The dangers of Disney
2 June 10
We don’t allow Disney in our home.
Recently I’ve come across some interesting things that reinforce our decision to ban Disney products, including its media, merchandise and branding. We’ve actually never had Disney books on our shelves, and the girls haven’t watched any Disney films. Frankly, we don’t want Disney to shape our children’s imaginations.
I don’t know anyone who shares this view with us. My dearest friends love and embrace the Disney movies and the franchised products that follow. So this is the position we’ve come to — it doesn’t mean I judge you on your opinion.
We’ve had to think long hard about this strict anti-Disney stance that we’ve taken, it all comes down to the dangers that Disney pose to our family — particularly its animated “princess” films.
It’s true that the cartoons are well-made and have clever, catchy songs — I steal only what I can’t afford — right? At some point, we may allow exceptions to the ban (perhaps for an old film), but in these early, formative years, we aren’t going to let Disney’s values influence our family at all.
Much has been said about the inappropriate subtleties that animators have hidden within the Disney cartoons. Less subtle but more important are the insidious themes underlying the Disney Princess empire.
Because they are such a dominant story-teller across the English-speaking world, the Disney ideals must be scrutinised.
The “princess” idea has been hi-jacked by Disney
The classic stories that we choose read to our girls are untainted by visions of Disney-animated characters, and instead the illustrations are rich and varied according to different versions of the same classic stories. Having girls, we’re particularly sensitive to the messages that come across in the Disney animations that feature “princesses”.
When they think of princesses, Aisha and Brioni don’t immediately think of Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora or Ariel. (In writing this article, I only just discovered Sleeping Beauty’s name!) Instead, they picture a girl who may or may not be wearing a crown — depending on the latest princess book we’ve read — who may or may not be beautiful and lovely according to modern conceptions. Our girls are free to envision a princess who is able to decide she doesn’t want to marry the prince she’s just rescued.
Racism has been pervasive throughout the Disney animations, both overtly and in little things like the racial features and accents of the villains. Although in recent years the Disney corporation has learned to be more politically-correct, a subtle racial hierarchy still exists within elements such as the Disney Princesses.
If three Princesses appear on a product, it’s Cinderella, Aurora and Belle (blonde, blonde and brunette). It’s unclear if Ariel is next in line, or Snow-White, because the most common number of princesses on Disney products is six, which allows the darker-skinned Princess Jasmine to squeeze in. The ethnic ladies Mulan, Pocahontas and Tiana have also been added to the sorority — but only if there’s room for more than six Princesses.
This may not seem very obvious, but it became a big deal to me when I spent hours traipsing around Hong Kong looking for a lunchbox with a red-headed Ariel on it. Suddenly I was glad that my niece isn’t of Aisan descent (oh, wait, I have two of those too), because it’s going to take a line-up of at least seven Princesses before Asian-looking Mulan appears.
What message is this racial hierarchy sending to little girls around the world?
Poor role models
Many of the Disney characters are hardly the role models we want for our girls. They deliberately disobey their parents. They’re willing to steal and give no thought to dressing modestly. They use overt sexual advances to attract, distract or divert attention. They practice witchcraft to get what they want, and on top of that, most Disney girls are painted as damsels in distress who need to be rescued by a strong man! And what’s with the missing mothers?
Disney girls do everything they can to get their dreamy prince, including changing how they look and how they act. The animations teach that [unrealistic] appearances are everything, to the point that even when the Beast becomes good, he turns back into a “handsome” prince so Belle doesn’t have marry someone with a hairy mug. That’s still pretty superficial.
In The Little Mermaid, the witch Ursula teaches Ariel, You’ve got your looks, your pretty face, and don’t underestimate the importance of body language!. Ariel is only sixteen years old and is being taught how to seduce a man. And because the ages of the heroines is so ambiguous, will young girls watching these films receive the message that
seducing kissing boys is something that can wait until they’re much older?
As the alternative to Disney’s impossible ideals, we want to teach our daughters that full satisfaction can only be experienced in God and His ordained way of life. We want them to know that God is refining us through trials and blessings into the people He wants us to become.
We want to teach our daughters that they are loved and cherished for being themselves — not how they look or what they do (or don’t do). We hope that when our girls become interested in boys that we can have our own relationships with their friends and help our children understand the complexities of the relationships they’re involved in. We want to be friends with their boyfriends.
We want our daughters to know that a man of choice won’t necessarily be a handsome prince, but we hope and pray that he will have the character and godliness that will commit to love and create an enduring marriage.
Disney’s ideals of women or men don’t match our family’s values.
This one is a no-brainer for me. We don’t have a television, so our kids miss out on commercials. When we’re out and about and we see advertising, we discuss how the picture is trying to make us feel and what product the company wants us to buy. Then we suggest possible alternatives. (Thirsty? Have a drink of water. Duh.)
The Disney Princess empire was a merchandising line thought up in 2000. In less than ten years, its phenomenal success has helped push sales of Disney consumer products from US$300 million to US$4 billion. Get it? Three and a half billion dollars difference in a decade. That’s a lot of dosh!
The Princesses are a goldmine. But what is it, really? It’s just labelling on products that would otherwise cost very little. It’s a couple of smiling faces, a logo, a bibbidi-bobbidi-boo and a dream successfully sold to little girls all around the world and one that their parents happily indulge with wads of cash.
I fear that allowing the Disney animations into our home will also unleash an awareness of the merchandise that is everywhere. So far we’ve managed to escape without any merchandise in our house (or it gets altered to an acceptable level).
Disney has also partnered with Mattel to create a range of dolls that combine everything that is horrible about Barbies with the Disney characters. Ah, well, that’s for another post, another day.
A blanket ban on Disney merchandise is easier and cheaper than paying for the privilege to display their logo.
For another opinion of the Disney Princess legacy, please read What’s wrong with Cinderella?. For more information on the dangers of the greater Disney empire, watch the full-length preview of Mickey Mouse Monopoly at Media Education Foundation.