It is crazy to think movies are the same age as me or you. This year is the twenty year anniversary of the Disney movie, The Lion King(1994), which I happened to watch last night. Until i re-watached it last night for the first time since my childhood I did not realize how controversial the movie actually is. It is a very blunt lesson about moving on and learning about death but the writers go about it in a bad way.
Simba physically sees that his dad(Mufasa) passed away and then Scar tells him it was his fault. He then has all this guilt on him until the end of the movie when he finally finds out that Scar actually murdered his father by throwing him into the stampede. Is this teaching children to blame themselves for death of a loved one or to get revenge? Either way it is not a good lesson to be learning at a young age because children don’t know any better.
Growing up in the Disney culture or Disney renaissance means you were born between 1989-1999 which a lot of us in college were. Disney created a way to demonstrate life lessons to children through media and music in their films. Their films involved romances, fairytales, friendships, and power, but also increased the separation of gender roles. Along with sexism, there was racism and violence involved with almost every movie that was released. Of course these problems were only underlying messages in the movies so only certain people paying attention caught on it.
Movies such as The Little Mermaid(1989) and Beauty and the Beast(1991) started the trend of sending bad messages to little girls. These movies really show how submissive girls are to men and by the end of the movies they both give up everything for the male character. (Spoiler Alert) Also most of the Disney movies show the viewers that there is such thing as love at first sight and you can fall in love and get married to someone within 5 minutes of meeting them. If that happened in reality it would cause chaos and commotion.
All Disney movies try to hold this “happily ever after” feel and do whatever they can to go from the worst and saddest cases to the happiest ending. The writers really know how to pull at your heart strings and even though it is sometimes portrayed in an animals life, it can be so relatable to everyone.
According to an article written by Leah Pickett, Disney really does shape gender roles and the way we think. She tells us that we now look at these movies to compare and contrast our lives and relationships. It makes us have high expectations about having a boyfriend or girlfriend, but that isn’t how it really should be.
These characters teach children how they should act and respond to the issues of violence, sexism, and love that we encounter. According to some research, Tarzan(1999) can be seen as racist along with Lady and the Tramp(1955) in certain scenes.
Recently the movie Frozen came to theaters and did a really great job teaching the viewers that girls can also be powerful in society unlike a lot of the other previous Disney movies. In almost every movie that Disney has created, the parents have either passed away or were never present to begin with. This also is another harsh fact that we grew up with watching these movies. These movies have a cruel shock factor that makes them seem so real yet so imaginative. Are we benefiting from Disney movies as entertainment or are we actually learning unacceptable messages?