Calling out Disney (because they need it)


I took this last weekend off because a very good friend was visiting.  The moments over the weekend that I normally spend writing the week’s post were devoted to spending quality time with her.  In preparation for this I re-purposed a series of tweets that made around a year ago.

I spent a week looking at Disney cartoons and pulling out messages that contradict the feminist perspective I want my daughters to have. It’s amazing how easy it was to find these once I started. I understand that most of these were written and produced during happier times for misogynists, so I fully expected there to be problem messages. What I didn’t expect, however, was to find this in movies produced in the last decade. I’m more of an optimist than I thought, apparently.

Does this mean we can’t enjoy these movies? Am I going to forbid my CFd’s from watching them? Not at all. I do expect them to eventually be aware enough of messages like this that they can spot them without my help.  While I write this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there is a message here about the assumptions that are made when your entertainment is produced primarily by men.

That’s the goal anyway.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: Men don’t have time to keep a house put together, and don’t really care. That is, until a woman arrives on the scene (which is good fortune because she has to do it all anyway)

Dumbo: When women aren’t pining over the children they were designed to have, they’re being catty and gossipy to each other.  Oh, and they completely lose their mustard if you mess with their kid.

Cinderella: All the girls in the kingdom are paraded in front of a prince who will choose one, then promptly forget everything he knows about her.

Peter Pan: A childish male figure plays “save the world” while amassing women and children to admire him.

Lady and the Tramp: It sure is a good thing Lady finds the streetwise tramp to take care of her and show her the world.

The Aristocats: (See Lady and the Tramp)

Beauty and the Beast: Three men – each a unique mixture of self-absorption and relational ineptitude – compete over who the girl belongs to.

The Lion King: I know this is based on lion society, but come on… none of the lionesses could stand up to Scar?

Mulan: Women are women, and that’s bad. Even when they do man things. Especially when they do man things.

Tangled: A young girl’s “parent” tells her “to keep safe you must stay locked up and only interact with me.”

Brave: Growing up to be a responsible adult is a real bummer for Merida, especially since the males in her family evidently don’t have to.

Frozen: A father’s response to his daughter’s inconvenient emotional problems is to train her to suppress them.

What about your ideas? Have any to share?


3 thoughts on “Calling out Disney (because they need it)

  1. Although I’m not a fan of Frozen, I have to say something in defense of both that movie and Tangled. The whole point of Frozen was showing that trying to repress emotions didn’t work. So I don’t think you can say the movie has a message of repressing emotions just because a single character believes in that, especially when the whole movie is about how that character’s mindset led to disaster.

    As for Tangled, it’s one of my favorite movies precisely because it’s about a young person breaking out of that conditioned sheltered mindset and highlighting how much she’d been emotionally manipulated to her own harm. It’s important that she makes a physical escape, but it’s not enough. She even goes back to the tower willingly later on, because she has yet to break free emotionally. The story doesn’t resolve until she escapes both emotionally and physically. It’s a story that resonates quite strongly with me. =)


  2. I’ll definitely concede the point on Tangled. The main message of that movie is certainly one counter to what I said in my post. I’m probably just going off of the way my skin crawls every time I see Gothel’s maipulation tactics.
    However, I can’t give Frozen a free pass because unlike Tangled, the one doing the oppressing is never revealed to be a villain. In order to get a good grade from me there would have had to have been some kind of realization on Elsa’s part that the fear and emotional damage she’s been suffering her whole life were ingrained in her by her (howbeit loving and well-intentioned) father. It is never made clear that this was NOT OK for her parents to do to her.


  3. Oops, I forgot to check the button to get notified of new comments.

    Haha, I can see being creeped out by Gothel! For me it was so validating: “Yes! This behavior is villainous!” But yeah, very creepy.

    That’s a good point about Frozen never being clear on the fault of the parents. It makes one wonder if the movie-makers themselves even realized it.


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