I struggle with Disney. In 2006 I took a women’s literature class in college and ever since then I really struggle with marketing shallow love to 4-8 yr old young girls. I decorated my daughter’s room Ivy & Lamb’s version of the Princess and the Frog because I’ve always loved the story, especially the art work in the version featured on Reading Rainbow when I was a kid. But I struggled with the idea of bringing princesses into the nursery. The Disney story is wonderful and beautiful and diverse, but I can’t help but think back to that class I had as a young adult. What are the lessons Disney is teaching my little girl? While I like that the women are independent and headstrong at times, I hate their love matches. One thing that sticks out to me is that the recent princesses, Rapunzel, Tiana, Jasmine, Belle, they fall for men who are thieves, abusers, liars, sloths and why would I want that for my child? Why would I want to subliminally teach her that that behavior is ok, or that love will change a man. That’s dangerous!
The other issue I have with Disney is one of a personal/spiritual nature. While I’m all for hard work and prayer, I don’t like to see the glorification of specifically cultic magic. I was excited for Elena of Avalor because I’m hispanic. I watched a total of four episode before I decided it didn’t fit with our family values. I love that they combined Mexican, Peruvian and Chilean cultures specifically to create Avalor, however I did not like the use of spirit animals/guides. My husband was Jewish as a child and he always had a problem with Hercules (and now Moana) because it glorified false gods (not the One True God of the Judeo-Christian faiths), and Mulan because it highlighted ancestor worship. As for Elena, I just can’t get into the show because she summons the spirit fox to get help from the spirit world. Nope, I can’t go there. What do you think? I’ve heard people defend Disney for showcasing different cultures, but they don’t even get these cultures right (case in point Pocahontas). My daughter can learn about these in more authentic ways, I live in a very multicultural area where every month brings us a new cultural festival.
I think the only princesses I haven’t called out are Snow White (boring), and Cinderella (boring). Frozen isn’t a bad story, especially since it calls attention to the bad love matches I criticized earlier, although it does have the weird rock magic…And Brave is a redeeming story about mothers and daughters, although the sprites are vague and annoying plot devices. I actually don’t have a problem with The Little Mermaid other than it completely rewrites the traditional ending, but my husband points out that the girl runs away at 16 to be with a man she’s never really talked to because, hormones…
What do you think? Do you need Disney? Is it “just entertainment” or do kids pick up lessons from these kind of movies?