October 30

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Stop Over-analyzing: A Plea from a Disney Freak

Stop Over-analyzing: A Plea from a Disney Freak

By: Meg Humphrey

I watched Tangled for the first time with my boyfriend last weekend. Why had I waited so long?! Immediately after it was over I wanted to watch it again! And probably once more after that too. It was so hopeful and straightforward. My insides were gooey and I felt like I wanted to sing my feelings. I’ve really only heard praise for Tangled, but I can’t help thinking about all of the other Disney movies I love that get grief for being sexist and setting poor examples for girls and young women.

Whenever I hear or read about someone tearing apart a princess or another character I think “Whoa! Hold on! When I was a kid I watched The Little Mermaid enough times that my VHS wore out and needed to be replaced.” I didn’t turn out to be a weepy damsel who expects others (especially men) will bail me out of trouble. I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be incomplete if I never get swept off my feet by a piece of 100% prime beefcake. I’ve always known that most real life hardships can’t be wrapped up in 90 minutes with a perfect resolution. Bad guys don’t always lose. Good guys don’t always win.

I’m not saying that Disney and its characters haven’t had an influence on me. They totally have. I listen to “Zero to Hero” (and “Go the Distance and “A Star is Born”) from Hercules because he’s a great example of determination and drive. I’ve always wanted to sing as well as Ariel. Aladdin taught me that the best you can be is yourself. I want to be brave like Pocahontas, smart like Belle, and hardworking as Tiana.

Growing up on Disney movies helped me have dreams. I felt like I could have adventures. I could grow up and be whatever I wanted. I would meet wonderful, diverse people throughout life. I knew I probably wouldn’t have a tiny, sassy dragon watching out for me, but I’ll have a friend who fits the role. Although the villains and situations are often fantastic, Disney movies started introducing me to heartbreak, conflict, jealousy, greed, war, anger, etc. Before I was able to experience these things, I learned that they’re not something one should want and that situations that caused these needed to be resolved as soon as possible. Last time I checked, these aren’t bad things. In fact, they’re pretty positive.

I know it’s preachy, but if you (or your children/nieces and nephews/cousins) are so easily influenced that you take animated movies with talking forest creatures to be the absolute truth of reality, then that’s not Disney’s fault. There’s nothing that I’ve “learned” from Disney that hasn’t been reinforced or debunked by other experiences and society at large. Saying that watching Disney movies will make girls weak, vapid stereotypes is the same argument that playing violent video games makes people more likely to commit a violent act. Believe me, I know PLENTLY of avid Call of Duty/Halo/Battlefield players who would only throw a punch as an absolute last resort. It’s all about how the people around you approach the topic. Don’t say “Oh, look at Belle’s dress, don’t you want a dress like hers? Don’t you want to be pretty like Belle?” say “Isn’t Belle selfless for taking her father’s place? Isn’t she brave for standing up to Beast when he loses his temper?” Her golden ball gown is iconic and lovely, yes, but that’s not what makes Belle a wonderful character. Remember that the best gift the Beast could give her was a library.

In the end, please remember that these are only movies. They are stories told for entertainment. There isn’t always a greater agenda. There isn’t always a deeper meaning. Sure, there could have been improvements to make the leading ladies of Disney more whatever-you-think-a-“real”-woman-should-be-like, but keep in mind that there have been improvements! The difference between Snow White and Pocahontas are astounding and Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel are worlds apart. So calm down! Relax! If Disney movies aren’t your cup of tea then that’s fine! Just don’t discourage others from something they enjoy and accuse them of perpetuating a problem. Focus on the positive and the hope and magic that Disney movies offer!

meg@haveyounerd.com
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