Once upon a time, I came to hate Disney

I’ve never much been a fan of Disney, I’ll admit it, even as a kid, I’d rather play sky-diving Barbies than sit down and watch a Disney movie. I never wanted to be a Disney princess, except maybe for Belle, and that was only because of the awesome library.  It just wasn’t my thing.  So it wasn’t until later, when I was much older, that I actually watched the Disney cannon and realized the movies had awful moral values until…..

Hope.

Disney decided to create a female character that bucked the overwhelming trends of their franchise series, choosing to pursue her dreams rather than pursue a husband. Applauded for this incredibly late foray into the twenty-first century, quickly Disney had to shoot itself in the foot.

When Braves strong female lead, Merida, was introduced inMay as an official Disney princess, she was a starkly different character than then one appearing in the movie. Gone were the lose fitting clothes, replaced a with form-hugging dress hugging her newly spouted bountiful curves. Gone was her bow, an instrument of her power and independence leaving us with the quintessential over-feminized, helpless Princesses that Disney is so accustomed to producing.

The indignity in Disney’s decision to make Merida more marketable by striping her of any individuality perhaps shouldn’t be shocking considering the ranks she’s join.

We have Belle, a princess who started out a poor provincial girl with dreams of seeing the world and asserting her independence. Upon her imprisonment with her verbal abusive and borderline physically abusive captor, she quickly starts to fall for him when he shows a slight glint of humanity. Gone are her dreams and goals, replaced with the reward of a title and a husband who has changed overnight with no counseling.

Then there’s our little stalker Ariel. Our lovely aquarium-friend falls in love with a man she has never talked to. Taking her stalking and obsession to the extreme, she give up all of her talents, chucks her family and culture aside, and reinvents herself as a different person, who ironically enough lacks a voice. Her stalking is rewarded with his eventual love, solely based on a girl completely different from Ariel. And they live happily ever after.

There are other examples, other princesses with similar stories of weak-willed, love obsessed powerless women who flounder without a male presence or catalyst.  Perhaps, retrospectively views through the cultural standards of the time, the older tales and stories could be dismissed as reflective of the time though this of course makes them no more innocuous than their modern counterparts. But the insistence of Disney to shun any of the inroads made in the last fifty years of feminism simply is unacceptable.

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Disney caved over the pressure  from parents’ outrage, pulling the design and branding it as a “one time make over.” But even the creators of the movies doubt that she won’t be re-branded eventually. Let’s face it, a non-glamorous, strong lead doesn’t really fit in with their cannon.

The problem is, as Kurt Vonnegut once said, “we are what we pretend to be so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” We need to reexamine the stories we are telling our children.  The morals and lessons engrained in them, stated or not, seep into our minds, shaping us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

The world doesn’t need another curvy, innocuous perpetuation of feminine ideals. It doesn’t need another princess and all the class associations that title brings with it.  We need a pimply, chunky punk, a blue hair, pierced, Marxist rebel who tells society to shove it in pursuit of her dream.  Someone who inspires little girls to pursue their dreams no matter what they are.

And in the absence of Disney’s willingness to step outside its trite limited view of women, it’s time for us as artists to step into the void.

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17 comments on “Once upon a time, I came to hate Disney

  1. I agree with your thoughts on this one. Especially the need for something radically outside the “princess” mindset in terms of a lead character. “Brave” was a beginning, perhaps a step, however late in the game, to do that. More is needed. A strangeling is needed. Both for the female and male parts. Disney (and to be fair, most media companies) gives just as shallow a vision of men as it does its women.

  2. Well said.
    I’ve been a firm believer in straying from that sort of nonsense since the moment I started writing books.
    Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy watching Disney movies, but when/if I have children? I’m going to be VERY careful about the messages they get from the things that they watch.
    It’s all about breaking the cycle. Not perpetuating it.

  3. Reblogged this on An Unexpected Joy and commented:
    Well said. If I have the joy of raising a daughter one day, I hope to pass this exact idealogy on to her. For now, I will teach my son not to believe he needs to be a knight in shining armor when he grows up.

  4. I have never been a big fan of Disney, but when I saw Brave I had a little hope for the company…I mean they bought Marvel so they can’t be ALL that bad.

    It wasn’t until this post that I became aware of them bastardizing one of the few remaining Disney characters I actually liked. Damn them…I guess it’s back to hating on them again.

  5. I’ve been saying this for years. It’s the same with the ‘Hero’ leads…most of them barely even have a name. And even when they do, the ones who talk the most are Prince Philip in Sleeping Beauty and Prince Eric in Little Mermaid. The actual ‘prince’ in Beauty and the Beast, whose name I think I read somewhere was something normal like Liam, barely spoke two lines, it was all the beast. And all the men, and women, in Disney are shallow. You might like my post – Lessons I’ve Learned from Disney, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek. 😀 – http://ellelainey.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/lessons-ive-learned-from-disney-films/

  6. I completely dislike disney but I dont think is their fault, I would never send them a letter of complain, the masses keep buying and someone has to entertain them, its not like mommy is going to care as long as she has tv nanny, and its not a bad idea for them to find a good husband, mommy needs money after all.
    If a reader was to tell me that XX is bad and I shouldnt be doing it, I would just laugh at its face or dont even bother.
    I never saw the full movie of little mermaid, but I happen to read the original story long ago when I got curious, until I read this post I didnt figure out why did she suffered so much.
    What is needed is the last part of this post, it seems that it wont sell but it all depends of how greedy the artists are, if theyre just like disney they will change to the same eventually.

  7. I read somewhere that the princesses make up only 10% of Disney’s body of work. Which I found surprising, but yeah, Disney does have a widely varied film library when we stop to recall. The princesses aren’t the majority of Disney’s work, yet they get so much attention and merchandise. It’s unfortunate, since some of Disney’s non-princess works have fewer problems and healthier messages. (I immediately think of Wreck-It Ralph, which lost the Academy Award for Best Animated Film to Brave and I can’t figure out for the life of me why.)

  8. I highly recommend the book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein. Ever since I heard her talk, I can’t look at “Disney princesses” the same way. One thing she pointed out is that whenever they group the princesses together, like on packaging, they never look at one another. Ever. The things we are taught through childhood stories, however, can go so deep that we hardly realize its impact. Sexism, racism, and all of the other ‘-isms’ never die…they just get buried deeper in darkness.

  9. I enjoyed this post. I won’t deny that I love Disney and will unabashedly continue to do so, but I agree that’s it is important to be aware of the subliminal messages that Disney and other forms of media are teaching.

  10. I remember thinking that Mulan was a departure for Disney when it first came out, but I don’t remember how it ended. Nor did I notice a difference in the doll and movie version. The difference in the 3D doll version is quite fascinating. I wonder if there is a trend there? That may be worthy of a paper on the topic if that is the case.

  11. Having grown up in Scotland it was a pleasure to laugh my way through Brave and relive my adventures of leaping from rock to rock along the shore, running through bluebell woods and avoiding low hanging branches while cantering through trees. Freedom to explore my own nature and that of the Nature around me taught the importance of self-reliance and trust. Our inner self shapes our world. Fantasy is not the same as brainwashing. Every little girl is a warrior, the future mother of her tribe and in these happy days she can choose how she wants to express her drive to create her own world. Trust the feminine and the choices you make. You will always know if you have chosen well by the way you feel and keep on choosing until you feel true joy in the simplest of things. The childhod Disney film that resonated with who I was and am was Pollyana http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NY2ClipmpA There were no Pollyanna toys marketed in the UK but the message that I took with me from the film was always to find something to be glad about in spite of not because of the ‘reality’ of life circumstances. That is not a gender message it is a message for all of us.

  12. Interesting observations; and though I would never lay claim to apprehend the anxiety a young female may suffer as the modern pop-cultural shackles attempts to surround her wrists, still, this line you wrote is a bit puzzling:

    “…We need a pimply, chunky punk, a blue hair, pierced, Marxist rebel who tells society to shove it in pursuit of her dream…”

    One tortuously laden two hour sitting in front of the telly during its so-called prime-time hours; or one night at the theatre watching yet another comic-book lovin’, grown-up-on-eighties-films modern day director’s attempt at an action heroine thriller, makes a man pause while he wonders True, a 110lb buxom ‘chief-detectivesse/chief-lawyeresse/chief-vengeance-seeker’ etc…, who invariably out-seduces, out-muscles and, at the same time of course, out-deduces all her terribly timid, stupid, over-weight male colleagues, must indeed be difficult to aspire towards for any young feminine persona ; I mean, former celluloid heroes like Eastwood, Brynner, Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, et al, would envy such over-all superior prowess of all the human faculties found now neatly and perfectly united on-screen in the feminine-erotic lead stars of today.

    No doubt, the modern female still suffers from cultural restraints, but to claim its from modern-day pop-culture cinema should cause pause for some ironic thought. And, as an aside, any time a predicate contains the concept ‘rebellious’ walking hand-in-hand with the concept “Marxist” down the paragraph’ boardwalk, no doubt humour cannot be far behind. The whole point of Marxism is that there is no possibility of any difference, no possibility of any Choice. No possibility for any Individuality. The world, according to Karl ‘the moor’ Marx, inexorably moves unhindered towards his very dullish ‘thought -utopia’. – Coincidentally, or should I say: strangely enough, Libertarians have the exactly same concluding ‘Fantasia’ thought-utopia. Blue-haired, tat-lovin’, pimply-faced humourous femmes are certainly not allowed to strut their stuff freely about there. 😉

    You may dislike the ‘strictly my ridiculous silly opinion’ I’ve half-wittingly posted here Ms. Beautiful loser, – and no one would blame you for that, and I’m most definitely not a fan or crusading cyber-troll defender of Disney films in any way imaginable, but, since you’re obviously; along with being a playwright, poet, essayist etc.. a subjective thoughtful(true meaning of that concept) thinker, I do hope you realize I’m not trying annoy you here. There is irony in everything the world has to offer. Every situation one faces contains both the comic and the tragic. Its the ethical maturity of the Individual that knows when it is time to laugh and when it is time to be earnest.

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