I’ve seen a lot of posts on Tumblr and tweets mentioning how people believe Disney is problematic with its stories. It’s made me think long and hard about the stories themselves and what it is exactly that they are trying to say. The main issue that people seem to have is that they seem to centre around blonde, white princesses and their trials and tribulations. Okay, I get why a lot of people are frustrated by this. But to this I say the stories are based on Grimm’s fairy tales that are all based in a Germanic, medieval Europe. It wasn’t really a racially diverse and multi-cultural area, the stories all centred around this sort of person.
When Disney have created films and animations that focus on another area of the world they do make changes to the people themselves (this being done correctly is another matter). I think in more recent years Disney has been trying to explore different areas and have productions that more people can relate to. I admit there haven’t been that many of these films when the first ones to pop into my head are The Jungle Book, Pocahontas, Lilo & Stitch, Mulan, Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog. Although this is a problem in itself I don’t necessarily think this is a sign of it being problematic. Honestly, I think it just means they need to focus on different areas of the world and maybe come up with some original stories to do this instead of telling ones that have been passed through cultures.
Another area that people seem to pick with is Disney’s Golden and Silver ages. This includes your classics such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. The people who disagree with this do so because they think that it’s giving the wrong idea to young girls by telling them to wait for their princes to come and rescue them from their dreary lives instead of doing something to change their situations themselves. Honestly, I understand the anger but I also understand that it’s unrealistic to put modern day principles upon stories created in a vastly different time. Even the middle of the last century was a very different place from where we are now. I think it’s okay to appreciate something for what it is but also recognising that it contains potentially toxic messages, the thing to do with this is to explain to anyone younger than yourself who watches these films for the first time that it’s entertaining but not necessarily the best advocacy for life. To say Disney is problematic for this is to also say that Huckleberry Finn is problematic with its portrayal of black people in America in the 1800s.
If there was a case for Disney being problematic it would be with the way the characters are paired off in each film. It’s difficult to find a way to explain why Disney chooses some of its characters to not have a romantic interest, especially when these people tend to be more maligned from society. The main examples for this are Quasimodo, Elsa and even Hiro. All three characters suffer from issues which have left them isolated from society in some way or other, whether that’s physical deformities or mental illnesses. These characters rely on familial and platonic love and relationships as their main story line. It’s not about if they get the girl or guy, but on their own journey which usually includes some form of self discovery. Quasimodo realises he doesn’t have to keep himself hidden away in the bell tower, Elsa realises she can be loved and use her powers for something beautiful and not pain, and Hiro realises it’s okay to mourn but also be happy.
When you first recognise this,you begin to question why Disney would do something like this. Is it because they truly believe that anyone who is different doesn’t deserve romance? To me, a romantic love interest would have detracted from the character’s self discovery and acceptance. The entire stories themselves weren’t love stories like a lot of the other films Disney have produced. The second Hunchback of Notre Dame film did give Quasimodo the love interest he wanted as it was no longer an issue of him finding out who he really was, it showed that someone could love him for who he was as well. The problem is that was video release and not a lot of people know this. Who knows, maybe in the future we will see sequels that give Elsa and Hiro a love they deserve as well.
I will also appreciate Disney for the days of entertainment that it gave me throughout my childhood but I’ve acknowledged that I shouldn’t be waiting for my Prince to come and rescue me. I don’t find it problematic, just a little out-dated and in need of some more original stories.
Hasta la fuego
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