I’m a big Disney fan. Huge. I think they make good movies and I don’t think those movies are as inherently sexist as many people say. For one, I think it’s a matter of perspective. I’m a big believer in talking to my children during movies. I never just sit them down and show them one. We sit together and talk about motivations and emotions. I use them as learning opportunities, not babysitting ones. That’s not to say we do nothing but watch TV, because we don’t, but that when it does happen, I try to be involved with it with them.
So, here are some of the ideas I have about a few Disney Princess movies, some of which get so much flack from people for being sexist. I present them in a whole different light to my kids than just “she got rescued by the guy.”
Oh, this one takes so much heat. People say that Cinderella is passive and just waiting to be rescued by her prince instead of saving herself. To this I say bullshit.
Cinderella was raised in an abusive environment and I don’t care how strong a person you are, when you are treated by family as a slave and told you are less than nothing, you start to believe it a little bit. Maybe a lot. You start to fear breaking the rules, I mean REALLY start to fear it. You try everything to make the abuser happy, even though that’s an impossible task. Cinderella wasn’t waiting to be rescued, she was SURVIVING. In addition to this, she was a happy person, an optimistic one who still believed in dreams. She could have become bitter, angry, and abusive in turn, but chose to be the opposite. That’s some strong will right there. She broke the cycle of abuse. SHE BROKE IT.
Then, when that stepmother tore her dress and ruined her dream of going to the ball, did Cinderella give up? NOPE. She went incognito. She BROKE The RULES. She went anyway, even though she knew there would be hell to pay if her step-mother found out. This is a big deal for someone in an abusive situation. By going, she found someone who loved her and she loved back. And why would that be a bad thing? She deserves love more than most people. I’m glad she can love someone and be happy.
The Little Mermaid
Or as I like to call it: Romeo and Juliet with tails (and without the dying). Seriously, Ariel did not change herself for a man. That song, ‘Part of Your World’ was sung BEFORE she ever laid eyes on Prince Eric. She wanted to be human for a long time. It was her dream. She collected human objects and obsessed over shipwrecks.
No, she would have probably married a merman and lived a happy mermaid life if her father had been a little more understanding. Her DAD was the reason she became a mermaid, not Eric. You cannot tell me that you didn’t have a crush on someone when you were 16 and had their posters all over your bedroom. Ariel had a statue. Her dad was angry and unsupportive and prejudiced. He not only destroyed her statue, he destroyed all of the human stuff she had collected over YEARS. This was stuff she adored and loved and he destroyed it like trash. Then, in that moment of learning that her father would NEVER understand her or support her or love her for what she is, she was convinced to visit the Sea Witch.
She didn’t turn into a human for a MAN, she did it because she was a damned teenager. She felt alone and alienated. And teenagers, ever since humans crawled out of the muck and learned how to say “You don’t understand! I hate you!” have been doing shit like the EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU SAY. It was the Sea Witch who used Eric as part of the spell.
Beauty and the Beast (also seen here, if you know the author, please let me know)
Ok, last one, I think. Belle does not have Stockholm syndrome. This movie is an amazing piece on society and inclusion/exclusion/bullies/and beauty. Seriously, just think about it. Gaston is revered for his attitude because he is considered manly. Our society encourages bullying because people who are different from us are scary and weird. Gaston is handsome and a bully and the town LOVES him for it. Belle is pretty, but she READS (the horror) and her father is an inventor (OMG, WHAT?) and so are not like the other simple ignorant town folk. The whole opening song is about how Belle is different from the rest of them. Belle feels like an outsider. She has no friends. She is excluded even though she is smart and kind.
The beast is what Gaston should look like. That is Gaston under the handsome appearance, a horrible beast. The Beast, on the other hand, WAS like Gaston, but the curse forced him to think about other. He was a bully who became an outcast. He experienced exclusion. In his solitude, he only had himself to think about, but as soon as Belle got there, he had someone ELSE to think about. He learned to be empathetic and his experience as an outcast taught him something. He grows as a person. He LEARNS. Belle, for the first time, is in a place where she is accepted. The Beast gives her access to his library: he GETS her and what she likes. And then, he let’s her go because he wants her to be happy. He is SAD when the villagers come to get him, not angry. He only fights back when Belle comes back because then he realizes he has someone who loves him and he’s included.
This movie is not just about Belle. Belle doesn’t need to change. She already sees the good in the Beast and the bad in Gaston. She is intelligent and she reads and learns. She is just a force of change: Gaston doesn’t change and dies for it, while the Beast DOES and the spell is broken.
Ok, that’s enough for now. I hope you enjoyed my pro-Disney movie rant. My challenge to you is to look at a movie in a different way. I am all for feminism and equality, as you know, but things aren’t always black and white.