21 Years Ago, A Goofy Movie Became the Blackest, Most Underrated Nerd Classic of All Time

I can’t stay calm any longer. You have to come with me on this journey. You might hate it at first – you might be all like “there’s this other thing that’s really important,” but I promise you, take this journey with me and you’ll thank me for reminding you of what you very well might’ve forgotten.

A little context first: I recently sat with someone who watched A Goofy Movie for the first time. “Watched” would actually be a generous description of her activity as she half-watched the movie playing in the background as she online-shopped for her Halloween costume on Urban Outfitters’ website. Yes, you read that all correctly, and yes, your likely deductions are right – she’s neither a nerd, nor Black. Now aside from being taken aback from a complete lack of nostalgia and enthusiasm, there are certain things you just don’t shade, and a person’s favorite childhood movies are one of them. Even if you don’t dig it, basically you just ride out. But when she asked “Do you hate me now?” I lied and said no. (What’s next, she doesn’t read books? Hates super heroes? Is she voting for Ben Carson?) It wasn’t until she asked about a certain singer that my confusion gave way to a revelation. She didn’t know who he was, and that’s when I realized what I never had before. A Goofy Movie isn’t a nerd classic; A Goofy Movie is a Black nerd classic. A Goofy Movie is unequivocally the Blackest Disney movie of all time.

Max

Now before you jump and say, “What about The Lion King?” let me say the Black Gods of the savannah don’t count by essence of them being non-anthropomorphized. You gotta walk upright on 2 feet to count, no disrespect to Mufasa. And while The Lion King may be one of the best of all time, when it comes to embracing pop culture for the great millennial generation? Navigating your crazy ass family, only to resist, find, and learn to love who you are? 20 years ago we were given that story when we met Max and followed his adventure across country with the person he thought he hated most, and 20 years later it remains one of the most underrated Disney movies in history.

In the year Batman Forever failed nerddom and Black people were still coping with the end of A Different World, in came an unlikely hero none of us ever even heard of, and his name was Max. And Max was the quintessence of the high school experience either in part, or, for some of us, in full. Keep your Dawson’s Creek and your Clueless, Max represented a need most of us nerds – perhaps particularly nerds of color – felt through those years of finding your place in the cafeteria: the need to find your place, the need to fit in. More than anything, Max wanted to be cool.

Think about the plot for a second: Max lied to a girl and spent the next several weeks making that lie the truth (already the Blackest plot ever). There wasn’t really an antagonist. Excluding a villain was a rarity for most childhood films, let alone a Disney feature. Sure there was Pete, but he was less a villain and more of the family friend your parents couldn’t get rid of – the one whose insecurity made them a terrible human being, but a great place to hang out because they had the N64 when you still played Sega. Pete rolled up to a camping trip with a bowling alley. Tell me your fam ain’t have a dude like Pete living next door. But A Goofy Movie was never about overcoming Pete, it was about overcoming your self-doubt and learning to be proud of you, your family, and what you had.

How many of us can relate? While you might claim your upbringing now, how long was the journey before you got there? How long did you deny the family, city, or circumstances that made you, too embarrassed of what others might think? How long before you used it as strength? Max hated his own laugh till the wind blew through Roxanne’s hair as she said “I always loved your laugh” and the breeze carried his self-doubt with it.

Max and Roxanne

Let’s not forget Max’s persona, either. A pretty good kid, Max was easily misunderstood by a bum ass principal who recklessly labeled him based on his baggy clothes and – okay, fine, Max did highjack a school assembly. But although Max wasn’t perfect, how quick did Principal Mazur brand him? Do you remember what Max was called? “Dressed like a gang member, your son caused the entire student body to break out in a riotous frenzy,” he said. “If I were you, Mr. Goof, I’d seriously reevaluate the way you’re raising your child before he ends up in the electric chair.” Gang member. Riot. Any of this sound familiar? Max did reach his hood pinnacle at Lester’s Possum Park though when he smacked the shit out a mascot that tried to hug him.

Yet the movie’s highest flash of blackness came from a surprise source. Two words: Tevin. Campbell. Tevin “Can We Talk?” Campbell. Tevin “I’m Ready” Campbell. Being cast as Powerline, Disney took blackness and placed it front and center of its fictional universe calling Tevin Campbell “the greatest rock star in the world.” Our Tevin Campbell. Our vest-wearing, S-curl styling, soul singing Tevin Campbell. His voice reverberated through the absolute essence of Black kids in the 90s, and I would swear he knew the impact he could have through Powerline. And if you ask me, he snuck in subliminals, too.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 1.01.09 AMScreen Shot 2015-10-26 at 1.00.42 AM

Listen to the lyrics. “Stand out above the crowd, even if I gotta shout out loud. Till mine is the only face you’ll see, gonna stand out till you notice me.” White people may hear a love song, but “Stand Out” is about overcoming White supremacy and tackling the challenge of first-generation high school graduates with college applications. A Goofy Movie had hidden messages to Negro youth. They never even knew. Thank you, Tevin. Thank you.

And the dance choreography? Not limited to Powerline, the whole troop had fire. Max saved Goofy’s life with the Perfect Cast and turned it into the street’s hottest dance. Goofy made it a hot line, Max a hot song. Goofy dropped, twirled, jumped, put his hands on his hips and fucking moonwalks. I say again – when Goofy dropped, twirled, jumped, put his hands on his hips and fucking moonwalks?! Powerline looks at him like “who is this ni– oh my god, I’ll allow it!” I’d go to a party and drop those moves right now. When Max dropped his moves the game was over. Killed the game, RIP. And then Roxanne and her homegirl recognized game and was like “that’s the hottest shit in the streets” and they started doing it on the spot?

And in the midst of it all was the movie’s climax. Not kissing Roxanne, not hugging his dad – the most triumphant moment of A Goofy Movie when he made it onstage and his homies saw him. The exact moment Pauly Shore screams “That’s Max! Max is on the tuu-uuuube! That’s Max, I know him!” It makes me cry every time. J. Cole done made at least 3 albums trying to capture the strength of that moment and they’re all trash in comparison. Kanye tried his own version in “Family Business,” rapping “Remember when they ain’t believe in me? Now they like, see? That’s my cousin on TV,” and all of it is shit compared to “Max is on the tuu-uuuube! That’s Max, I know him!”

He did it, y’all. Roxanne aside, that single moment summarizes everything Max ever wanted: validation. For people to be proud of him the way he was never proud of his dad. For someone to claim him. He did it, and I saw him do it. Do you have any idea how powerful that was to 10-year old me? And so there it is. The journey is over, and at least for me A Goofy Movie remains the Blackest, most underrated nerd classic of all time for the message it sent to a young Black kid who wanted to fit in. Whose affirmations were so subtle that they’d instill a seed of confidence we never saw planted. “That’s Max. Max is on the tube. I know him.” I do too, Pauly Shore. I do, too.

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Jordan Calhoun About Jordan Calhoun

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  1. The Afro Latina on October 26, 2015

    I see NO LIES in this post! A Goofy Movie is highly underrated, but I preach the Goofy Gospel whenever I can, wherever I go. I post those Powerline songs about once a week on my fb. A movie where Tevin Campbell blesses us with the vocals of a god cannot be slept on!

  2. Kenyatta Brown on October 26, 2015

    Flat out facts. I’ve been telling people this is the best Disney movie and my all time favorite for YEARS! My claim stemmed mostly from a sentimental value of the single parent dynamic and admiring seeing a dad be both mom and dad as opposed to the opposite- which black America is used to. I want to go sub a grade school class just to view and breakdown this movie, it’s message and meaning.

  3. Tenma Azstro Boii Mojisola on October 26, 2015

    Best article i’ve ever read

  4. damonermoore on October 26, 2015

    Easily, the blackest, most underrated Disney Movie Ever. Played it for my kids & not only are they obsessed with it, they do the Perfect Cast along with PowerLine.

  5. Jean Beauvoir on October 27, 2015

    Nerd tear was shed. Still one of my fav movies and stand out gives me goosebumps to this day. Well written sir.

  6. mike savage on October 27, 2015

    Excuse my language, but this article needs to go fucking viral….like NOW.

    • Sage on October 27, 2015

      Real talk bro, best article i’ve red in 5 years. Man i need this article for an essay. So i can write a good response essay and get an A+ . It needs to go viral for sure.

  7. Pingback: 20 Years Ago, ‘A Goofy Movie’ Became the Blackest, Most Underrated Nerd Classics of All Time | EuroMarket News 27 Oct, 2015

    […] This post was originally published on BlackNerdProblems.com. […]

  8. miakkanatisse on October 27, 2015

    fav line: “yo sta-cy! talk to me talk to me talk to me bay bay!”

  9. Mike Peraza on October 27, 2015

    Enjoyed reading your interesting and thoughtful take on the movie version. Here’s how the original Goof Troop show got it’s start which eventually became that film.

    http://michaelperaza.blogspot.com/search/label/Goof%20Troop

  10. neek w on October 27, 2015

    i agree 100%. but j.cole albums was fire. better than all that other trash out here

    • lilly on October 28, 2015

      Rite dnt Do J Cole now

  11. Erick B. on October 27, 2015

    No lies were told in this article! I never analyzed this movie that deeply but he’s absolutely right; particularly the parallels of the red hoody wearing Max and black kids being judged…
    Even so, I love this movie. As a youth, I rented this on VHS for a weekend and, I kid you not, saw it no less than seven times in those 2 days! I get goosebumps just thinking about the music! And I’m still waiting on a spin-off “Powerline Album!”

  12. Sage on October 27, 2015

    w……… I am a 90’s kid and i remember watching a few episodes of this movies, dont remember much of it, but I sure do remember me and my brother’s bussing them dancing moves, even our one sister trying to slay a few movies. Our entire family sat down and watched it. I do remember my uncle who always wearing his screw face and he never smiled until h some how glimpse goofey movie. I do believe this is the BEST DISPNEY MOVIE OF ALL TIME”

  13. Jezi on October 27, 2015

    This movie came out about 17 years before I really understood my own whiteness and all the bullshit that came with it. It’s completely fascinating to me seeing someone else break down so much more out of a piece of media based on their culture/experiences/upbringing/existence. So I can’t speak to identifying, but a great article, and I agree it needs to be viral yesterday.

  14. I’m glad someone said it. My sisters think I’m crazy singing Stand Out to get hype for work. The writer of this article might be my soul mate.

  15. Nita Daniel on October 27, 2015

    20 years ago, at my 8th birthday slumber party, I watched this movie. The next day, my cousin, who is easily 16 years older than me, extolled how awesome this movie made him feel. I just showed this movie to my 5 year old niece a few months ago, and now she can recite it. Thank you for bringing back good memories.

  16. Pingback: 20 Years Ago, ‘A Goofy Movie’ Became the Blackest, Most Underrated Nerd … | Movies 27 Oct, 2015

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  17. Jared B. on October 28, 2015

    This post is straight up facts. My favorite part was the “who is this ni– oh my god, I’ll allow it!” Powerline reaction. Great stuff

  18. Dominique Cheney on October 28, 2015

    Please write an article about An Extremely Goofy Movie and how Goofy goes back to college and they have disco and how it is never too late to get that degree.

  19. jemdale on October 28, 2015

    Not black so I can’t speak about that, but the message worked the same for me as a marginalized nerdy kid. Love this movie so much!!! (I may have been right there trying to do “The Perfect Cast”… still wishing it would have caught on)

  20. missdejenai on October 28, 2015

    This is very well written piece! The author is extremely intuitive (and needless to say – comical and witty). This article speaks to many Blacks who keep this movie in their canon of childhood classics, myself included!

  21. Moni on October 28, 2015

    You wrote the hell out of this article This is my sons favorite and mine too because We watched it everyday! “On the open roooooaaaaaaaad”!

  22. jameset1024 on October 28, 2015

    Thank you for posting this I had forgotten about this movie and I used to love it as a kid. I used to watch this movie at least 3 times a day back then.

  23. Bri Thesizzle Boldon on October 28, 2015

    I love this movie so much! I sing “After Today” at the end of every school year. And I’m about to get my Bachelor’s Degree so that’s quite a few years. All of Powerline’s songs are on my phone. I agree this movie is wonderfully black! I’m just trying to figure out why it did not register with 10 yr old me when I saw Max’s skin is literally black!

  24. Onlyone Kandi Kane on October 28, 2015

    I’d swear if I could I am crying right now. This post brought me back to one of my BEST childhood memories and I love you guys for if. Will definitely be watching this with my son this weekend

  25. olai on October 28, 2015

    Omg that was amazing ?

  26. Tray Johnson on October 28, 2015

    Wonderfuly written article, as a parent it is my responsibility to introduce the truth, self-love, confidence and respect to my child. I have a two year old and this is his favorite movie. I kid you not he watches this movie multiple times each week. Thank you for such an elequently honest and such a well written piece of work. I salute you.

  27. Tanthony19090 on October 28, 2015

    You sir have just join the exclusive list of people who know what really going on with movies. I remember watching this with my whole family as a kid, and in college me and my roommates would bust out singing “Stand Out” or “Eye to Eye” while studying for engineering finals. Truth be told this really is the blackest disney movie the have made. It hit’s so many good points and does so in a child friendly and entertaining way. After reading this I am planning a date night to get my girl up to speed on a Classic.

  28. Jensing on October 28, 2015

    This is so true and well articulated. This was really the one and only Disney film I related to as a black child, which is weird because none of voice actors are black. So, it really was the story, the music and Tevin Campbell that made it relatable.
    Also, love his mention on why Lion King isn’t innately a black Disney film. It’s African (in the very general sense and watered down sense of the continent), the charters are not anthropomorphic, their just animals, and African is not the same as African American or black in terms of relatability. In other words, the Lion King is just as foreign and fetishized for African Americans as it is for whites.

  29. Tammy on October 29, 2015

    This was an awesome read i smiled all the way through it… i never thought about it from this point of view perhaps this is the reason why (even in my 30’s) it remains a childhood favorite. i just recently stood in the kitchen with my little brother singing and doing the dances from “eye to eye”. This movie truly needs to be re-released. Memories

  30. Jordan on October 30, 2015

    I thought for sure he would mention how Powerline’s skin tone is darker than the rest of the characters. Also, when Max rethinks his dream/goal to get on stage, he sees that booty and immediately changes his decision.

  31. Lisa on October 30, 2015

    This deserves a goddamn Pulitzer.

  32. affectivefallacy on October 31, 2015

    Man, I was obsessed with this movie as a kid. I used to steal my friend’s VHS copy of it and keep it on me for weeks. I downloaded the main songs from it recently during my first year at college. This is an amazingly interesting breakdown and beautifully articulated. I am not black so I cannot at all relate to that particular resonance, but when you said how the moment that Max slides in on stage and his friends see him from at home makes you cry every time I am right there with you. I never really understood why that moment made me so damn emotional, my brother used to laugh at me for it. But this article has got me thinking it must have something to do with having been a nerdy kid with a disability growing up. One that often made me feel like I could not “be seen” by anyone. Max being a badass skateboarding home along to “Stand Out” and killing it on a stage being seen by all his friends was the kind of nonsense I would daydream about when listening to my favorite songs growing up, even though they were things I would never be able to do. I watch that climatic moment over and over again with such a stupid grin on my face. I dunno. There is something powerful there. Thank you for writing this.

  33. btouch on October 31, 2015

    My mom took me to most of the animated films when they were released. There were only two that she enjoyed as much as me: DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt” (because church), and this one.

    The confluence of so much Blackness: Goofy (based in part on the problematic screen personas of Stepin Fetchit and Willie Best, but we’ll excuse that), Tevin Campbell, Pete’s baller-ass RV, and the fact that Bruce W. Smith (he of Bebe’s Kids and The Proud Family) designed the characters for this production…

  34. I guess you don’t watch Disney movies anymore. There’s a movie called Princess and the Frog. The first black princess and all that jazz. It’s pretty friggin awesome. So I agree it’s *ONE* of the blackest. Buuuut. Princess and the Frog is pure black. xD Saying that, Goofy Movie IS my favorite movie. But I thought you should know.

  35. Pingback: This Year in Color: 2015 Seven Scribes Reading List 30 Dec, 2015

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  36. thenonlinearlife on January 4, 2016

    I laughed. I cried. I reposted.

  37. Trent S on January 4, 2016

    Beautifully written! I am a 30 year old black man,and i always thought that max was black but after reading this i know for sure! Also who would have thought Goofy had a little swag to him.

  38. Dom on January 4, 2016

    You nailed it dawg. By far my favorite movie of all time.

  39. Anayo Ordu on January 5, 2016

    Very creative and very true! Except…you can’t see that moment happening for J. Cole? It’s a few months later, but I’d say an HBO special is a sign.

  40. Brittney on February 5, 2016

    I love you for this. Keep it up brotha.

  41. OddRomanticEpisode on February 7, 2016

    Nice article. I remember the day my parents bought A Goofy Movie VHS for us from Target. My mom swore that Roxanne was Black too. I think she’s right. My whole family watched this movie so much back then. Good times. I’m a 26-year-old woman and still listen to Tevin Campbell/Powerline because of this movie.

  42. Jake on March 17, 2016

    Is it just me, or are all these comments fake af?

  43. Jake on March 17, 2016

    It’s ironic how you speak about immature insecurities about feeling validated, yet censor your comments of anything except praise. Very ironic. Regardless, nice article, even if your interpretation of those song lyrics and theories about “secret messages to Negro youth” seems…..odd.

  44. Kat on June 3, 2016

    It’s like I wrote this. Yes. When Max slapped that possum….. Principal Mazer hating. And “After Today” is MY SONG.

  45. Keet LeClair on July 27, 2016

    I am a 30 year old woman and I still watch it and I still annoy anyone I watch it with….I watch it like an excited puppy and I giggle and “you go boy!” Max and clap my hands like a child……and also think Tevin Campbell should get a grammy.

    And also notice when bobby (pauly shore) says “yo stacey talk to me talk to me talk to me baby!” Thats a fucking Jodeci song….its just all around black family fun!!

  46. Carter on July 27, 2016

    Man, oh man, the feels!! The feelings you brought back to me!! That’s my all time favorite movie! Nothing will ever top that movie! I know it like the back of my hand I watch it all the time and it just brings me back to a great time in my life so nostalgic! Mann great read, really great read, this made my day!!!

  47. kenny on July 27, 2016

    So this is why I had this movie on repeat as a child…time to show it to my black nerd son.

  48. Michelle Capri on July 27, 2016

    So you’re officially my best friend and you don’t even know me! Oh well! I literally know every word and song to this movie I’ve been in love with it since it came out and for some reason I’ve been flabbergasted that not many others have. But I just twirl and pretend to be a power line back up dancer/common 90’s video girl. This article gave me life!

  49. Zidders Roofurry on July 28, 2016

    Goofy was my hero growing up. I’m not black but because I was into cartoons even in my 20’s I got weird looks from people. That and being a nerd. I never had a dad and Goofy (at least the Goof Troop version) was a really decent guy. I still wish he was my dad.

  50. Thomas on July 29, 2016

    I’m not black, but this was *the* movie that my dad and I always loved to watch together and I got a lot of the same things out of it that you did. And now that I have read what it means to you growing up as a black kid, it just makes me see the movie as even more incredible. I wouldn’t have realized it myself because it’s not my experience, but I empathize with you now having read your thoughts.

    • Dee on October 30, 2016

      Wow bro, I commend you for your acknowledgment! It always gets me in the feels when someone from another culture can have open eyes and an open heart to empathize with certain things that aren’t always so easily perceived by the masses. Bless you! This movie reached us all and with such a simple yet relatable story. And life is good…

  51. jymnmagon on August 9, 2016

    Thank you, Jordan for this stellar, insightful piece. And thanks to everyone else for your supportive comments. It is really gratifying to know that AGM is being remembered so fondly after all this time. -Jymn Magon- (Writer of AGM)

  52. LeAnn Kaattari on October 27, 2016

    My kids and I still sing “Stand Out”, and they’re all adults. Everybody mambo!

  53. Malina C. on October 27, 2016

    I loved this movie growing up, but now i realize why it was so amazing. thank you for this article.

  54. Leonard Dondadda Stone on October 28, 2016

    Nicewebsitr

  55. michael on October 28, 2016

    This is the realest post ever. You know exactly what this movie made me feel

  56. Dee on October 30, 2016

    Dope article! I even watched the movie again today. One of the only movies I could watch several times over. ALSO the ONLY Disney movie I actually sing along with! I know EVERY song in the movie and would sing ’em no matter who’s around. That movie really has a special place in my childhood and watching it as an adult makes me appreciate it even more. Yeah, i’ts that deep, cuz u see…..Max is me, Max is all of us who struggled with loving ourselves.

  57. Dee on October 30, 2016

    ♫And maybe Love is the reason why, for the first time EVER we’re seeing it eye-to-eye♫

    (Seeing it eye-to-eye)

    ♫Seeing it— eye-to-eye baby♫

    ♫For the first t-i-i-i-i-me♫

    (For the first ti—)

    Okay I’m getting carried away now ha ha….admit it though, you sang along didn’t you? Lol! That song really speaks to me, look at the words again. So awesome! LOVE that movie!

  58. Miguel on October 30, 2016

    This article gave me life man. Brought me back!! Well done

  59. jaxinjustini on October 31, 2016

    ugh i looove this soo much. Favorite movie ever

  60. KarynaChan on February 23, 2017

    “If we listen to each other’s hearts, we’ll find we’re never too far apart, and maybe love is the reason why!”

    28 years later i still know every word to Eye 2 Eye!

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