Disney, in terms of its cultural messages, has become a topic of controversy of the past couple of years. Parents are afraid that their children will absorb this subtle message and grow up to be un-accepting people. People are claiming that Disney movies force ideas into children’s heads that will cause them to think one way or another.
Different people are saying that Disney is pushing white supremacy because until just recently – they did not have a diverse set of Princes and Princesses. Another thing they have been claiming is the racism involved in Disney movies. People have said that all Latinos are portrayed in Disney movies as hyenas, like in the Lion King, or as chihuahuas, like in Lady in the Tramp. They have also said that they movie Beauty and the Beast is inappropriate because it shows how abusive the beast is and that it teaches little girls to just stick it out through abusive relationships.
I find all of these arguments to be very frustrating. I was a kid who grew up completely immersed in Disney. My sister and I grew up watching all of the movies, we had princess dolls, Disney character bed sheets, lunchboxes, you name it. We were absolutely surrounded by Disney characters. Even considering that, neither of us have ever shared the thoughts that the naysayers have. When I watched the movie in my class, I was a little appalled because I hadn’t considered any of this that way.
Growing up, I never considered the racial factor because, to me, they were just fun animated movies. In reference to the Beauty and the Beast movie, their claim in particular never resonated with me at all. If anything, I learned that it didn’t matter what you looked like on the outside, everybody is worthy of love on the inside. In reference to the “no diversity”, Jasmine from Aladdin is Arab, Pocahontas is Native American, and Mulan is Chinese.
After taking some time and thinking about the movie, Mickey Mouse Monopoly, and considering the opposite side of the story, I realized that one of the most important things involved with all movies, not just Disney, is that it’s important to talk to your children.
My parents screened all of the things we watched or listened to when we were little. If we wanted to buy a CD, they looked up the lyrics and listened to the songs before we were able to purchase it. If we wanted to watch a new TV show, they had to watch and episode or two before we were able to watch it.
If parents just take some time out of their busy schedules to talk to their kids and make sure they understand the meaning of the movie, we wouldn’t have this issue. Yes, corporations have effects on the way people think. Yes, corporations are able to sway customers to buy this way or vote that way. But I don’t think that happens until a little later on in life when people (adults) are more able to understand the goings on in the world. So my message, let the kids enjoy the Disney movies. If you want to go after Disney to make more diverse movies, fine. But don’t make claims that kids are being brainwashed when they really just want to hear a bunch of African animals sing about The Circle of Life.