I grew up on Disney. The Disney Channel was one of the few cable stations my mom allowed us to watch; she was very careful about what messages we were receiving as kids. But after my little girl picked out “The Little Mermaid,” from the library the other day, and I went home and watched it with her, I remembered my mom leaving the movie theater upset at the content. I remember her talking about how the movie encouraged adolescents (16 year olds) to defy their parents to follow a dream (and enter into a marriage relationship as a teenager).
While at 16, in the throes of my first love relationship, I thought this was a wonderful idea, as a mother of a 20 month old, I now see that this message which undermined parental support and wisdom is really not the greatest one for small kids to internalize. This has led to a mental review of other Disney favorites, and I am dismayed to share that the messages about love and family conveyed in some of the classics are far from pretty. Here’s my take on the most dangerous themes:
The Little Mermaid: Risk losing your gifts, your family, your home to pursue a man you fell in love with at first sight and use your feminine charms (Ursula: Don’t underestimate the importance of the body language. The men, they don’t like a lot of blather…”) to entice a man into physical intimacy after 3 days. Sacrifice your voice for a man; if all goes well, you’ll get it back someday.
Lady and the Tramp: Have a one night fling with the bad boy, then go home to Park Avenue. Unless, of course, you’ve reformed and domesticated him.
Sleeping Beauty: Your life will not begin until a man “awakens” you. Then you belong to him.
Cinderella: Home life intolerable? Run as fast as you can into the arms of the first available man to GET OUT!
Snow White: Act helpless, be a perfect housewife, and even though you die a little death, some man, somewhere will waken you from your glass coffin and your life will begin. You have no power of your own to make this happen.
Mary Poppins: The woman only pursues feminist ideals if her man is self-centered and neglectful of the family. Once he starts to connect with the family, you can literally send those feminist ideals flying…as part of a kite. ALTHOUGH, the picture of two self-absorbed parents who leave their kids’ care and raising entirely to nannies, still resonates in some circles…
As a Disney lover, one who enjoys the animation, the songs, the childhood memories, I remain torn. I want to share the fantasy and fun of Disney without corrupting my child with unreasonable and unhealthy perspectives about love and relationships. I’m still struggling with how to do this, short of barring Disney from our home. Which makes me a bit sad. So I have to think about whether the messages I give to my daughter will be enough to challenge the media onslaught and limit the viewings accordingly. Any thoughts on Disney? Would love to hear your comments and observations below!