Monday, May 10, 2010
A Case For Disney, or: Belle Was a Badass.
If there is one subject that will get me the most impassioned, it is gender roles for children. And I think I've already stated my point of view pretty clearly over here. In short, I think dumping pink and frills and dolls on little kids forces them into a lifetime of believing they need to be dainty.
But I would like to make a case for Disney.
In college I had this one evil professor. She was the kind of woman who smiled when she said really mean things. "If you're late to class, I will have you expelled and enjoy doing it. *Smile*" I HATE YOU. I HATE YOU. She was also obnoxiously Liberal. Despite the fact that I probably agreed with most of the things she said, it was the WAY that she said it that really made me want to punch her in the face. If she had said "bunny rabbits are cute and we should all pet them." I STILL would have wanted to claw at her.
So one day we watched a movie about how Disney is ruining children and making them believe all the wrong things and turning girls into prince-seeking drones. They showed clips of interviews with kids saying stuff like "I like Belle because she takes care of the Beast and then they get married and she's pretty."
Am I the ONLY one in the world who always took away that Belle was a badass?
Let's look at the facts here.
1. Belle doesn't care what society thinks--she likes to read and will do it no matter how much water is tossed on her head from windows above.
2. Belle refuses to marry the hunky man who only wants her for her looks. He promises her a lifetime of security, children, and puppies. And she says no.
3. Belle takes it upon herself to go looking for her father when he goes missing with no one but good ol' skittish Phillipe to help her.
4. Belle selflessly sacrifices herself for her father whom she loves.
5. Belle refuses to do what the Beast commands her to do. She will not be ordered around.
6. Belle's favorite room in the entire castle is the library.
7. Yes, Belle is rescued by the Beast. Because she is hunted by a pack of wolves, and the Beast is enormous. But who lifts the Beast all the way up onto a CLYDESDALE? Oh that's right, badass Belle. And even when she's tending to his wounds, she yells at him for being a jerk to her.
8. Belle has a snowball fight with the Beast.
9. Belle does teach manners and looks hot in a gown and can ballroom dance. So yeah, she's pretty. And she's a woman. But the Beast is already in love with her WAY before she gets dolled up. He loves her when she's still spunky.
10. Belle says she loves the Beast BEFORE she knows that he's handsome and rich and young and looks like George of the Jungle. These are just happy side effects which create a happy ending which is what everyone wants. I implore you to find a children's story from this century that DOESN'T end happily.
But this professor just smiled her evil smile and told us that if we tried to defend Disney, it was only because we grew up with it, and don't want to believe that those movies were actually bad.
Okay...OR maybe I was just a smart kid who had a brain? I don't know. One or the other. She also argued for racism in Pocahontas because there's some song in the beginning where the English sailors are talking about taking land from the Native Americans or something. And when every girl in the class argued that none of us even REMEMBERED that song, but could still sing "Colors of The Wind" by heart and in two-part harmony, she just smiled her evil smile and said we were clearly just getting upset because we didn't want our precious Disney movies smeared.
-Jasmine's waistline is disgusting and hurtful toward women's body issues.
-The fact that Prince Eric need not hear a word Ariel says in order to love her is sickening.
-Why every Disney movie needs to end in love and marriage is beyond me. These movies are supposed to be for kids. They'll be pressured into marriage enough in their twenties. And it's very possible that movies like these are why I have always believed that marriage is an important part of my future.
-Mulan's captain thought she was a boy for 99% of the movie. When he found out she was a girl, he immediately fell in love. Um...what?
-I doubt that Aladdin did anything to help racial stereotypes by Americans toward those from the Middle East. I mean, come on. Is the penalty for stealing really cutting off a girl's hand right then and there? Really?
I'm not saying that Disney movies are all perfect. There's plenty of things to improve--and frankly, plenty of things that have been improved. With Pixar involved, things changed a ton. And they tried their darn-tootenest with the Princess and the Frog (I haven't seen it, so I can't say anything one way or the other.) But what I ask for is to please give Disney--and kids--a little credit. Just because the movie ended happily doesn't mean there weren't plenty of things in the middle there that we noticed and appreciated.