I have a real problem with Disney.
I genuinely don’t understand how so many people can take their kids to see Disney movies, get excited when Disney movies come out of the “vault,” and spend a ton of money on Disney costumes and toys.
First of all, the race issue.
Disney can be absolutely and utterly racist. I won’t even delve as deeply as I should into “Song of the South” since it’s so difficult to find and has pretty much disappeared from the public eye. You may not even remember it, but you probably know the song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Quick synopsis: a boy moves to his mother’s plantation where he is regaled by stories from an ex-slave. Voices are arguably stereotypical and the black workers are, what comes across as, happily subservient. This one won’t be coming out of the vault any time soon.
But then there’s “Dumbo.” With his friend “Jim Crow.” We know our history, right? Again, with the stereotypical voice of what blackface could only mime.
Also, the Siamese cats in “The Lady and the Tramp” who parade around to Asian music, have slanted eyes, and come across as sneaky. All this in a film made in 1955, shortly after the end of the Korean War. More stereotypes.
And then there’s “Aladdin.” Potentially the worst offender with lyrics like, “Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face… It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” Obviously, Arab-Americans weren’t exactly pleased by this depiction. And the first line was changed for home video due to protests, but not the second, leading an opinion piece in the NY Times to write, “To characterize an entire region with this sort of tongue-in-cheek bigotry, especially in a movie aimed at children, borders on barbaric.” – “It’s Racist, But Hey, It’s Disney”
Second of all, the whole kill the mom thing
Where are the mothers in Disney? These are just a few of the more famous films where the mothers, and in some cases both parents, are missing or deceased.
The Little Mermaid?
The Sword in the Stone?
Beauty and the Beast?
Lilo and Stitch?
The Jungle Book?
The Fox and the Hound?
The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
And the mothers who are left, the step-mothers, are all evil. As a mother, I’m thinking this may not be the message I want my children to receive.
Third, the whole damsel in distress needs a man thing
I don’t want my daughter OR son to get the wrong impression here. Most of these films depict girls who spend their whole lives waiting for the prince to rescue them. I don’t want my daughter to think she needs a man to rescue and protect her, and I don’t want my son to have an inflated ego thinking that women are naive, delicate flowers without opinions who need him to tell them what to do and how to act. Thankfully, Frozen was released, and while Anna still falls in love at the end, at least there is a little bit of poking fun at the whole Prince Charming scenario Disney is famous for.
So no thank you, especially to the worst offenders:
The Little Mermaid
I suppose one could argue that I could use these films as conversation-starters.
And maybe one day I will. But right now, they are too young. I realize I won’t be able to avoid the Disney phenomenon forever, especially once they start school, but for now, I worry that the acceptance of these films in mainstream culture will make it too difficult for my children to see past the singing and dancing and bright colors. So we don’t watch them. But we will talk about race, gender, discrimination, family dynamics, and all of the other tough subjects. Just not with singing and dancing, pomp and circumstance.
Do you let your kids watch Disney films?