Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why do we have to grow up and away from the Magic of Disney?

On Sunday, September 12, 2010, a few of my family members went to see Disney On Ice, Princess Classics. The main reason we went was for my grandma who has always loved the classic Disney Princess movies. However, sorry to call out one of my sisters, but I think we also went for her as she was enjoying every sparkly moment!

Anyway I want to say that I am glad I went because I know my mother, grandmother, and especially sister really enjoyed every thing about the presentation and simply being together as women. But as I was watching the show, which first let me say was beautiful and filled with all the theatrical pieces a Disney show would produce, I began to think and analyze what was being presented to all of the little girls in the audience with their Disney Princess costumes.

I am sad to say that as a woman some of the Magic of Disney was lost for a bit because I couldn't get past how most of the main characters, the Princesses, needed a man, or prince charming, to rescue them from their unfortunate event and after being rescued they were able to find life's greatest fulfillment, a lifetime of magical love with their prince charming. Even the Disney character Mulan, which if you know her story she was actually a strong female character who went to war in place of her father, and eventually saves the entire kingdom which was against the rules of the land for a woman. Anyway Mulan is one of my favorite Disney female characters, but in this Disney Ice show the Mulan character had the shortest scenes and within the Mulan scenes it was portrayed as if she needed the main male role in order to get through her life.

This is where I became sad...The initial sadness was well probably more anger and disgust that these characters were celebrated for their weakness, beauty, and ability to get themselves in situations which required a man to save the day, normally true loves kiss :) I thought about all the discussions which were going to take place in the many mini vans heading home with all the little girls in the back seats dressed up in their princess costumes. What would the fathers, mothers, grandmothers say to these little girls about being a strong independent woman who could have ambitions and goals? How do they talk about fairy tales in relationship to real life? How do you explain to your sons that being a "knight in shinning armor" doesn't mean that you fix everything and save the day, but really means you are to be a partner and provide security and relationship?

I don't have children so I am not sure how you approach these very real and continuous stereotypes in children's stories.

But I must admit my second bit of sadness was personal, feeling that I have lost a bit of the Magic that is Disney.

Maybe you don't have to have these conversation with your daughters and sons at the age in which these children were attending the show. Maybe you talk about the glitter, the costumes, the pretty dresses, the talented skaters, and of course Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Maybe there is nothing wrong with believing in happy endings, true loves kiss, and being saved by a handsome prince.

I love a lot of things about Disney because it represents a childhood that I adored and everything I think is good about being a child. The make believe, the imaginary worlds, the magic...

It breaks my heart to know that children grow up so much faster and learn the hard way that life is not about fairy tales... Maybe we should preserve for as long as we can the little girl in the princess dress...because she will know all too soon the inequalities of this world...


Turtle Woman said...

Good post on Disney. I actually don't think it's a Disney either/or situation for little girls. No harm in having fun at the ice capades or going to Disneyland. The problem lies in little girls not getting exposure to enough other things that are at a much more culturally challenging level.

My little nieces got inundated with Disney gender policing stuff-- and I was horrified that there was no serious poetry, literature, mythology, Bible stories of Queen Esther etc. to have along with Disney for the girls.

Joan of Arc, the Amazon warrior women mentioned in Caesar's commentaries etc. is great for little girls. Trying to find stories where girls are the leaders and heroines is very hard even in this day and age. There is still massive sex role stereotyping going on, and the general dumbing down that is the garbage of American culture anyway.

But Disney is a gender policing nightmare of a place, a hetero tyranny all wrapped up in marketing, sugar and spice and everything that drives me nuts, when you examine it. Mulan is the exception.

Read Andrea Dworkin on fairy tales from a feminist viewpoint, and you might not ever read Snow White to a young girl again Brenda! Or Cinderella either!

Moderation is the key, and also you can have a feminist analysis with girls too. My sister in law was shocked, but I did tell the girls to study karate, punch out bully boys on the playground, and be strong. We did some demonstrations of punching, kicking and knocking down a clown or two. Great fun!

Turtle Woman said...

P.S. Remember, male dominance and patriarchy have been a global system for about 5000 years. Training girls to be compliant door mats is part of the package deal. It won't be easy overthrowing this system, and any woman who is not wise to its systemic structure will be conned into believing its lies.

Disney is just another sugar coated example of all of this. Hey, Uncle Reamus stories have been banned because of the racism in Disney's "Song of the South" but not the patriarchal messages directed at girls. Think about that.

Super Spy For Jesus said...

Yes- oh- Yes- We went through the "princess" stage. But- right or wrong- I told them that it was all just a story. Stories are fun but they are just that stories. There is "pretend" and real. However, as Turtle Woman so eloquently pointed out we would talk about how Queen Esther was real. She was beautiful. Faithful and True. In our house we have always focused on the heart issue!

I think you also touched on something very powerful. On the other hand that puts an awful lot of pressure on the "prince" to constantly be saving. That is what I love about the movie "Enchanted" Disney sort of makes fun of itself. The "Prince" is sort of bumbling and awkward and can't quite save the day. Then we have sons who grow up thinking that if they can't make everything better for us- their "princesses" they have failed us. My husband definitely still thinks he has to be superman to all of us. It drives him nuts. My favorite times it when I whisper in his ear that he does not have to be perfect.

Abigail was a powerhouse Biblically speaking. There were amazing women along history who have stood and been strong. So my kids know the difference between "play" and "real."

And the princess phase passes. Now we are into horses. I love that my kids want to read and experience life. Our oldest loves Anne of Green Gables, and all have a fascination with Roald Dahl books and the classics. We all play a lot of warrior/wrestling games more than the traditional "house"

I think the idea of being able to live in a castle and have a life that is easy is appealing to the very nature of who we are. Life was hard- but then at some point I get to wear a pretty dress and have no worries anymore. That's what happens.

However, these can not be our kids role models. When you grow up be just like Sleeping Beauty? Goodness lets really look at the stories there was a lot of cooking and cleaning and spinning happening until they were "rescued?" Ok- looking around my house I would love to be rescued from our mess :)

Rachel said...

Yes yes yes Brenda! I just don't know what we do about it, but I see it all the time and it does my head in.

Here, the Labour party (which just lost an election) has had a female stand-in leader Harriet Harman while a new leader is elected. It was her last day in parliament today, and the Prime Minister (David Cameron, a Conservative) praised her for 'bringing issues she feels passionate about' before parliament. He was talking about rape and human trafficking laws. I could NOT believe how completely belittling this was - a pat on the head, well done little woman, you brought 'women's issues' to us big men. And the next Labour leader is def going to be a man...

I have a lovely poem about the realisation that women's opportunities are so limited, if I find it I'll post it (if I can with copyright?).