We have all heard the negative comments about Disney. The princesses have unrealistic waists, the princesses are damsels in distress, they aren’t positive role models, there is a lack of diversity etc…. While some of those are on point, like the small waist comment (see picture below comparing real and fake waist sizes on Disney princesses), there is also some valuable life lessons that Disney has taught me. I guess like all things it depends on how you decide to view it. So let’s focus on the positive shall we?
Let’s start with Pocahontas. This Disney movie has taught me multiple things. First is a respect for nature. While I was really young, when I first watched the movie Pocahontas, I remember loving the nature, the animals, and the song “Colours of the Wind” is still one of my absolute favourites. I feel that the movie succeeded in showing how nature is a living thing that needs to be respected. Who doesn’t love the mother willow?
Looking at the movie in an adult perspective, keep in mind I haven’t seen this movie in ages, I feel that while it does show a stereotypical portrayal of Native American/First nations, you are introduced to a new culture and some parts as I recall were on point. The “white/European” people are also portrayed stereotypical, but also have some things on point. I mean that character Governor Radcliff (see image) is like a caricature of the rich white man in previous centuries living the life while so many others are suffering and starving in Europe. There is still a similar problem today with the world’s richest 8 people owning more wealth as the poorest 50% https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/16/worlds-eight-richest-people-have-same-wealth-as-poorest-50 .
Both these portrayals make me think that nothing is black or white and that both sides have their good and bad qualities. While “white/European” people were in the wrong, some First nations people were also in the wrong. Vice versa, some “white/European” people were doing some things right, while first Nations people were also doing things right. Both sides might disagree on what is “right” but at both times both these sides were doing what was right according to them. In short, it’s all about viewing both perspectives and seeing the motive behind both side’s view points and actions. In the movie, I recall that we saw the culture albeit somewhat stereotypical of the first nations people as well as the culture, again somewhat stereotypical of the white European people. It’s a good starting place to see that there is always two sides to the story. It’s also a good starting point to start thinking of what is “right” what is “wrong” and the effects are actions can have. Pretty deep stuff when you think about it. Though as a child the main thing is that you learn a bit about a new culture, again I know that some of the representation is again stereotypical but as a child all you think is wow this is really cool. It’s a starting point to learn about the past, the real historical facts, you learn about a strong role model like Pocahontas and about the importance of nature. All in all many positive messages.
To end the things I learned from Pocahontas here is this quote I love! “When you walk the footsteps of a stranger you will learn things you never knew you never knew.” (Colours of the Wind, Pocahontas)
(As to not make this post too long here is a brief overview of some other movies. I might make individual post similar to the Why Moana is pretty great for more Disney Movies in the future.)
Tarzan: Respecting animals, respecting people who are different than you. Learning to love people for their differences. Not changing someone to be more like you but embracing the unique person they are.
Lilo and stich: “O’hana means family, Family mean no one gets left behind.” Hawaiian culture (I loved gettin a glimpse of it!). There is good in us all, even creatures made for destruction.
Beauty and the beast: Everyone has the power for good, even the beast. Patience pays off. Kindness has the power to do amazing things.
Mulan: Be who you want to be. Girls are strong. Mushuu is hilarious, Though that’s not really a lesson. Sometimes girl’s roles need to be redefined. Everyone has the power to do great things. I also loved seeing a bit of Chinese culture. As you can see this is a reoccurring theme. I love learning about different peoples beliefs, religions, cultures etc.
So, here is small list of some things Disney has taught me. There is so many more I could write. for example the little mermaid and the lesson of following your dreams or Peter Pan and the lesson of having to grow up. While Disney as mentioned above has some things to be criticized for, they have also started trying to diversify their image. Maybe it’s a marketing tool to side with the high demand for diversity or it or maybe the company has realized the benefits or showing some diversity and more relatable role models. Whatever the reason, I am liking some of the messages I see coming out; for example, the #DreamBigPrincess campaign that encourages girls to dream big and not stick to the traditional girl job models (staying at home, not allowed in engineering or science etc.. see image below promoting the project). They partnered with GirlUp a UN initiative and every tweet or retweet people made, Disney would donate 1$ to Girl Up. By the end they reached their 1 million dollar goal!
In short Disney has a lot of influence as one of the major world companies and I like how they are starting to support some positive messages. Remembering to look at the positive side of things can reveal some interesting things and I think all in all Disney movies can demonstrate some positive messages that can be valuable for all ages.
Until next time, think positive, spread kindness and be part of a PoweredCrowd!
*** Little note. While listening to a music playlist of Disney songs I came upon this song. It’s not Disney but Dreamworks, either way I just love this song it’s pretty amazing!!! Give it a lesson it is so inspiring to me, anything is possible when you believe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gur8ccqrQ9c (When you believe – Prince of Egypt )