I grew up with Disney movies. Loved them! I wanted to be friends with Alice so she could show me her Wonderland and fly on a carpet like Aladdin and Jasmine. When Bambi’s mother died I cried, and I laughed so hard with the silly seven dwarves. But most of all, I wanted to be like Peter Pan and never grow up. Disney is magic, and their movies keep on enchanting many children around the world. But lately appeared some studies and investigations, where therapists and pedagogues draw the conclusion Disney movies have a bad influence on children. How so?
Let’s take for example the little mermaid. It’s a story about a mermaid who wants to be human. There is nothing wrong with that, right? But she lies to her father, asks her friend (the crab) to lie to her father, who then goes crazy, bursts into rage and destroys her collection of ‘human things’. She makes a deal with Ursula, risking the lives of everyone in her kingdom, and without telling an adult where she is going. She is in love with Prince Eric, although she has never spoken to him. It’s pretty superficial, but hardly traumatic if you ask me.
There’s more. According to some crazy American scientists, if I have behavioural problems, it’s the fault of my favourite movie, Peter Pan. The three children fly with Peter to Neverland. They don’t ask questions, but just take off with a total stranger, again without warning an adult where they are going and with whom. Then there is Tinkerbell, the lovely little fairy with a super skinny waist, blond hair and a short dress that barely covers her bottom. Wendy on the other hand, is a good girl, with a traditional night gown and good manners. That’s why the mermaids (who sit all day on a rock combing their hair and being pretty) make fun of her. She’s different and definitely not cool.
But the biggest issue is racism. Peter is friends with the Indian Chief and his daughter Tiger Lily. They use the words ‘Squaw’ and ‘How’, and sing a song about how the redskins became red. They sing that a long time ago, a Native American became red after kissing a girl, therefore implying that they were originally white and ‘normal’. The Chief is by the way very uncivilized and savage, as he holds Michael and John hostage. Okay, first of all, remember that this movie was produced in 1953, a different era. And second, what is wrong with little boys having the time of their lives playing at Indians? With feathers on their heads and coloured stripes on their faces if they want to! Yes, it’s a stereotype and it might be untrue and offending to some, but that doesn’t mean they don’t respect other cultures or will develop racist ideas when they grow up.
Let’s continue with the sex. Some people accuse Disney of using hidden messages in their movies. Sex sells, that’s a fact. And now even Disney is said to use subliminal sexual images in their movies. In the little mermaid for example, Ariel lives in a castle of gold. And on the cover of the first video release, there was an odd structure on the castle wall, resembling a penis. The final scene is the wedding of Eric and Ariel, and if you look closely it appears that the bishop is having an erection. In the Lion King, there is a cloud of dust that forms the word ‘sex’ and a star shaped like a penis. In the flying carpet scene of Aladdin, there is a verbal hidden message saying ‘teenagers take off your clothes’. It’s only a whisper in a dialogue and almost inaudible but its there.
There is some good news though. According to a study by Sharon Hayes from the University of Florida, three year old girls who watch Disney movies do not worry more about their weight as do girls who watch Dora the Explorer. Thank god!
Am I going to forbid my children to watch The Lion King or Cinderella because of this? Hell no. I hope they will love the Disney movies just as much as I did when I was young. And to experience the magic to the fullest, why not spend a weekend in Disneyland Paris? Gather the whole family, rent the best apartments in Paris, and say hi to Peter Pan from me!