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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Great and Powerful World of Disney, Or Everything Has a Hidden Meaning


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I’ve mentioned before how Disney has inevitably and irrevocably became part of our lives in the last 6 months. The obsession with all things Disney has progressed from an occasional Steamboat Willy to almost daily references to princesses, dragons and evil witches. A friend from work loaned us pretty much an entire Disney library (thank you Doug!) saving us a ton of money and hassle to find the highly coveted entertainment.

The three contenders for the top spot in zaiki’s hearts are “Sleeping Bleuty” (yes, yes, just like that: BLYYUUUTY), “Tangled”, aka “Punzel” and “Lady and the Tramp”, aka “The Puppies”. We watch one of these at least once a day, and by this point I could write Disney's misogynistic, sexist and racist anthology just from watching the three cartoons. But I won’t. Instead, I’m offering you free snippet-style insight into the magical world of Disney:

Lady and the Tramp – the oldest of the three, made in 1955.

Little rich girl-puppy gets thrown out of her house by the stupid cat owner-babysitter and her evil Siamese cats. Full of stereotypes, (Is that what was funny 60 years ago?), starting with the cats, who are obviously and insultingly foreign (Siam is Thailand I believe?).

I counted 5 additional racial/cultural stereotypes in the cartoon, including but not limited to:
a. Red-faced Irish cop
b. Smarmy yet friendly Italian cook
c. Sleepy (and I think drunk) Mexican Chihuahua
d. Dopey and sad Russian greyhound
e. Hillbilli-ish beaver

The tramp-dog calls the girl-puppy “Pidg”, short for Pigeon, which when said quickly made me stop what I was doing and rewind to make sure I heard it correctly. Go ahead, say it fast…See??!


Moral of the story: women need strong manly handling and should stay home and make babies; everyone who likes cats is stupid. And never let your spinster aunt with two foreign cats babysit your baby: they’ll destroy your house, eat your fish and drink baby’s milk. Maybe will even sit on your baby’s chest and steal his soul.   

Sleeping Bleuty – 1958.

Here we see the princess as a helpless yet beautiful thing in need of man-rescue. She does not control her fate in any respect, and is easily hypnotized to prick her finger and fall asleep. In fact, all that the evil witch has to do is show pretty green light to the princess and off into the danger she goes. She doesn’t appear much after that and rightfully so. If  you have nothing valuable to contribute, off to sleep with you!

First of all, let me just say: who gets married at 16???!!! How about let’s finish high school and get a decent education beyond singing and berry picking? And the prince has to be at least 10 years older than her. And who starts dancing in the woods with an older stranger?

Moral of the story: men will take care of everything, just be a good girl and wait.  Also, don’t forget to be as obtuse and gullible as possible. What the fairies should have given her as a gift was brains.

Tangled – 2009 

Fast forward 60 years later and oh my how the times have changed! Here we have a totally different breed of princesses: strong and assertive, handy with a frying pan. Rapuntzel is a force of nature. My guess is Disney acquired some female executives or did a viewership focus group. Or both. They know who puts all those millions in their pockets: mothers of pre-pubescent girls, that’s who, and those power-mommies want good examples for their little ones: “Mr. Disney, no more oh-come-save-me damsel in distress crap, and while you are at it, please raise the age of consent to 18!”

The male protagonist, on the other hand, while still handsome, is somewhat dimwitted this time. Definitely some strong female decision-makers had come aboard… Interestingly enough, this is the first Disney movie I saw with an actual murder in-progress depicted on the screen.

Moral of the story: Girls, make your own fate with the help of a frying pan, a dream, some friendly thugs and don’t count on your prince charming, ‘cause he may need you to bail him out of trouble.   

So there you have it. I don’t know which one I like best/least, the animation is amazing in all three (as always), but at least Tangled has some comic relief for parents’ benefits and some amusing musical numbers. It’s less scary for the little ones. 

One more valuable observation: King fathers in Sleeping Beauty and Tangled could be twins. Ahem, Disney, cutting corners much? 

I know some of you may say, oh, it’s just cartoons! Except it’s not: those movies are carefully crafted advertisements that propagate a certain worldview and lifestyle. It is important to know what your children watch, see it from their perspective (we actually have conversations about the cartoons, zaiki tell me what scared them, what they thought was funny or impressive) to be able to mitigate whatever influence you as a parent consider harmful. As for me, I’m off to make a tinfoil hat, dig a compound in North Carolina woods and stock up on ammo. J

In other Little household news: Thanksgiving is upon us, the Christmas shopping is in full swing, turkey has been bought, wine will be bought tonight, and let the festivities, completed with Kevin’s birthday right on Thanksgiving, begin! We are crazy enough to go out on Black Friday to replace a television that died a tragic and untimely death in a mishap this past year (turns out plasmas really don't like to be dropped on the floor, oops!). I guess you are not fully American until you get baptized in the holy church of Best Buy on Thanksgiving night. 

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