Making Something Out Of Something Nothing?
I have this habit of reading various articles I find on the internet. I live for articles from the website Cracked.com, because they use humor to prove their points. They also love to point out Easter Eggs in shows, movies, music, and I happen to live for various behind the scene knowledge like that.
I had stumbled across one on a site that named the 10 biggest Disney Controversies. I, being a Disney nerd, had to go look. And as I was reading through this list, something became very obvious to me- Either kids know more about history than I did while watching Disney movies or people are just wanting to pick a fight about something.
The points of these controversies are valid, I will admit. The constant controversy of racial stereotypes is pointed out in many of the movies. The crows in Dumbo, the Native Americans in Pocahontas and Peter Pan, even the rest of the cast of Aladdin are cited as being negative stereotypes. There's drug use in Alice In Wonderland, there's a whole feminist debate around the Disney Princesses.
As a kid, I knew nothing of the Jim Crow laws. I did not know that the Jungle Book came out when the African American community was becoming part of society after the abolishment of segregation. I didn't see anything draw on the Little Mermaid cover. When I found out that the story of Pocahontas didn't play out the way it had in the movie, I just chalked it up to creative storytelling. At the point I had found out that the events of Pocahontas didn't quite happen the way Disney was telling me it had happened, I had already found out that neither had Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and many other of the fairy tales being told to children.
When I watched Dumbo, I saw an animated movie about an elephant. When I watched Lady and the Tramp, the few times I watched it, I saw a story about two dogs falling in love. When I watched any of the princess movies that were being pushed out by Disney at the time of my childhood, I saw the true love stories they were marketing. And honestly, even when I had learned of the Jim Crow laws in high school (and no, I was not some genius who went to high school at 6 or anything like that. I was a teen when I learned it, outside of the regular Disney market), I still didn't see the crow being named Jim as anything else but a crow named Jim.
I may be living in a delusion bubble with this, but is it possible that maybe the only reason there are people upset with the controversies in Disney is because adults are looking for something to get offended about. I admit, I'm single and do not have kids. So, I don't have to screen things to make sure that there's nothing in them that my children shouldn't see. This whole post is coming from a child who grew up watching Disney movies. But, I would, by definition, be a normal person and the target of these movies.
Even watching them again at my age now, if I catch the Asian stereotypes in Lady and the Tramp, I don't make a big deal about it. I shrug it off and continue watching. When I watch Tangled, I don't see a male dominated movie or a horribly thing blonde princess. I see a girl who just wanted to experience life because she had been locked in a tower for her entire life.
Maybe when I have kids, I'll see these stereotypes and decide to shield my kids away from them. Or maybe, I'll watch Dumbo with my kids and take the time afterwards to tell them about segregation. Maybe I'll tell them the real story of Pocahontas after watching the Disney version. Maybe I'll show them 'The Princess and The Frog' and tell them that hard work is what is needed to chase after your dreams, not waiting for Prince Charming to come and sweep you off your feet. I can show them 'The Little Mermaid' and tell them that even though Ariel won Prince Eric in the end, changing to fit what she thought Eric wanted didn't work out for her. I can tell her that while the Princesses are thin, wear make-up and spend most of the movie dreaming of true love, a Princess can be anything they want to be. They don't have to sit and wait for Prince Charming. They can go out there and find him.
It's hard to say specifically what I'll do for my kids, until I have kids. At this moment, this is just the ramblings of a Disney nerd. Maybe my mind will change. Maybe my mind will stay firm in these belief- maybe there's controversy because we want there to be controversy. Maybe I'll have genius children who pick up on controversies in these movies that I or the rest of the world hadn't picked up on yet. Or maybe, just maybe, I'll have kids who see these movies the same way I saw these movies- as an hour or hour and a half escape. I lived my childhood that way. Why can't my kids do the same?
*For anyone who would like to see the list of the 10 biggest Disney controversies, go here and read on- http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/the-biggest/the-10-biggest-disney-controversies/