Disney's Top Eight Worst Messages

Since 1923, the Walt Disney Company has had its share of questionable decisions.  From unpleasant racially motivated propaganda cartoons in the 40s (hey, Warner Brothers did it too) to the Native American sequences in Peter Pan.  What I want to focus on today, though, is the messages some of the Disney films send to their viewers.  I don't actually believe that watching any of these movies is going to screw up the minds and hearts of children, but Disney is a huge corporation that does have a significant influence on the youth of America, so it's important to at least look at these things, right?

8. It's Totally Safe to Steal a Baby Bear From Its Mom - Pocahontas

Pocahontas is a Native American chick, alright?  She's like, in touch with nature and stuff.  So she's showing off and preaching to John Smith about how he should respect the animals and the rocks and all that hippie crap. I'm with her there.  But then she just decides to follow a momma bear into her bear cave and casually take one of the baby bears.  Speaking as someone who has had several encounters with bears, both friendly and otherwise, you do not to this.  Momma Bear will eat your face off.  If Pocahontas was so into respecting wildlife, she probably would have just left them alone.  Stopping John Smith from shooting the bear?  Fine.  Trampling all over her territory and picking up her bear cub?  That's just asking for an ass-whooping.

7. Step-Parents Are Evil - Cinderella

Look, stepmothers everywhere have enough problems getting their stepchildren to not hate them without the image of this bitch hanging over their head.  Yes, it's sad that we live in a world where not all little girls and boys get to live with two loving biological parents.  But considering how many kids will have to deal with step relatives, maybe it would be a good idea to stop scaring the shit out of them with the idea of the wicked stepmother.  It's in Hansel and Gretel too.  The father loves his kids, but then their heartless bitch of a stepmother makes him leave them in the middle of the woods to presumably starve to death or get eaten by wolves.  First of all, what a pathetic, weak-willed father.  And second of all...good night, kiddies.  Hope your anxieties of parental abandonment don't keep you up at night.

6. Overpopulation Isn't Something We Need to Worry About - 101 Dalmatians

Irresponsible breeding.  Keep it in your pants, Pongo.

OK, no offense to Pongo and Purdy, but these two dogs are the Duggars of the canine world.  Do we really need this many dogs coming from the same inbred pool just for the hell of it?  Yeah, they're cute, but there's only so much genetic material floating around.  And then when these hundred or so dogs get older they're going to start having babies, and within a few generations we're basically going to have a full on Dalmatian-pocalypse.  All I'm saying is that maybe there should have been some family planning going on around here.

5. All the Best Relationships are Founded on Lies - Aladdin

Rajah eats people who lie.

Because you need to pretend to be a prince to win over a girl who kind of sort of already likes you just the way you are.  It's not enough to be interesting, charming, and heroic (street rat or not, the kid is the only reason Jasmine still has both of her hands) need to be a pompous showboat with tons of money and elephants.  And what's worse, even when Jasmine goes on the magical carpet ride with Aladdin and totally calls him on his shit, he still lies.  She even gave him an out, where he could tell her the truth and she probably wouldn't even be that mad.  But no...God forbid we have enough faith in the people we care about that they'll accept us for who we are.  Much better to keep up a lie that can easily be disproved.

4. Do Drugs - Fantasia/Alice in Wonderland

I realize this is an overdone thing, haha Alice in Wonderland and Fantasia are trippy haha they must be endorsing drug use let's make tons of memes about the various drugs we think they use because knowledge of drugs make me feel cool and dangerous.  And that is annoying.

BUT...while it's certainly not the intention of the filmmakers to create a cartoon that celebrates drug culture (at least I don't think so), it's hard to argue that the images used in both Alice in Wonderland and Fantasia are ones that lend themselves to those of us who indulge in the more illegal of recreational activities.  Fantasia has dancing mushrooms (or are those supposed to be horribly racist depictions of the Japanese?  It's so hard to tell with 1940s Disney).  Alice in Wonderland has bugs smoking hookah and substances that make you seem to shrink or grow when you ingest them and cats that disappear except for their smile.  You're wandering around in this really groovy fantasy world and then BAM so crazy queen shows up and wants to chop off your head.  And it's all celebrated as fun and exciting.  It's certainly telling that a lot of drug nicknames and related words come from Alice in Wonderland.

3. It's OK, Girls, Men Aren't Interested in What You Have to Say - The Little Mermaid

There's nothing even a little bit sexualized about this
16-year-old mermaid that's in a children's cartoon?

Ariel is a vibrant, inquisitive, fun-loving mermaid that any man would be lucky to get to know and eventually fall in love with.  She's also hot, in a jail-bait, interspecies kind of way.  And apparently that's all that matters.  She trades her voice for a pair of legs and lady parts, because obviously Prince Eric isn't going to be interested in her thoughts and opinions.  There's a lot of stuff in this movie that's cute, but it's hard to ignore the fact that the central story line veers a little too close to "women should be seen and not heard" for comfort.

2. Slavery Really Wasn't That Bad - Song of the South

This one also gets cross-referenced as "The Reconstruction Era South Was a Warm, Idyllic Place for Black People".  Granted, this film didn't take place during slavery, but rather the time period immediately following it.  But all the black people in this movie were obviously slaves at one point.  And they really don't seem to have too big of an issue with that.  I mean, look at the smiley black folk in the picture above, with the children who would have one day been their owners.  That should be a Christmas card.

We can go back and forth about whether or not this film was as racist as everyone said it was, but for me the biggest issue is that they deliberately make everything all hunky-dory and don't even try to introduce the idea of any complexities in race relations.  I know it's a kid's film, but I don't consider that an excuse.  Go watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame and try to tell me that a kid's film can't address difficult and complicated issues.  Ultimately, I think this is just an example of the white-washing of history and trying to sweep anything that might be unpleasant under the rug.  Which I do not support.  So there.

1. Stockholm Syndrome is Romantic - Beauty and the Beast

As a young woman, a man keeps you locked in his house.  You are never allowed to see your family again.  The only way you are allowed any small freedoms is if you interact kindly with your kidnapper, and pretend that you're staying in his castle as a guest rather than as a prisoner held against your will.  He expects you to act out date-like scenarios, such as having a romantic dinner together, and goes into fits of rage if you refuse.  But somewhere along the way, you start to empathize with him and maybe even develop feelings for him.  Isn't that romantic?


But thanks Disney.  Maybe the next time I'm kidnapped by a violent brute I'll go play in the snow with him and try to convince him to get in touch with his feelings.  It's not even just that it exists in the movie, it's more that obviously little girls identify with the princesses, so the fact that this obviously unhealthy relationship is being presented as romantic...well, it's a little problematic.

So those are some of my choices.  I could have added more, but I decided to stick with those ones.  Anyone want to add any?

Oh, and I wanted to post this as well.  Just because it's so very clever and true.  I love it.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


McAlisterGrant said...

7. Showing an evil step-parent isn't saying "step-parents are evil" anymore than showing an evil queen in Snow White is saying that queens are evil.

6. The vast majority of the 99 puppies came from other litters, not from Pongo and Perdita, who only produced a normal-sized litter.

5. The fact that Aladdin lies is presented is a flaw that is resolved through character development. Jasmine likes him less for his whole "Prince Ali" thing, even when she thinks is the truth. She never buys into it. It works out in the end in spite of him lying, not because of it.

4. Creative, surreal imagery ≠ promotion of drug use.

3. The "men aren't interested in what women have to say" isn't the message of the movie at all. It's a lie that Ursula feeds Ariel because she wants to rig the deal in her favor. The fact that Ariel can't speak is a HUGE disadvantage for her.

8, 2, and 1 are totally true though.

McAlisterGrant said...

Also, RE: the princess image, the Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle ones are true enough, but the Jasmine one is stupid, because the movie doesn't promote that message. It shows Jasmine as a strong-willed character who happens to live in patriarchal, oppressive society, and shows her railing against it. The conditions described in that caption are depicted in a negative light.

And the Ariel one doesn't work either. She doesn't compromise herself to "get a man". She is fascinated with the human world independently of Eric, and wants to be human before she has any idea who he is. She doesn't particularly want to be a mermaid anyway. And Eric doesn't fall in love with her because of her face. He is initially attracted to because of her voice, and without it, she actually has to win him over with an enormous amount of effort.

It really bugs me how people just sort of start with the premise that Disney sends terrible messages, and then selectively looks at evidence or bends evidence to support that premise, rather than looking critically at what they're actually saying.

Audrey on a Mission said...

Honestly, I meant this piece to be more of a humor article than anything else, taking a kernel of truth and following it to an exaggerated extreme. It's worth saying that I loved all of these movies growing up (with the exception of Fantasia and Song of the South, because I didn't see those until I was older), and I don't genuinely believe that these "messages" are what the films teach kids. If pressed, I agree with most of your points.

Interestingly enough, I think the only one of my messages that I genuinely think is a problem is #8. Because bears can be terribly aggressive when you go near their cubs, and people do get attacked on a regular basis across the country.

But honestly, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate getting feedback that isn't just "this sucks". :)

tyler said...

Astute and hilarious. Very original skewering of the Disney movies and princesses

iffatali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

@McAlisterGrant: The evil queen in Snow White was also her Step-Mother...

Post a Comment

Blog Directory