It’s an age-old trope in stories for kids that the parental figures are just… not present. This usually means that the young protagonists can go on terrifying adventures and face off against villainous foes without their parents forbidding them. Sometimes this means the parents are absent and just don’t pay attention. Other times, it means they’re dead. And sometimes, they’re just shitty parents and defying them is part of the whole journey. Even when the adults aren’t directly related to the young heroes, they often come across as wise and distant mentors or authoritarian obstacles.
But Disney Channel’s The Owl House subverts so many of these expectations about parental figures in children’s media. The latest episode, especially, dives deeper into the relationship between plucky Luz and her mother. Now back in the human world, Luz has a chance to reconnect with her mother, Camila. And Camila’s unapologetic acceptance and support of all the strange things Luz has encountered is just incredibly wonderful and refreshing to see. It would be surprising, but from the very beginning, The Owl House has focused on fleshing out adult characters and their relationships with the young protagonists — especially in the case of Luz and kooky witch Eda.
[Ed. note: This rest of this essay contains massive spoilers for the entirety of The Owl House thus far.]
When the show kicked off, Eda took Luz under her wing after Luz stumbled into the demon realm. From Eda, Luz learns about the world of witches and magic. Eda may be chaotic and irresponsible (and also a wanted criminal), but she becomes a parental figure to Luz and King, the young demon she took in. They turn into their own wacky makeshift family, which affects not just Luz’s character growth, but also Eda’s.
With someone to care about — and someone to protect — Eda becomes more responsible (while still maintaining her reckless attitude). In the last few episodes of the second season, the danger begins to escalate, as evil Emperor Belos’ plans to drain all the magic from the Boiling Isles start to come to fruition. Typically in media for kids, this means it’s time for the young heroes to step up and fight, even if that means defying adults to do so.
But in The Owl House, one of the big sources of tension in final episodes of season 2 comes from Eda’s desire to keep Luz safe and out of harm’s way. It’s not about underestimating Luz or being a hurdle for the young heroes to overcome; Eda’s point of view makes sense, and even though Luz protests when she finds out and they clash, ultimately they both realize the more important thing is that they protect each other — and lean on the rest of their allies.
Eda and Luz’s relationship is the prime driving force of the first two seasons, but in season 3, Camila and Luz’s relationship finally gets a chance to shine. Though she rarely appeared, Camila was a central figure in Luz’s story for two seasons. Instead of being a domineering authority figure Luz tried to escape, Camila cares deeply about her daughter, even though she’s made some mistakes in the past. Luz spent the past two seasons trying to figure out a way to let her mom know she was OK — even after Camila sent her to a camp for troubled kids.
The opening of season 3 dove into Camila’s reasoning and just why she made that decision — and how she realized it was wrong. And ultimately, Camila turns out to be one of the best and most supportive parents in animation. She takes Luz’s witch friends in without question and does her best to accommodate their strange quirks, researching different foods that they could eat and setting them up in her house. When Luz comes out to her, Camila embraces her daughter and after that, she wears a pride badge with every outfit. When she learns just how much her daughter’s been struggling with the guilt of everything that happened in the demon realm, she steps up to support her.
Not all those decisions are easy, though. It’s a hard job to be a parent — and a harder job to take in four teenage witches who are stranded in the human world. And The Owl House shows this. It doesn’t just paint the adults as simply “bad” or “good,” but shows the work that goes into being a supportive, positive parental figure. They’re given thoughtful backstories and personalities, which makes them well-rounded characters and shows a different side of being a parental figure than usually seen in all-ages animation. This, in turn, allows Luz and the other young heroes to grow and evolve — this especially resonates for the characters who are used to terrible parents, and who finally have a source of support and love.
Because, yes, there are some very, very bad parental figures in The Owl House. Amity’s mother, Odalia, is controlling and thinks of her children less as family and more like business investments; Emperor Belos is basically using his ward Hunter as a pawn in his grand scheme. They are villainous — and that just makes the fact that there are good parental figures so important. So when Amity’s father finally defends her, and when Camila dives into a lake to save Hunter without any hesitation, it hits all the harder. There are so many adult characters who stick up for the children in their charge, even if they’re initially posited in the more traditional absent parent or oppressive teacher roles. The adults in The Owl House aren’t simply obstacles or one-note caregivers; they have nuance and depth, and even though the good ones struggle in figuring out just how to be a good role model, they still come through and prioritize protecting the young people who look up to them.
The first two seasons of The Owl House are available on Disney Plus. The season 3 premiere is on YouTube.