February 17, 2012 – The Disney Channel Original Movie Radio Rebel Premieres
“This is Radio Rebel, live from the underground. You don’t know who I am, but I know who you are, because I’m one of you.”
On February 17, 2012, the Disney Channel Original Movie Radio Rebel premiered. It was based on the book Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph, and garnered over 4 million viewers on its premiere night. It was written by Erik Patterson and Jessica Scott, and directed by Peter Howitt. The film stars Debby Ryan as Tara, Sarena Parmar as Audrey, Adam DiMarco as Gavin, Merritt Patterson as Stacy, and Mercedes de la Zerda as DJ Cami Q.
At Lincoln Bay High School, the new episode of Radio Rebel is the talk of the students, with her take on rejecting the status quo. Shy student Tara wishes she could be more like the radio personality, but can’t even speak normally to her best friend Audrey. Audrey, however, is more than willing to take Radio Rebel’s words to heart, and tries to break the status quo by talking up to Queen Bee Stacy, although Stacy thinks that Radio Rebel is just a nuisance. Her point is proven by Principal Moreno, who automatically listens to the popular kids and not to Audrey and Tara when they are accused of something they didn’t do. Meanwhile, Stacy is flirting with Gavin, a member of the band The G’s, who will be playing at prom. Tara has a crush on Gavin, and when he shows up in her class, she runs out of the room to hide, but Audrey convinces her to come back to class. When picked by the teacher to write something on the board, the super shy Tara is unable to do anything and completely embarrasses herself.
At home that day, Tara’s stepfather, who owns a radio station, is checking out the Radio Rebel podcast. He believes he should have Radio Rebel on his station, and he goes to ask Tara about it, when prompted by her mom. He tries to bond with her, but the situation is highly uncomfortable, especially when he finds out that she is Radio Rebel. He tells her that he wants her on his radio station before she has a chance to really process it. At school, Tara is placed in a group with Stacy and Gavin, and unsure of what to even say or do, although the two end up bonding over a shared love of bands. Later, as she talks to Audrey, she finds it hard to keep her friendship and her secret of being Radio Rebel. Later, Gavin stops by to talk to her about the project, but Tara is so shy she runs away. That evening, she heads to her stepfather’s radio station, and he wants to keep her identity secret. Unfortunately, her shyness keeps getting the best of her, and she’s not sure if she can handle it. DJ Cami Q, a worker at the station, calms her down and offers to be her best friend at the station. Finally, Tara sets up for her first show, and is able to tap into her Radio Rebel persona. She asks that students who hear and understand that they’re all in this together wear red the next day.
The next day at school, the majority of the student body is wearing red, although Audrey is still angry that Tara ditched her, although seemed to find the time to listen to the show. Tara tries to explain to Audrey that she’s Radio Rebel, but Audrey doesn’t’ believe her. Tara then finally proves it to Audrey, and makes her promise never to tell. Tara continues to work on her school project, which is a scene from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which mirrors Tara’s real unspoken crush on Gavin. Stacy, however, is continuously threatened by Gavin’s attention to Tara, but Gavin interrupts Stacy so Tara can be heard. On the way out from practice, Tara spots Gavin’s band’s demo CD, and decides to play it on her show that night while making a statement about how the Principal keeps confiscating their items; she also asks the students of the school to dance at 8AM the next morning. Principal Moreno, unhappy with Radio Rebel’s antics, announces that Radio Rebel needs to turn herself in immediately.
At lunch, Gavin pulls Tara aside, and makes it sound as though he knows Tara is Radio Rebel, but in the end, only knows that Tara gave Radio Rebel his band’s demo CD. Meanwhile, the search for the identity of Radio Rebel is at an all-time high around Seattle, and the marketing is all over, as her show has hit an all-time high in the charts. Tara then has an idea to play a show at lunch, having Cami DJ-ing at school. Principal Moreno appears to break up the show, but Cami not only is parked on city property, but also has a permit. Hearing that Principal Moreno wants to expel Radio Rebel, she decides to go on a mission to expose who she is, as she loathes the popular show. Meanwhile, Gavin wants his band to take risks and challenge themselves creatively, but his bandmates are not convinced, especially since best friend Gabe is all about the fans and popularity rather than creating meaningful music. At school, Audrey gives Tara the news that Radio Rebel is nominated for Prom Queen, and poor Tara panics, as she is supposed to remain anonymous. When she heads to her show, Tara’s stepfather warns her about Principal Moreno’s threat to expel Radio Rebel once her identity is revealed. Worried for her safety, he wants her to stop the show, but when she gives an impassioned plea, he lets her continue, believing in her.
Her mother congratulates her for her Prom Queen nomination, and tells her that she doesn’t care what Principal Moreno says, as Tara inspires people. Finally, Principal Moreno plays dirty: unless Radio Rebel gives herself up, prom is cancelled. The students, led by Stacy, start a riot in front of the station, demanding that Radio Rebel give herself up. Tara gives her show that day, and people start screaming at her, as they say she crushed their dreams. However, Tara decides to do something different: the radio station is going to host a MORP, a prom spelled backwards, as they’ll be turning things around. Unfortunately for Tara, Stacy is starting to be suspicious that Tara is Radio Rebel, and threatens Tara: unless Tara shows up her party, Stacy will expose her. Tara manages to show up at Stacy’s party, and patches into her show to trick Stacy. Tara finally stands up to Stacy, much to the surprise of Audrey, but Stacy still wants to trick Tara into revealing her identity. Tara finally gets a chance to talk with Gavin, and the two connect, although their conversation is broken up by Gabe, who doesn’t think Gavin should be talking with Tara.
Stacy’s henchman Kim sneaks into the radio station to get proof of Radio Rebel’s identity, and hears Cami and Tara’s mom discussing Tara and her show. The next day, during their class project presentations, Stacy locks Tara in the janitor’s closet. Gavin looks around for her, and gets in an argument with Gabe, which ends with Gavin quitting the band. Stacy plans on hijacking the scene with Gavin; when the janitor unlocks the door to get his supplies, Tara rushes to the stage for her scene, but arrives too late, seeing Stacy and Gavin together, and seeing Stacy kiss Gavin. Stacy threatens Tara: Tara better ensure that Stacy is MORP Queen, or she will give up Tara’s identity. Tara gives her show that night about standing up for yourself, and Audrey messages Gavin, telling him the truth about the assignment. The next day at school, Gavin confronts Stacy, and tells her that they are no longer going to MORP together.
At the MORP, everyone from Lincoln Bay High is having a great time, and Cami arrives on stage to announce who the MORP Queen is. Stacy is called to the stage, as is Radio Rebel, but Tara doesn’t move. Radio Rebel is announced as MORP Queen anyway, but Tara doesn’t come to the stage; however, she finally makes her way up, explaining why she has chosen to reveal herself. Principal Moreno is also in attendance, and declares that Tara is expelled. However, Audrey and Gavin cry out that they’re Radio Rebel, with the whole crowd following their example. Knowing that Moreno can’t expel everyone, Moreno gives up. Tara decides to give the crown to Stacy instead. Gavin then performs on stage, dedicating the song to Tara, who he has liked for a while. As he performs, Gabe and his friends join him on stage, realizing that they can make meaningful music as a group. As Tara and Gavin dance together later, he reveals that he’s known she’s Radio Rebel, but never said anything as she wanted to keep it a secret, and he respected that.