I was raised by Disney, there’s no doubt about that. I watched it obsessively in that time of my youth when things don’t get boring even after the seventeenth viewing. My first enemy was Cruella DeVil; my first friend was Aladdin’s genie; I harbored this semi-crush on Hades, who cracked me up every single time his fiery hair ‘went out’—I loved Disney, my friends and I still sing Disney, I want to show Disney to my kids.
And yet…I’m no longer deluded my Disney. I don’t fault them for supposedly implanting “sex” in the shape of leaves anymore than I fault them for killing Bambi’s mother (though I admit, that was one Disney movie I never liked, I mean, there’s no talking????) But I can’t deny the fact that the Disney animated movies I grew up with were sexist and racist, praising supposedly ‘masculine’ qualities and encouraging a comparison of minorities to animals in a way I thought hadn’t existed since people first started believing in social Darwinism (though, I suppose, certain events in history prove that there are people who still ascribe to this belief). I don’t care how catchy Mulan‘s “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” is, it perpetuates the idea that strength and manliness is something more valuable than say, a woman, who must either be beautiful or cook well to be “A Girl Worth Fighting For”:
I want her paler than the moon with eyes that shine like stars My girl will marvel at my strength, adore my battle scars I couldn't care less what she'll wear or what she looks like It all depends on what she cooks like
But, what can I do? And how can I know if these subliminal messages had an effect on me? After all, I don’t think I’ve been disillusioned into believing that women should only cook, or that minorities are barbaric. Besides, doesn’t Mulan herself prove that women can be badass warriors? Isn’t Disney going to release a movie with a black woman in it? But at the end of Mulan, she gets married, wears that little pink flower in her hair, and everything suddenly reverts to the traditional standards of husband and wife and happily ever after. And that little black princess in The Princess and the Frog? Well, she’s a frog for nearly the entire time, so let’s talk about racial equality.
And yet….I feel I’m being unfair. The Princess in the Frog is one more of the fairy tale adaptations we expect of Disney, and Mulan does plenty of role reversing when she wields that sword and even saves her guy from peril a few times. Sure Hercules was machismo defined, but he also chose love over being powerful. I find it to be a waste of time to over analyze Disney movies because I think that overall they were good, overall they enforced good values. But, for your own viewing sake, here’s the article that got me thinking on the subject, and one of the videos from said article that led me to question the values of Disney: