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Is it time to talk about Disney?

Thursday, 25 October 2018  | 

Is it time we talked about Disney?

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There has been a lot of media attention surrounding Disney this week since Keira Knightley publicly spoke out and said that she did not let her three year old daughter watch certain Disney Princess films. Kirsten Bell who was Princess Anna in Frozen also declared that when her children watch Snow White she raises the question of consent that the Prince kisses her whilst she is asleep.

Now, is this a world gone politically correct mad, or is there something to it?

The first thought that sprung to my mind as I glanced over to my sons’ DVD collection was that it was made up of 70% Disney films, are they really just innocent films based on fairy tales or should we be using them to start a conversation with the next generation?

The main films that are being criticized are the ones featuring Disney Princesses; Cinderella who is waiting around for a rich man to save her, The Little Mermaid who gives up everything for a man, Aladdin has racist undertones, Beauty and The Beast advocates domestic violence, and Sleeping Beauty and Snow White raise the questions of consent and female rivalry.

Now, I cannot deny that yes, you could say some of these themes are present in the films if you really look for them, but you could say that about a lot of things.

I mean Watership Down (not a Disney I know) is no picnic, and Bambi is about loosing a parent.

 If I look as a whole at what the boys watch on a daily basis (bonus points if you guess the program!)

  • Talking pigs and animals that in real life would clearly have eaten one another
  • A teenage boy and dogs running the emergency services with a bumbling female mayor
  • Teenagers fighting monsters in morph suits no sign of their parents or focus on their education
  • A dog childminder looking after animals that should clearly be bigger than him!
  • A young boy travelling around the world without his parents collecting small animals and keeping them in balls in his pockets!

You all know my thoughts on Topsy and Tim…

I agree young children need empowering influences that they can relate to, and TV and film are ways to do this and reach a wide audience and truly make a difference.

I believe that the fact we now have a female Dr Who is a great thing, and that producers are beginning to question lead characters and they aren’t just handed to a male now, bit also the inclusion of all ethnicities and genders.

The Disney Princess films for the most are based on fairy tales, and to me that’s what they are. They aren’t real, they have been made up as passed down throughout the years just like the three little pigs, Hansel and Gretel (I mean the origins of that are truly haunting!)

I have a close family friend whose little girl is obsessed with Disney Princesses, she has the dolls, the outfits, we play games of princesses. She adores pink, and sparkles and do you know what she is happy, so what’s the harm in her believing for just a short while that she could be a princess like Elsa or Cinderella? That same little girl also knows her mind, has an unlimited amount of confidence and has no problem in leading my unruly boys!

I distinctly remember having a conversation with Elijah when he was 3 perhaps, and he began to ask what was real, and what wasn’t. He knew that what he watched on the TV wasn’t real life. After making me play the pink Power Ranger for the umpteenth time I asked to be the red ranger, he said girls were not allowed to be the red ranger and we had an in-depth conversation about that yes they can.

We recently hired a book from the library called Girls Can Do Anything and it really helped start a conversation between us that a girl can do anything and does not have to just like pink and glitter! I am teaching him to be open when it comes to what genders can and cannot do and to me this is important.

Elijah has also been ‘wrestling’ a lot with his brother and friends and we have begun to talk about the importance of when someone’s doesn’t want be touched and they say ‘no’ to respect that.

Disney to me is kind of a rite of passage, even now I enjoy sitting watching a Disney film as it reminds me of my childhood.

But it is just a story, and you could say perhaps we could begin to question some of them but for a short while can’t we just let them enjoy their childhood? We force children to grow up so quickly now a days, can we not just let them enjoy a make belief film? Yes, by all means raise questions, encourage conversations and allow them to form their own opinions, judgements. It can be really easy as a parent to force our opinions on them rather than let them come to their own conclusions.

Even at age 4 Elijah seems so grown up, some de-censored to certain things and it makes me sad. I want to keep the magic alive for him for as long as I can, because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever and I think Disney does provide this.

I believe that yes, in this generation we do need to re define some issues, gender pay gap, job opportunities without gender stigma, a woman’s right to do what she wants to with her body, letting her have her birth choice, the judgement of stay at home mums, normalising breastfeeding and providing better mental health care to name a few but if I am honest will these issues fix themselves if we boycott Disney?

Will our children be such lost causes if they watch these films? Or as parents do we raise these issues when the time is right to have a conversation with our children and allow them the right to decide for themselves?

Vicki Cockerill is a Freelance Content Writer and NICU/CHD Mum to two boys, she authors The Honest Confessions Of A NICU Mum Blog and co-founded the @KnackeredandNorwich Social Club and campaigns for NICU and MMH issues. You can contact her via her blog or social media;

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