Disney: Entertainment or Third Parent?

We watched “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” and it brought up a controversy about whether or not Disney is racist and/or sexist. I think this is ridiculous, because Disney is a corporation whose job is to make money. They choose to do that by making children’s movies. What they want to put out is entirely up to them because it is up to us as consumers to decide whether or not we want to see it. It is also up to you to decide as a parent whether or not it is appropriate for your children to watch. If you sit your children in front of the television and never explain to them the difference between a television show and reality that is entirely on you. Television is not a subsitute for a parent!

Speaking of children, I had a unique upbringing. Over the years I have seen all the movies Disney has put out, but there was a time when my parents didn’t agree with the way that the Disney Corporation ran their company, and so for many years I only got to see Disney movies if I was at a friends house. My parents didn’t object to the content in the movies just the way the company conducted their  business. When I was little my parents always made sure to explain to me that it was just a movie and it wasn’t real when they saw getting upset that Ariel wouldn’t end up with Prince Eric or that the Beast was dead. (Collins)

Most Disney movies are set in a world of magic and imagination. A place where anything is possible and true love really does conquer all. These movies were not meant to resemble real life, just to show children some of the classic fairy tales that have been around for hundreds of years. Even so, there is a quote that me and my friends always say when remarking on the lack of Prince’s in the real world. “Disney gave me unrealistic expectations about men.” I think this might be true, but it can’t be just Disney’s fault that everywhere we looked people were telling us that love was magic and special and a once in a lifetime thing that would eventually happen to all of us. These ideas of love that we saw in Disney films are perpetuated throughout our childhood well into out teenage years. We see it on TV, movies, in the books and magazines we read, and we look to our parents to see what true love is. Unfortunately some parents didn’t give the same movie magic love we’d seen growing up. Which is why some children and teenagers look to Disney to see what love is.

If a parent has such vehement protestations against Disney maybe they should restrict their children’s viewing of the movies. It should be a parents job to regulate what their children watch and to explain to them when they don’t understand. You wouldn’t show your children “Braveheart” as a good example of life because those circumstances don’t apply to us. In the same way you shouldn’t let your children watch Disney movies as a step by step example of what to expect from life and love.

A retired Professor, Jack Zipes, has argued that fairy tales “serve a meaningful social function, not just for compensation but for revelation: the worlds projected by the best of our fairy tales reveal the gaps between truth and falsehood in our immediate society.” (Wikipedia) Without fairy tales how would we learn the difference between imagination and reality? Fairy tales are often used to relay morals to children, and to teach them about life. However, that wasn’t always the case. In the middle ages fairy tales were tailored to adults. If anything Disney toned them down. I talked to my English teacher, Catherine Merritt, because she specializes in fairy tales and she said that Disney changed the original fairy tales so they could better suit the audience, which is primarily children. She also said, “I would argue that whatever sexist or racist tendencies someone could find in Disney movies have more to do with the difficulties of visual representation and not with the process of adapting fairy tales. Every culture is bound to a code of aesthetics with set ideas of beauty and morality, and like it or not, our society still sees tiny waists and long, flowing hair as the feminine ideal.” (Merritt)

While in today’s society this might seem archaic, the movies that Disney is putting out are intended for an adolescent audience as something they can relate to. The trouble with animation is that it is time consuming, which leads me to believe they just do what is easiest for them to put on film. Nevertheless, all parents should take into consideration what their children might be watching on television or in the movies. If they are uncomfortable with the messages Disney movies might be sending their children they should either explain the differences between reality and imagination with their children or find a better alternative. They should not try to ruin Disney’s reputation for those of us smart enough to understand them for what they are: entertainment. If you want to read more into them than what they are that is your prerogative, but for the rest of the world they are just fluff. The Disney Corporation is just trying to do what every other company is trying to do, which is make money.

Somebody in the video brought up the idea that the Disney Corporation owns too much of the media. I think this is partially true, but I don’t think they own too much, however they do own a lot of different media outlets. Disney has made some good business decisions to expand their company. Despite that our country has checks built into the system. Disney might own a lot of the media, but they don’t own it all, and there are fail-safes in place to make sure that won’t happen. Even so, the government is under no obligation to limit their ability to make money off their products. Movies and media alone don’t make enough money to support their companies expenses, so they make lines of products and Broadway shows to go with their movies, TV shows and musicians.

Overall I think it’s time to stop wasting time blaming Disney for the problems of the world and start stepping up as parents to make sure your children understand that Belle isn’t real and what she does and what we should do are not remotely the same!

 

Sources:

Interview with:

David Collins

&

Catherine Merritt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Zipes

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