Lizzie, and Gordo probably would’ve grown apart

Gordo, Lizzie, Miranda together

Throughout the series, the three-way relationship between Miranda, Lizzie, and Gordo is portrayed as the platonic ideal of friendship, even as Lalaine quietly exited the show in its last few episodes (not even appearing in the final three installments or the feature film). However, the fact is that Lizzie, Miranda, and Gordo — who were bound together by geography and circumstance during the show — probably wouldn’t have stayed friends throughout the coming years.

Lizzie can definitely be self-absorbed and selfish. When she gets a boyfriend in the season 2 opener "First Kiss," she drives her friends completely insane when she obsesses over him, alienating both Gordo and Miranda. Meanwhile, Miranda can be negative and downright mean, and she has a nasty streak that she sometimes deploys against her so-called best friend Lizzie. As for Gordo, his judgmental attitude would definitely wear on Miranda and Lizzie over time. Not everybody keeps their middle school friends, and frankly, these three probably weren’t that compatible after all.

Matt and Lanny are the funniest characters on Lizzie McGuire

Lanny and Matt eating cereal

Lizzie might be the star of the show — after all, it’s named for her — but the truth is that the real standout of the series is her younger brother, Matt. A troublemaker at heart, Matt is always getting into various scrapes and cooking up schemes, whether he’s starting a smoothie bar in the McGuire family backyard, trying to become a stuntman in the least safe way possible, fighting with a chimpanzee, or letting a small part in the school play go to his head.

However, the fact is that Matt, as played by a young Jake Thomas, is probably the single funniest character in the show. Thomas’ comedic timing is insanely good for such a young performer, and Matt’s obviously above-average intelligence means that Thomas gets some pretty great lines throughout the series.

As if that wasn’t enough, Matt’s best friend, Lanny (Christian Copelin), is a perfect sidekick to Matt — especially since the joke about Lanny is that he never says a word. The resulting running gag means that Matt has to carry on one-sided conversations, putting his comedic chops to perfect use. The show might be called Lizzie McGuire, but a series centered on Matt might’ve been a hit, as well.

The middle school has a teacher who’s pretty amazing at multitasking

Mr. Dig in Lizzie McGuire

It makes sense that the teachers at Lizzie’s middle school don’t play much of a role in the series as a whole, but the one who does — Arvie Lowe Jr.’s Digby "Mr. Dig" Sellers — seems to wear way too many hats.

Introduced as the school’s English and history teacher, Mr. Dig seems to pop up at every turn, whether he’s the substitute teacher for gym class (where his dance lessons end up helping his students express their inner feelings), having dinner at the McGuire house with Lizzie and her family, or organizing an insanely complicated scavenger hunt for just a small handful of students. While the show’s focus is obviously on the McGuire family and its teenage stars, it seems weird to so prominently feature just one teacher, especially one who, inexplicably, seems to do every single job at this apparently underfunded and understaffed middle school.