We definitely grew up on watching Disney’s animated movies. I think we watched “The Little Mermaid” 8 times at the theater. That one, “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Lion King”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cinderella”, “Aladin”… I watched them all tons of times. “Mulan”, “Hercules”, “Pocohontus”… I don’t really remember watching all of those, I was older by that time. So can’t really speak on them, but I imagine they have alot of the same themes of the other ones.
I remember a facebook thread a few weeks ago in which a few of my friends were discussing Aladdin and how great the love story or songs were or something, and I had to roll my eyes.
The love stories are the worst for me. They set little girls up with unrealistic ideas about romance, love, beauty.
We let Azita was the somewhat recent Tinkerbell movie a few months ago, and honestly, though it wasn’t like letting her watch a horror movie, what kind of message am I sending her by letting her watch something where the mean girl has black hair and tan skin and the good girl is blond and blue-eyed, like Cinderella, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. I know Disney has tried to get better about this stuff, but there is always a villain, and they always have dark hair and perhaps slightly darker skin. Snow White had dark hair but was very pale. So finally they had Mulan, Jasmine and Pocohontus, but these are not the princesses incessantly marketed. On Azita’s “princess” tennis shoes that she picked out, its Cinderalla, Aurora, Belle and the little Mermaid. I read an article a few months ago about how Disney will be releasing its first movie with a black princess. I mean, on the one hand, its about time.
On the other hand, even how the princesses look still doesn’t change the unrealistic “love” story, where the girls whole purpose in the movie is to find happiness by getting married. All the heroines have lost their mothers, been imprisoned by someone or are being held back in some way, and their freedom and happiness lie within the bonds of true love and/or marriage.
Granted, I did grow up watching these things and was very feministy (in all the good ways) minded and believed strongly in being my own person and not needing a man or marriage for happiness, but I don’t know that I can say the same thing about a lot of the other women I know. So I still feel the need to be selective about what my kids watch.
I just want my little girls to be openminded about beauty and happiness and love. And Disney movies don’t foster that spirit for me. They aren’t going to be unallowed to watch it, but I’d rather them watch something better.
So far we’ve let Azita watch Horton Hears a Who, Madagascar, Happy Feet and Ice Age. Ones with animals tend to be better, since the heroine can’t usually be blond and blue eyed, distinctly different from Azita.
Oh and that’s another thing. Slapstick violence SEEMS to be less in some of the animal ones, but not always. Conflict, fine. It’s normally part of the story line. But violence, no. In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is always throwing around and punching LeFou. It’s not necessary, it’s not needed, and my kids don’t need to watch it until they are well old enough to understand that’s its trying to send a message that Gaston is a bully and/or trying to be funny. Azita watched it and just kept telling me “I don’t like Gaston”. And again! Dark hair and tanner skin!!! The Beast, blond and blue eyed when he becomes human again.
Writing about it actually makes me want to never let her watch Disney at all. I grew up on these movies and as a girl my pretend play and fantasies did seem to revolve around the young woman as being a victim in some way. There are enough women (and men) that are victims or pretend to be by victimizing themselves and feeling sorry for themself.
I want to teach my kids stories about true struggles in life and the happiness that can come from that. Not just romantic mumbo-jumbo. Like Horton Hears a Who, great book, great message, great movie. She feel in love with the book first too, so that was cool.
Even with that one, when she is mad she hopes around and says, “I’m a sour kangaroo!” They soak it all up. That’s better than her putting her hands on her hips and saying she’s an evil stepmother though.