I originally wrote this on February 18, 2014 because I was deeply concerned about the message Disney’s films are sending our sons and daughters about women. Little has changed from then until now. Reactions to this blog were interesting. Some felt I was being too hard on women. Really? I am guessing they missed the entire point of my rant. Others felt I was too nice and gave Disney too much of a pass. I think before I say anything about that, I’ll let you be the judge.

With the exception of Fantasia and Alice in Wonderland, Disney films weren’t allowed in my home when I was growing up. Please don’t feel sorry for me, I don’t think I missed anything of value.

My parents were big on sending my brothers and me outside to play rather than parking us in front of the boob tube. We were only able to watch at the most an hour a day, and some days we couldn’t watch T.V. at all. My father worked in television as a news writer, and he was—and I can hear him now—“damned if my kids are going to grow up watching the junk that’s on T.V.!” The T.V. was in my parents’ bedroom, which meant they truly could monitor everything we watched. And things were nothing like they are today. There weren’t elevendy million channels back then. There were only five broadcast stations and PBS. That’s it, folks!

My mother had a more specific reason for banning Disney movies. And again, although I haven’t heard her say this in more than 30 years, because voices and smells never leave us, it almost feels like she’s in the room with me as I write this: “there are no positive female role models in Disney moves.”

So why were we permitted to see these two films? While I never asked them, knowing my parents as I did, my hunch is that instead of wholly unrealistic fairy tales, they produced fantastical imagery that can only be possible with the aid of Lysergic Acid. While my parents weren’t into dropping acid themselves, I believe they liked the creativity that stemmed from those who did. Of course it’s only speculation that LSD influenced Walt Disney’s imagination when he made Fantasia and Alice in Wonderland, but if you’ve seen either of them, I doubt you need much convincing to believe this rumor.

While our friends spent Sunday nights watching The Wonderful World of Disney, we instead ate dinner as a family at the kitchen table and we talked—a lot and about bunches of different topics. On the occasions we were given permission to watch television, programs like The Electric Company, Zoom, Schoolhouse Rock and sometimes (not always) the After School Special were among those on the approved list.

My parents were pretty consistent with their messaging. Along with the veto on all things Disney, they were pretty clear about the toys we could play with. Most of the girls I played with back then were what I still like to call girly girls (and I don’t mean this in a derogatory manner, believe me). They played with Barbie, played dress up and were into princesses. Both because my parents kept a close eye on all of our toys (especially those given to us by relatives) and because I grew up with two older brothers, I was then (and still am now) a tomboy. (I don’t love the term, as it implies there’s something odd about girls who get muddy, play sports and who don’t get their first pair of high heels at the age of 14.) I played with GI Joe and did everything my brothers did. And while rumor has it that my name means princess, the whole idea behind princesses and royalty in general turned my stomach. It still does.

Whether because of the influence of my parents, that they raised a feminist and advocate for women, that I grew up with two older brothers who taught me how to fight “like a boy” and not “not like a girl,” or a combination of all the above, by the time I saw any of the popular Disney films, I was in my mid to late 20s. I saw them for various reasons: the kids I babysat for wanted to see them and morbid curiosity topping the list.

I think the first one I saw was 101 Dalmatians (the original; I never bothered with the remake). My reaction was, “What the hell? Why are the two female characters at odds with each other and why is one submissive to her husband while the other is mean and conniving?” What does this say about the way women relate to one another?

Courtesy of feministdisney.tumblr

Courtesy of feministdisney.tumblr

Then I saw Cinderella and I saw red. Here is a female who is put upon, actually abused by another older woman—in this instance, three women: her stepmother and stepsisters, all of whom are jealous of Cinderella because she’s pretty. She gets her comeuppance when the handsome prince saves her and they live happily ever after. Gag me, please! I suppose one could argue that Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother is a positive influence, but really? If this woman can wield her magic wand to create a horse-drawn carriage out of her only friends, the mice; make her an exquisite ballgown, give her model-perfect hair and make-up and glass slippers, dontcha think she could have given her an education, a business to run or something else equally practical? Why did this magic wand have to snag her a man?

Each one I saw after that annoyed me more than the last.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—Snow White’s loving and adoring parents die, leaving her evil stepmother to not only care for Snow White, but be the Queen reigning over all in the land. Jealous of Snow White’s looks (what the hell is up with her name???), the Queen plots to kill her, which of course backfires. Wandering aimlessly in the woods (because that’s what helpless women do), Snow White happens upon the home of seven very nice but vertically challenged men who care for her. Livid that Snow White is still alive, the Queen uses her magic to finally murder this weak girl by manipulating her into eating a poisoned apple. Didn’t her parents tell her not to take anything from strangers? Mine did! Why didn’t her parents raise her to be self-reliant? Thank goodness for this ill-fated beauty there was a handsome prince to kiss her and save her from the destruction of eating the poisoned apple. They live happily ever after, of course! I wanted to throw up after I saw it. What valuable lesson does this teach young girls and boys?

feministariel

The Little Mermaid—Ariel is a bored-with-life-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea mermaid who wants to live life as a human. Dad says no; Ariel disobeys him and bears the wrath of Ursula, the evil sea urchin. Not to anyone’s surprise, the only thing that can save Ariel and her sweet voice is true love and a kiss from Eric, who is, predictably, a prince. If Ariel is old enough to fall in love, she’s old enough to whoop some sea urchin ass, get an education, become an astronaut, travel the world and see what’s beyond her little sea world! So she manages to marry a handsome prince who will support her in her drive to do whatever she wants to do in life? Yeah, dream on!

Aladdin—Damsel in distress princess Jasmine requires a man to save her. All the men in the film are evil (except her betrothed and Genie, voiced by Robin Williams, who was funny as hell). I don’t recall there being a positive female role model in this one. I am sure there was more to this movie than I am relaying, but honestly aside from Robin Williams’s Genie, it’s all a blur to me because I was too busy rolling my eyes.

Courtesy of feministdisney.tumblr

Courtesy of feministdisney.tumblr

Beauty and the Beast—a slight improvement because our heroine is at least nerdy—suggesting she has a brain, and again, where’s the positive female role model and why does her name have to be Belle? Why does Belle have to endure what is tantamount to living with a verbally abusive jerk of a boyfriend? And why does it have to be her beauty and never-ending patience that transform this beast into a handsome prince? And are we to assume once he’s a handsome prince he’s no longer a jerk and that he didn’t become an arrogant egomaniac once his looks transformed? Why couldn’t it be her persistence to haul his ass into therapy and take a long hard look at his anger issues? Why doesn’t she say, “Dude! Enough is enough! I am tired of being your punching bag. Shape up or ship out!” And where are her friends to be strong for her until she can be strong for herself? Grrrrrrr!

Courtesy of feministdisney.tumblr

Courtesy of feministdisney.tumblr

I am sure I saw others hoping the plot would a) not be so predictable and b) at some point Disney would present us with a female who was a bad ass, whose relatives and girlfriends were supportive of her smarts and not see her as a ditz whose only hope of survival was to meet a man—preferably a prince. Oh, and I haven’t even touched on the issue of race. I am annoyed enough already for one blog, thank you very much. I have only expressed my disgust over the misogyny—the racism in Disney films is a whole other blog.

But what can I expect from a company whose entire management team consists of 16 people, all Caucasian with only four women? And the bigger question: am I the only one who gets angry about the way women and girls and boys and men are depicted in their films and over the message they’re sending our daughters and sons? Judging from their revenue for 2014, which was $48 billion USD, I appear to be. Indeed this is not just movies (new and re-releases of DVDs), but includes Disneyland, Disneyworld and other amusement parks globally, ABC, merchandising, and of course, salaries. We can’t forget the salaries of the marketing geniuses who come up with these plots that give kids a warped view of the world that depict women as beautiful but incapable of thinking for themselves and men as handsome and misogynistic who must rescue these pathetic women.

I keep thinking things will improve with Disney. After all, it’s 2015: we’ve seen two women running for president of the United States; a few women on the Supreme Court, several women at the helm of fortune 500 companies (one of whom is also running for president of the U.S.) and women who prove day in and day out that we can do anything we put our minds to. The bottom line is that we women have enough problems fighting real issues without a corporation as large and influential as Disney labeling us as stupid, dependent, co-dependent, conniving, competitive, bitchy, manipulative, gullible and unable to stand on our two feet.

In all fairness to Disney they did release Frozen last year, which I understand many feminists have liked because both the heroines in the film (sisters) are not only bad asses, but they aren’t competitive and putting one another down. Good for Disney. One out of dozens is laudable.

Please tell me I am not the only one who feels this way.