By Sarah Johnson |Staff Writer|
For most of us Generation Y-ers, Disney movies were typically what our parents popped into the VHS player for us to watch as children.
Fast forward to present Blu-ray days and watch “The Little Mermaid” (that is if you got it before they put it back “in the vault“) and see how you feel about all the sacrifices Ariel makes just for a man.
Ariel, princess, (of course) finds herself longing after a man she sees on a boat, then rescues and brings him onto land.
Singing to him on the beach “What would I give to live where you are/What would I pay to stay here beside you/What would I do to see you/Smiling at me?” she’s already willing to give anything to be “part of his world.”
This one minute of staring into Prince Eric’s shut eyes seems to instantly cause Ariel to fall in love, and boom, she’s hooked like a fish.
Ultimately Ariel decides that she needs to go to the sea witch, Ursula, to be turned into a human.
Ursula agrees to give Ariel legs in exchange for her voice.
Ariel, rightfully so, is alarmed at the thought of losing her voice and questions how she will speak to Prince Eric without words.
The sea witch goes on to sing, “You have your looks, your pretty face/And don’t underestimate the value of body language.”
Then continues in lyric about how men on land are not impressed with conversations and prefer a woman who holds her tongue.
The entire song implies that women only need their body to get a man, and what she has to say—thoughts, opinions, intelligence—will only bore and drive men away.
It’s alarming now as a quarter-century-year-old female watching these childhood favorites and seeing how Disney promotes such sexist and hegemonic concepts in children’s movies.
Hegemonic masculinity is a concept derived by sociologist R.W. Connell; it is a proposed practice that promotes the dominant social position of men and the subordinate social position of women.
Another great example of masculine hegemony is in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Beauty and the Beast” suggests to girls that if a man is angry, rough or violent, instead of running for the woods, she should stick around to teach the “beast” to be tender and kind.
Dr. Carolyn Newberger, child psychologist, stated this film teaches to “overlook the abuse, overlook the violence, there’s a tender prince lurking within and it’s your job to kiss that beast and bring the prince out.”
I can’t help but think of the mental effect these films have not only on both female and male children, but also on myself.
Dr. Justin Lewis, professor of Communication at Cardiff University, stated “The way the media influences the way we think is much less immediate and much less a sort of straight forward impact in the way we think.”
“After a while those images will begin to shape what we know and what we understand about the world. And that’s not an immediate kind of whiz-bang effect, that’s a slow accumulative effect and it’s much more subtle,” continued Lewis.
The sad fact is that Disney has been, and will continue to produce these films, over time brainwashing children into a certain set of ideas as how to view society and how to be a part of society.
Unfortunately there isn’t quite an exact way to “save” your children, or yourself, from this culture either.
Unless of course you wish to hide away from society or never allow your children out of the house.
With all the power that the Walt Disney Co. holds, I hope one day they’ll instead opt to educate children about the reality of the world they live in, omit the sexist gender roles, and take more pride in their films, rather than revel in the revenue.
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