(In response to Maria Thompson’s April 17 article “Disney on Ice enchants, elicits happy memories.”)
On April 17, The State Press published an article entitled “Disney on Ice enchants, elicits happy memories.” In 2003 (admittedly a while ago), The Journal of Feminist Family Therapy published a very different article entitled “Images of Gender, Race, Age, and Sexual Orientation in Disney Feature-Length Animated Films.”
The State Press article claims that last weekend’s Disney on Ice brought magic and joy to its audience. And it’s true. Disney has captured the hearts and imaginations of youth and adults across America and around the globe for years.
But my question is this: How have the sinister messages Disney sends children and adults alike managed to stay masked behind the veil of magic, entertainment and romance for so long?
Perhaps it is their subtlety. But doesn’t anyone else find it strange that Snow White and Cinderella love housework so much? And why is it that even strong young women like Belle and Ariel have to be saved by their respective princes? With the exceptions of Mulan, Pocahontas, and Jasmine, Disney’s women are white, and almost always exceptionally thin, busty, and physically weak.
More recently, The Princess and the Frog was praised as progressive for its portrayal of a strong, black woman, but the Princess herself was stuck in frog form for most of the movie. And while last summer’s Tangled also depicts a strong young woman, the body type presented as ideal is still completely unachievable.
The author of the State Press article claimed that for her, the performance “showed that the world for once can be in perfect harmony.” For me, Disney is synonymous with disharmony. Why?
Because I think Disney masks the many injustices in our society through the production of sexist, racist images and the through the exclusion of non-straight characters. I think it’s hugely important that people begin to turn a critical eye towards Disney precisely because Disney is so popular with children. Disney teaches our children their values and helps them construct their identities.
And I for one, would like to at the very least minimize my children’s exposure to racism and sexism in their formative years.