cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Monday, October 29, 2012

Disney Syndrome

Like most women my age, I grew up singing every lyric along with Belle,* reciting the hilarious Timon and Pumbaa duo, and empathizing with Ariel. It doesn't set well with me that I watched them enough then to be able to recite extended scenes now. By the time Pocahontas was painting with all the colors of the wind, I was kinda over it. It wasn't until Pixar and Disney teamed up that I had a renewed interest in what kind of films they were producing. It also wasn't until a few years ago, that I set aside my nostalgia and began reevaluating the prevalent Disney messages.

Before you all flock to the comment section to tell me what a wonderful man the late Walt Disney was, allow me to lay down some fundamentals. Pretty please? I'm not suggesting all Disney movies are evil and that people who enjoy watching them are waltzing right through the gates of Hell. I'm also not suggesting that the C.E.O. of Disney is the Antichrist seeking a one world order via cleverly hidden messages thrust upon unsuspecting little kiddie eyes. I'm merely suggesting we be willing to scrutinize Disney movies with less sentimentality and more objectivity.**

Without further ado, here are my gripes with the average Disney movie:

1. Very few full-length films showcase a healthy nuclear family.
Most of the time, only one parent is present. What's with that?!? Dating all the way back to their first full-length feature film, Snow White, the families were presented as dysfunctional. Why the need to normalize broken homes and families?
Speaking of Snow White...
2. The hourglass shape on the lead female characters has gotten ridiculously out of proportion. 
Snow White is about the only modestly shaped woman, with a thicker form and a refreshingly contained bosom. We can kid ourselves all we want, but Disney jumped on the "Unhealthy Body Image Bandwagon" a looooong time ago. Aren't our precious little girls bombarded enough with unrealistic body images without adding children's movies to the list of offenders? 
3. "Innocent" has been cast aside in favor of "coy and flirtatious". 
While I think this trend is waning (at least to a certain degree), some of the princesses have emanated a worldly, almost seductive, charm. Disney is not a dating service for grade-schoolers. There's no need to instruct these little "sponges" in the art of being feminine. ***
4. Boys have preposterous expectations placed upon them. 
Starry-eyed girls began looking for their Prince Charming, but few found them. Thankfully, the male species simply does not fit the Disney mold. Wouldn't our children be better served by seeing realistic portrayals of both sexes?****
5. A majority of  these movies focus on a romantic pursuit. 
A nonsensical one at that. They met, fell hopelessly in love and got married. Amazingly this only took a matter of days. No wonder men and women become disenchanted with the realities of making a relationship work.
And lastly...
6. The Disney mantra is trite and pathetic at best, damning at worst. 
"Just believe in yourself and follow your heart" sounds so idyllic. However, believing in oneself rarely produces the desired results. Our efforts are feeble because we are fickle beings. My heart is naturally wretched. Following my own heart will lead to destruction, and I won't have Disney to blame-only myself. 

My aim in all of this is not to lambaste Disney films and criticize those who watch them. My aim is to draw attention to the issues we are likely to pass over in our saccharine childhood view of Disney (and other sentimental favorites). These matters will continue to take shape in the minds of children as they enter into adulthood.***** Considering these issues are already pervasive in our society, at the very least, let's be proactive in addressing these (and other difficult) topics.  

Weeding Out Old VHS Tapes,

*I may have overshadowed her a little bit, but she still held her own in our duets.
**This really goes for any television programming or movies. It's just more fun controversial to pick on a high profile corporation like Disney.
***I'm pretty sure we ladies are hard-wired to figure it out on our own.
****I know it's a stretch. We are (after all) talking about animated characters...
*****Case in point: The Twilight phenomenon.


  1. I grew up watching Cinderella and Snow White, and all the rest. And yep, was not so enchanted by Pocahontas and beyond (Mulan...what!?). I never thought about the themes, other than the obvious evil Step-mother, until I showed Chloe The Little Mermaid for the first time. Watching Ariel's rebellion, and recognizing the natural disrespect pour from my preschooler was a wake up call. I figured if girls are naturally this defiant, I certainly didn't need her picking up pointers! They have seen a few Disney movies here and there but I didn't realize how few until Abi's birthday recently. She was given a karaoke machine (thank you grandparents...) with a cd of Disney princess songs. My girls didn't know one song! I much prefer strong girls, and guys, with good role models and a clear moral to the story. Harder to find these days!

    1. Definitely hard to find! The Little Mermaid is one of the worst offenders (in my opinion).

    2. Yes, I think so too! I will say, I like Tangled much better. There is obvious rebellion, which is of course bad, but she does whats right and is rebelling against evil really. Oh, and for the record, I think some more realistic body types would be refreshing! I noticed that when my son called Dora fat! What!?! Then I started looking at the action hero type stuff he likes, and sure enough all the girls are in comparison Dora is bigger! Sheesh!

    3. Tangled is (mostly) a breath of fresh air! It's the only newer Disney movie we own. However, I would argue that at first her rebellion is selfish, and not against evil. for us, the positive messages override that one negative message.

    4. Thank you, thats exactly what I was trying to say...very inarticulately!

  2. I rather liked Mulan. Her family has both parents. She is a strong and intelligent. The darkness in the movie is realistic (war and slaughter) rather than fantastical (dragons and witches). She is willing to breech social conventions to protect what's truly important.

    Nevertheless, I know where you're coming from. We did not watch many Disney movies in our home when our kids were little. When Claire was in third grade, the teacher asked them to name their favorite movie. Everyone was naming Disney movies. When it came to Claire she said, "Much Ado About Nothing." Yes, my third grader loved Shakespeare. Still does fifteen years later.

    1. True about Mulan! I guess it shows how Disney washed I was as a kid! She wasn't Princess enough!
      Even still, for my 3rd grade Christmas party I brought in White Christmas! It's still my favorite!

    2. We don't own Mulan, but, for the very reasons you listed, it's one I wouldn't mind adding to our movie collection. In addition to having both parents (and a grandmother!), the father is portrayed in a positive light, and the relationship between mother and father is worth admiring. Also, the cultural aspect is interesting (albeit inaccurate).

  3. Lady and the Tramp was about as racy as we got and Bambi was about as violent. Things have changed and not just with Disney. Great post and great call to action to be very selective in viewing choices - and not just for the little viewers, either. I have been weeding out some movies that I no longer want to watch, too.

    1. So true! This definitely applies to adults as well.


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