One thing that all parents have in common is that we all are forced to watch our fair share of Disney movies. If you were to gather one hundred parents in a room, while you would find that each of them may be very different people and partake in extraordinarily different parenting styles, you would also see that the one unifying factor was that every single one had seen more Disney movies recently than movies with a plot.
Uninterrupted, at least.
I love a good Disney movie. Though I have to say that one of my favorite things about them now, as opposed to when we were children, is that they have really switched up the format. Once upon a time, Disney movies were all about A meets B and they have some type of forbidden love and then live happily ever after. Gag me with a spoon already. Besides, I would be a liar if I didn’t say that that type of “programming” early in life doesn’t set our little girls up for a lifetime of disappointment when it comes to love and relationships.
For example, the classics:
- Lady and the Tramp– Rich girl falls for boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Though underneath that tough exterior and flagrant promiscuity he’s really harboring a heart of gold and becomes domestic. Come on. Falling for the bad boy and waiting for him to be “the tramp” in real life will have your daughter knowing her way around a Kleenex before her time.
- Cinderella– Misunderstood girl loses everything and though impoverished, manages to make a prince fall in love with her with deception (and magic). Though even when he finds out he has been in some way deceived, he still marries her thus making her a princess. Uh, yeah right. In real life once a guy figured out you lied to him the last thing he will do is marry you. Or even if he does, he will lord it over you forever.
- Sleeping Beauty– A tale of the sweetest and beautiful girl in the forest and the evil queen was such a hater that she cast a magical spell on her to make her sleep forever. The prince, who has only met her one bloody time, seeks her out far and wide. Yeah, ladies, just wait around for men to chase you. Poor helpless, innocent sleeping beauty…not the strongest of role models here. Get up and find your own prince and take control of your own destiny. That’s who I want to be raising in this day and age.
- The Little Mermaid– A mer-princess that decides that the grass is greener on the other side. A quick trip to the witch allows her to live in a world that is new to her and she wins the prince over with her beauty and naivety. Um…this message is lacking on so many levels. It should have ended with her going back to the sea and learning that family is more important than love. That’s a real message for kids.
Now, at least, they get a little more creative with the plot lines. Some of them are downright interesting in content. You can see the thinly veiled social messages that come through and I can’t help but be even more entertained by them than I did when I was a child.
Some of the most poignant messages are:
- Wall-E– A robot that is cleaning up the earth after the mass amounts of trash that overrun it caused by a global superstore Buy and Large (Ummm…Walmart, anyone?) force the human population to be shot into space where they live and just get more and more fat to the point that they can no longer walk or use their legs. Does anything more even need to be said about this? Even the love story part didn’t bother me because, for goodness sakes, they blatantly foretold an imminent future catastrophe and blamed it on big corporations. You. Freaking. Rock. Wall-E.
- Robots– Robots learn to follow their dreams of creativity in this little tale of a poor robot from a loving home that learns to stand up and fight the man that tells him what is supposed to be attractive. We don’t need your stinkin’ new parts, Cosmo (ooops, can I say that?), we are beautiful just the way that we are! Bonus points for the end reason that the man was trying to sell them new parts was not only for profit but to help out a family member’s business. Sticking it to the man, loving yourself for you, rejecting society’s ideals of beauty, and taking on greed and oppression. Yes, please.
- Wreck it Ralph– A video game bad guy is tired of his job. In his adventure to prove that he really isn’t a bad guy he learns that he has more heart than he ever dreams. Just because someone tells you that you are something, doesn’t make it true. In fact, when someone puts you down they probably just have their own agenda. Find your own way and follow your heart. Everyone can be a hero…you just have to put yourself out there and go for it. Believe in yourself and never give up.
- Brave– A princess rejects the thought of marrying a prince (gasp!) because she is too happy simply being who she is. The witch helps her change her fate by turning her mother into a bear. She learns to love and respect her mom and, in turn, her mom learns to love and respect her. You CAN change your fate and it all begins with understanding. You are fine on your own, little girl, you don’t have to get married to make that happen.
- Shrek– When a princess is locked in her tower to wait for her prince charming to rescue her and change her into “loves true form” she finds that the part of herself that she thinks is ‘ugly’ is really who she is deep down. And guess what? It’s not ugly to Shrek. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone is beautiful in someone’s eyes, no matter what.
- Finding Nemo– When a father is too overprotective of his child causing the child to rebel he is ultimately taken (best lesson for children…”She what can happen if you don’t listen, buddy?”). The father goes on the adventure of his life trying to save him. He learns to trust his son’s instincts and know that you can’t hold onto them forever. Wait, that message was for us as parents…tsk tsk, tricky Disney.
These are the lessons that I want to teach my child. I want him to learn that life may be messy and that it isn’t always perfect. Sometimes the happily ever after is what we make of it. Disney, I salute you, for taking on the tough issues and making them something that is easy to watch for us as parents and for our children to learn important social and cultural messages from without even knowing that they are! I say “big kudos” for tackling the tough issues with computer animation and doing so in a way that I don’t contemplate gouging out my eyeballs with a butter knife when I watch the for the 29th time in two weeks. Teach kids to love themselves, to fight for others, to be an individual, to try their best…these are the most important things you can ever learn in this lifetime.
But, I swear to goodness, if I have to watch any of these one more time…I’m going to snap! 😉
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