Cadet Kelly Was Kind Of The Worst Protagonist

by Mary Grace Garis

My tween years was spent in deep pits of darkness and liquid eyeliner, so suffice to say I didn’t get around to watching Disney Channel original movies until my mid 20s. Since then, try as I might, I cannot escape the 2002 coming of age classic, Cadet Kelly. Maybe it remains a top pick because it’s both laughably bad with an undercurrent of reason: Kelly learns a valuable lesson about being in a team, and the school benefits (kinda) from her injection of individuality and creativity. Or maybe I’m just constantly amused by how awful Kelly actually is... because girl is seriously the worst.

To be fair, the free-spirited Lizzie McGuire knock off is aggravating in part because, well, she’s like 14. I don’t think anyone is their best self at 14; I think it’s just a law of the universe that all 14-year-olds are aggressively terrible. Likewise, it can be very much argued that Kelly’s parents (neglectful dad, life-altering-in-a-moment mom, straightlaced sir) certainly aren’t winning at raising her. Still, there’s a special sort of entitlement that makes Kelly incredibly hard to root for in the beginning of the film.

Don’t believe me? Let’s just backtrack on all the reasons Kelly is a nightmare in her self-titled Disney flick.

1. This Unforgivably Bad Scrunchie She Wears In The Beginning Of The Film

I know we all had a faux-hair ties in the early 2000s, but maybe it's something about the color clashing that rubs me the wrong way.

2. The Arrogance Of Kelly When She Deems Herself The Light Of Her Parents Lives

Which, even if that's a common viewpoint held by most only children (or children in general), is sort of a bold statement to put on tape.

3. The Arrogance Of Kelly When She Gives Her Mom And The General Permission To Get Married

"Uh, honey, we're not asking you, we're telling you." Child, please.

4. Kelly's Weirdly Inconsistent Style

That first outfit was all Mallgoth Lite and then this get-up works with a Barbie-friendly palette of differing magentas (although she does embrace haphazardly applied colored hair pieces in this outfit, too). Point is, girl could seriously use some structure.

5. The Fact That This Girl Argues That She Could Totally Just Live With Her Friend Instead Of Moving With Her Mom And Stepdad

Yeah, no, I'm sure Amanda's parents would love that.

6. Those Pants

Definitely a dignified way to enter a military academy.

7. The Fact That It Takes Kelly Like 40 Minutes To Detach From This Unintentional Hug

Also the fact that this girl wasn't able to slow herself down at any point when she started tumbling down the hill.

8. The Arrogance Of Kelly As She Tries To Argue With Her Stepdad, Who's The Principal Of This School, That This School Is The Veritable Worst

Good luck with that one.

9. The Fact That Kelly Hasn't Adhered To The Military Standard Pajamas Halfway Into The Film

Like you're not even trying.

10. The Fact That Kelly Does This And Doesn't Even Consider The Serious Consequences That Could Possibly Unfold

Because she only thinks of herself, but it's fine.

11. This

I think it's meant to be endearing, but mostly she just looks ridiculous.

12. The Demonstrative Way That She Introduces Amanda As Her Best Friend Ever In Front Of Poor Carla

Ice cold.

Again, Kelly redeems herself by the end of the film, but fell free to swing by Netflix and relive all the reasons our girl makes for an unlikely heroine. At the very least, she'll make you feel better about yourself in one way or another.

Images: Disney (16)