August 7, 2013

What does Disney have against moms?

My daughter, like many girls her age, devours all things Disney princess. From the beginning, my husband and I were concerned about the messages of many of the princess stories. And the insane commercialization involved.

But, we figured it was a phase most girls go through, and to resist was futile. Plus, making something off limits often results in it being more attractive.

And, even if we were to ban all things Disney princess from our home, she would be exposed to it elsewhere. We cannot completely isolate her.

So we gave in and hoped for the best. So far, the exposure seems to be innocuous. Her current plans for the future include being either a wildlife biologist or zoologist. No mention of marrying a prince.

Ariel is her favorite of the Disney princesses. So when hubby found out there was a prequel to The Little Mermaid (Ariels Beginning) available on Netflix, we knew she would be excited.

I then watched in horror with my four year-old as Ariel's mother was killed violently early in the movie. She was smashed against a rock by a pirate ship. I was shocked, and extremely disturbed.

I always wondered what happened to Ariel's mother. There is no mention of her in the original movie. I assumed she was dead. But did my daughter need to be subjected to that? Was it really necessary?

It brought feelings that have been brewing inside of me for some time to the surface. I have been extremely disappointed with the overwhelming absence of mothers in Disney films.

What does Disney have against moms, anyway? Lets look at the princess movies as examples:

  • Aladdin - Jasmine's mother is not present. Presumed dead.
  • Beauty and the Beast - Belle's mother is not present. Presumed dead.
  • Brave - An exception to the norm. Mother is alive and active in child's life.
  • Cinderella - Mother dead. Stepmother evil. (Father also dies.)
  • Mulan Mother alive. Her goal for Mulan is to help her bring honor to the family.
  • Pocahantas Mother dead. Pocahantas wears her necklace.
  • Sleeping Beauty - Mother alive; Aurora is raised by three fairies in the woods.
  • Snow White Both parents dead. Jealous, evil stepmother wants her dead, too.
  • Tangled - Mother alive; Rapunzel is abducted and raised by evil witch who poses as her mother.
  • The Little Mermaid - Mother not present; assumed dead.
  • The Princess and the Frog - Mother alive; not active in story. (Father dies.)

Many of these stories are not original to Disney, but some are. And even when using well-known fairy tales, Disney tends to put its own spin on the story.

There are plenty of other offenders in the Disney arsenal. And it's not like dads fare much better. Those present are often portrayed as bumbling, incompetent, easily-manipulated buffoons.

We teach our daughter families come in all shapes and sizes. So I guess on the one hand I should be glad Disney does portray the concept of family in a variety of ways. I just wish it didn't have to come so often at the expense of mothers.

Can I do anything about it? No. Am I going to change my stance and banish all things Disney from my home? Not likely. Besides, we have annual passes to Walt Disney World through January.

I have to have faith the messages she receives from us are more important and influential than those she might get from watching an animated movie/character. It is up to us as her parents to provide the foundation of learning for our child.

But still, I have to ask. Disney, why?

Have you ever been bothered by the way Disney portrays parents, or is it just me?

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