Sunday, January 30, 2011

Disney High Horse

***Check out those innocent doe eyes and her meek expression. She's trying to pull you in. . . resist!***

I just finished watching a documentary, and you know what happens after that. . . thoughts. And thoughts lead to. . . my high horse.

The documentary was regarding Disney and the messages in its media. I have loved Disney forever, ever since I received the Beauty and the Beast VHS tape for Christmas and made everyone at both Christmases watch it. I can sing Little Mermaid from front to back, and Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin never ceases to make me giggle. However, after seeing the documentary and really thinking about those films, particularly their portrayals of women as helpless, I am starting to become incensed. Stop and reflect for a second. Ariel "gets" Eric only after she loses her voice. Beauty "fixes" the Beast so he no longer treats her like trash. And these are happy endings.

Disney's most recent animated film was Tangled. I watched this movie with my students, and its sexism was flagrant. Rapunzel literally wouldn't leave her house without first finding protection from a man, and even though the only man she could find was a dishonest thief, she allowed him to lead her/provide her security on her journey anyways. Sure, she showed strength, if you can count hitting somone with a frying pan multiple times, but in the end, she fell in love, just like countless female leads in Disney movies before. (Spoiler alert! She also changed from blonde to brunette, which was the big surprise twist in the finale.) How original. And here I was, showing this movie to kids?! Ahhhhh! Even Mulan fell in love at the end of her movie! What's a modern, feminist-leaning, anti-chivalry girl to do here?

So perhaps I won't be forcing any hypothetical eventual offspring to enjoy a Disney marathon with me. I wouldn't want to mess with their heads.

P.S.-Chin-Hwa is a self-described "fun-hater" meaning he can't turn off his philosophy to enjoy things. This post is in honor of his ability to hate fun at all times and in all situations.


  1. I agree with you, but why stop with Disney? I would argue that most mainstream entertainment (action/adventure/comedy movies) follow the same basic plotlines with the situations only being resolved when girl gets boy. Think about it. I think you can still enjoy these movies and be a feminist.

    Best Disney movie that I don't think applies to this: The Emperor's New Groove! The only sexual relationship was with the married couple and the wife was a badass.

    Thanks for the food for thought!


  2. Hey Jackie! In curious on your thoughts on the princess and the frog? I have another uber feminist friend and this movie charmed her to bits. Yes there us love at the end and blah blah blah...but it's Disney, lol they need to make some of their audience happy even if only to give false hope of a happily ever after... Then have real life ruthlessly shatter those dreams... Regardless, an escape from reality is welcome once in a while no? :) miss you guys!!!

  3. Catherine! I did like the Princes and the Frog. It actually bucked the trend. But these exceptions do manage to prove the rule, at least among Disney movies from the 1980s and 1990s, which are the movies I grew up with.