Disney: To Watch or Not to Watch

7 years ago

I bet a lot of people will be annoyed by this post upon reading it, but I still need to talk about it because it's been weighing on my mind quite heavily.

In English, during my first year of college, I had a rather progressive male teacher.
To get us to think outside the box, he brought in a documentary about Disney.

The documentary was about the stereotyping & prejiduce that Disney movies have historically portrayed.
First of all - something that I am sure most of you have heard of - the lack of diversity in Disney Princesses. In fact, Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" (2009) character Tiana was the first African American female main character in history.

The documentary outlined the racial stereotypes of even the non-human characters. In the Disney movie Oliver and Company, a Chihuahua had a Mexican accent (big surprise) & could hotwire a car. The monkeys in Junglebook had "black" accents. In Fantasia, Sunflower (a centaur) was black, & a slave to the white centaurs. Let's not even get into the racial implications of Aladdin.

It then went onto outline the sexism that Disney portrayed, usually through thier princesses. Here are some examples:
1. Snow White cooking & cleaning for the 7 dwarves,

2. Cinderella being "rescued' from a bad situation by a man,

3. Belle from Beauty & the Beast; her taming him from a sense of duty, her being in an extremely dangerous situation & being enslaved,

4. Ariel from the Little Mermaid giving it all up for a man - from changing her body to abandoning her roots to giving up her own voice, which had implications of it's own.

In almost all of these cases, a man "rescues" the girl, & they live happily ever after - but only if a man rescues her. If he didn't, well, the women would still be in those horrible situations, cause' we all know that we women can't rescue ourselves, right?

Note the extreme sarcasm

Although it deeply disturbed me, I forgot about the documentary for a couple years. Until last week.
I started out as a Psych major, which quickly changed when I realised I didn't want to be in school for 8 years. I still tend to (silently) psychoanalyze everything, which brings me to how I thought of the documentary again.

On Facebook, there was this thing were people were supposed to post a picture of their favourite childhood cartoon to help battle child abuse. I didn't participate, because I don't see how this battles such a serious issue, but I have a very good friend that did.
She posted Belle, from Beauty & the Beast, claiming that she "watch that movie almost every day for 6 years".

I thought of the documentary and all the things that it brought to my attention pertaining to the movie and the implications about women.
I thought of my friend, what type of woman she is: The type of women who will (and has, several times) give it all up for a guy - they type of girl who will look past how horrible a guy makes her feel, just to have a boyfriend, or to please others.

& I'm sure Disney didn't do that to her. I'm sure there are other reasons that she's like that. I'm sure she's probably okay being like that. But I'm sure that movie that she watched almost every day for six years taught her a little something about what women are supposed to be like, even if it is subconsciously, even if it did just reinforce what she'd already been taught.

& the risk that my (future) daughter or son might end up thinking that the aforementioned is an appropriate way to behave? Is enough to make sure I never show them a Disney movie in their (future) lives.

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