Conflicted and Confused About Disney Values

Stumbling about the internet landed me at this article on Movieguide: The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment.

OK, set aside for a moment the dubious source of this news, and just focus on the “substance”. How many ways can you be wrong in 7 short sentences?

The article says that the reason for the shift is that “girls no longer view princesses and getting married to be the ideal.…They’re interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values.” I’ll assume that “hot” in this context means “[sexually] attractive” and “cool” means “popular”. So, the problem is that girls have shifted their sights from being a popular sexual object [of a mythical prince] to being a popular sexual object [of real people]? Or, in other words, nothing major has changed. It’s still pursuit of popularity and attractiveness as the measures of value, just with a slight shift in the details—now it’s texting instead of spinning that is a valuable skill. What is a princess, if not the epitome of popularity and attractiveness?

So, the article author has attempted to draw a contrast between “then” and “now”—and, by association, between “good” and “degenerate”—by citing someone that describes “now” as fundamentally the same as “then”.

The article author also dismisses the authority of the expert they choose—which makes me wonder why they cited her at all.

Then the article goes on to equate girls basing their self-worth around appearance and attractiveness with feminism. In addition to completely missing the point of feminism, I thought the usual conservative complaint against feminism was that feminists no longer cared what men thought?

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised—the author obviously thinks that focusing your efforts on trying to hook a [metaphorical] prince is somehow the antithesis of being concerned about one’s attractiveness to men.

I think there is one nugget of truth in the article: girls are less focused on marriage as a goal than they used to be, and this is because of feminism. But basing one’s self-worth on attractiveness is despite, not because of, feminism. So, if you decry girls and young women being caught up in being “hot” and/or “cool”, you should be championing that radical notion that women are people, not sex objects, who should be valued for things in addition to their appeal. And, yes, once they realize that, some of them will choose not to get married. But, as a trade-off for some of them the brightest minds of our times, and bettering all of society—or just doing a job they love—I’d say we’re winning. Happily unmarried is certainly better than unhappily married.

Oh, for anyone who wants a semi-reputable article on the topic, check out the LA Times. Which still contains one disturbing thought: it claims that the problem isn’t that only little girls are interested in being princesses, but that that’s the only audience for Disney’s “fairy tale” movies. I suspect that, for the most part, it has always been true that only little girls want to be princesses. The bigger problem is: why can’t Disney be bothered to create a strong female protagonist, and then market it to both boys and girls? Or make a movie that has both male and female leads who are equally important to the story? Tangled actually came close, until it undermined Rapunzel’s lead status in the climax. And, outside of Disney, why is it ok to expect both little boys and little girls to identify with a male protagonist, but inconceivable [yes, i know what that word means] to expect both little boys and little girls to identify with a female protagonist?

One final thought: the content is unabashedly pro-Christian, they make no secret of their stance, and they address a lot more than just family-friendliness—and even have short call-outs for not-at-all-entertainment-related news items that they believe of interest to Christians (albeit only anti-government, anti-socialist, anti-science, anti-equality, traditionalist Christians). So why is it the “family guide”, not the “Christian guide”? They’re not gonna trick anybody who isn’t a fairly conservative breed of Christian into giving their views any credence. And they’re not in any other way hiding their Christian bias. Is it just an attempt to co-opt the notion of “pro-family” as being predicated on a conservative Christian belief system? I’m betting that, in addition to all the non-Christians, there are plenty of less-conservative Christians out there who might disagree.

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One comment on “Conflicted and Confused About Disney Values

  1. guy s says:

    You rock :-)

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