The Evolution of Disney's Fairy Tales
Do you want to build a snowman?
That lyric has been running through my mind all day, nay, all week at this point. But I actually don't mind.
I'm so impressed with Disney's Frozen and its message, that it has led me to really think long and hard about all the other fairy tale movies I grew up on and do some picking apart of the classics.
Until I re-watched Peter Pan a few months back, I thought of it fondly. The lost boys singing we're following the leader, Peter, Wendy and her brothers flying about, justice aka a crocodile prevailing over the bad Captain Hook. Watching it through adult eyes in 2014 however, it has left a very bad taste in my mouth.
First of all, the treatment of Native Americans, while not outright racist, certainly is bigoted. Lyrics using terms like "Red man" and a horrible slang for Indian seem absolutely benign to a 3-year-old watching but certainly not to an adult. Native Americans or First Nations, as they are called in Canada, should not be portrayed as savages by Disney or anyone else.
Then there's the misogynistic aspects of the story. Tinker Bell and the mermaids try to kill Wendy because Peter Pan is showing her attention. Does he mind? Not so much...he seems to revel in the cat fighting.
Pan believes women are there to serve him. He's a man child. He desperately needs to grow up and learn that women are not his subordinates.
Let's talk Sleeping Beauty. I would argue it has the most wonderful music of any Disney cartoon. Haunting and beautiful. I always thought it exemplified the damsel in distress who is rescued by her handsome prince. Then I watched it as an adult. Boy was I wrong.
Turns out the fairy god mothers are actually the ones who save the day. Girl power! I just wish that as a youngster I realized this.
Sure the prince is Aurora's true love. But that's about all he's good for. Maleficent locks him up in a dungeon and the fairies rescue him. Then they give him a shield and sword and help him navigate a forest of thorns that the evil one's thrown up. Most importantly, it's the fairy's spell that sends the sword into Maleficent (the dragon) and kills her. Prince Phillip hasn't anything to do with it.
Moral of that story: a mom figure will always be there for you, even when a man steals your heart.
Now we get back to Frozen. Disney's newest fairy tale sends such a wonderful message to young girls. SPOILER ALERT: Sure, at the beginning we think Anna is going to marry a prince she's just met that day. But soon we realize that true love from a man won't save your life. It's the love of your family that will.
It's such a positive, empowering message. One that is so important to instill in children from a young age. So kudos to Disney for redeeming itself with this wonderful film.
Let's hope there will only be more films like this and the misogynistic, racist ways of Peter Pan will be left in Neverland. Then we'll all live happily ever after.
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