Massachusetts Daily Collegian

I Survived A Disney Movie: The argument against the harsh criticisms of Disney.

By Naychelle Lucas

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If there is a reoccurring theme at the University of Massachusetts it’s that alcohol and drugs can ruin your life. Recently, however, I saw a film that suggested I add another item to the list: Disney movies. Despite the movie’s assertions, I am living proof that Disney flicks do not ruin your life.

Dragging my feet into my Tuesday/Thursday Media Criticism class, I exhaled a sigh of relief after my professor announced we would be watching a film. With a little more pep in my step I got into my seat and crossed my legs into the perfect movie watching position as the professor turned off the lights and pressed play. The familiar image of Mickey Mouse’s ears appeared on the screen, which immediately piqued my interest and made me sit a little straighter. Then the bomb dropped, we would be watching the documentary, “Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, and Corporate Power.” My eyes opened wider than Bambi stuck staring into a hunter’s headlights. “Could this be,” I thought to myself, “a movie criticizing Disney? What wrong-doing could they possibly find in my favorite magical mouse?” For the next 52 minutes, the answer played out in front of me.

I was appalled. I couldn’t believe these so-called experts and professionals were persecuting my favorite childhood characters. I will be the first to admit that some of the earlier Disney movies leave a lot to be desired when it comes to their representations of minorities and women. However, could “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and The Beast” really be considered dangerous? I don’t know about you, but the monster that lived under my bed as a child wasn’t Ariel.

I voiced my irritation with this to my friends at dinner that night and soon found out that I was not alone.  It turns out that most of them had already been subjected to Mickey Mouse Monopoly. From the communications to the women’s studies department, the word was quickly getting around at UMass- the innocence that is Disney is not so innocent and should not be trusted. Since sophomore year I’ve seen the movie on two other occasions here at UMass, but I’m still not convinced.  If I see it 100 more times before I graduate, I still won’t be convinced.

At seven-years-old, trying to rip me away from watching Bambi was like trying to solve our country’s current economic crisis. I would watch Thumper and Bambi slide across the frozen forest pond for hours if my parents let me. Aladdin, Jasmine, Simba, Pocahontas and Belle were as much apart of my childhood as my actual friends. To this day the instrumental sound of “When You Wish Upon a Star” along with the image of a star shooting behind the backdrop of Cinderella’s castle can make me drop what I’m doing and pay my full attention to the TV. And if you start singing “I wanna be a mighty king like no one was before,” I dare you to stop me from repeating the song line for line. Like so many people I know, Disney was and is still such a meaningful part of life. That is why I ask, how could the memory of clutching my plush squeaky Flounder toy during bedtime or getting Minnie’s autograph at Magic Kingdom be bad? I’m a well-adjusted 20-year-old woman with healthy and productive relationships in my life. Isn’t that proof? How does watching Aladdin and Jasmine take a magic carpet ride influence little girls into becoming hyper-sexualized subservient victims. We should be evaluating where our values and perceptions of the world come from, but should we be blaming Disney for people’s negative views of minorities? That seems a bit little more than ridiculous.

When the film first came out, my younger sister and I took my five-year-old niece to see the newest Disney Movie, “The Princess and The Frog.” The movie features Disney’s first black princess, Princess Tiana, on her journey to fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning her own restaurant. Sitting in the dark theater watching the movie and my nieces reactions to it, I found myself having a different experience than I have ever had watching a Disney movie. I felt happy, but I also felt proud. I was ecstatic knowing that my niece would be able to have a role model like Princess Tiana, and I felt extremely proud that I was able to share this experience with her and give to her what Disney gave to me. Disney gave me a motto, Hakuna Matata: it means “no worries [for the rest of your days].” Furthermore, Disney gave me the wisdom to know when you wish upon a star your dreams really do come true.

Naychelle Lucas is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

13 Comments

13 Responses to “I Survived A Disney Movie: The argument against the harsh criticisms of Disney.”

  1. Someone on October 5th, 2010 1:41 am

    Are you stupid? Peaked is used wrong in that sentence, its piqued…

  2. Anonymouse on October 5th, 2010 7:53 am

    Yours is such a simpleton’s view of the media empire of Disney. The movie raises a lot of important points. Childhood should not be co-opted by a money hungry corporation. You seem completely brainwashed when you say “I dare you to stop me from repeating the song line for line.” Has the movie not done its job in making you not forget to buy your “plush squeaky flounder toy” or go all the way to Disney World and pay their hefty fee to get your precious “autograph at magic kingdom”?

  3. Naychelle Lucas on October 5th, 2010 8:18 am

    I didn’t put that in there, the editors did, but I appreciate your “constructive” criticism. Anything to say about the CONTENT of the piece?

  4. Just Margaret on October 5th, 2010 8:30 am

    Though I’d like to, I have not yet seen the documentary that you reference in this piece. I don’t know the positions postulated in the film, but I am aware of general Disney criticism. I myself am a harsh critic of the Disney empire at large.

    I’m heartened to hear that you feel that the Disney franchise has not negatively impacted you. But I see that as more of an illustration that the societal saturation of the “Disney-as-wholesome” meme has been a success, rather than one that points to “No Harm, No Foul” on the part of the House of Mouse.

    The fact that you don’t feel that the underlying themes & messages of Disney films (and by extension, the entire Disney enterprise) have negatively impacted *you*, is not a argument that adequately dismisses the relevant criticism of the “Princess” institution.

    The Disney message to young girls is clear: Be pretty, be pleasant, be smart–but not too smart–and do whatever you can to make a big strong man fall in love and protect you.

  5. Jennifer on October 5th, 2010 9:05 am

    For me, Disney can do no wrong. However I would like to have heard what were some of the arguements in that “Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, and Corporate Power” documentary. What were some of the specific points they were making about the characters? Or was it just about the company? Just curious.

  6. A. on October 5th, 2010 10:46 am

    Yes, Disney can be seen as a magical enterprise that has entertained children for decades. However, the numerous problems with the company and the messages the movies send, especially in today’s society, are really why people really don’t like Disney. In how many Disney movies is the female character passive and stupid, often falling into a trap of waiting for someone to come rescue her? Why has it taken Disney SO LONG to have an African-American princess among the numerous white ones? This is besides the political and social views of Walt Disney and today’s Disney corporation. It is okay to like Disney, but saying that there aren’t any problems with it is simply not looking at the entire picture.

  7. Naychelle Lucas on October 5th, 2010 1:33 pm

    Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their comments. I appreciate and encourage the feedback and participation.

    As I point out briefly in my article, I am not by any means saying that I do not recognize the MANY negative aspects of the Disney Corporation and the empire as a whole. I believe “Micky Mouse Monopoly” is a well made, well researched and substantial documentary. However, I do not agree with completely condemning Disney. I, like many others, find that if an individual is intelligent and well rounded enough to recognize the negative aspects of Disney he or she can also enjoy and revere it. As for it’s impact on children, I believe instead of parents and educators eliminating Disney all together, it can be used as entertainment as well as a learning tool and bridge for discussion.

  8. Lauren on October 5th, 2010 1:58 pm

    The fact that you and I both felt this extreme reaction to the “villainization” of DisneyCo is proof of the emotional manipulation that this damn corporation has over us. Obviously you’re going to feel defensive of your childhood friends, because they’ve been there since you were a child. They are childhood for the majority of American children. But that is their doing, not the natural order of things. They’re not going to change their messages if we keep defending them, and they know this. The fact that they have so much power over us is problematic. We may be well-adjusted women, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t live in a society where sexism and racism are still present and being taught to children in these innocent films.

    I hate Disney the corporation, but I love the movies and the characters, and I hate them even more for making me love them.

  9. PP on October 7th, 2010 4:13 pm

    Of course Disney can’t shouldn’t get the brunt of the blame for merely depicting values that have been passed on through generations by various means. Disney animations are just a few, small parts of our culture that come to bear on how we view the roles of women and men, and how (or whether or not) we see minorities.

  10. Sylvia on March 9th, 2011 2:28 pm

    Well first of all I would like to say I am a woman into my forties and I have a son, and when he was younger I took him to the Theatre to watch Disney Movies and he enjoyed them and I along with him. I realized a lot of the classic Disney movies were made decades ago when racism was still pretty strong and that is not Disney fault. They had no control over what the world was like back then. I’m just thankful that they have come up with the Black Princess Movie which I have also enjoyed and I hope that there will be other black princess movies in the near future for even at my age I still love disney very much and I know of aquaintances in my age group who are mentally healthy adults and they also love Disney very much.

  11. Stephanie on February 4th, 2013 10:33 am

    I feel as if all of those who harshly criticize Disney are the ones who are mentally unstable. So many people criticize Disney, but no other animated film company. Why? Because Disney is the biggest animated corporation and therefore is in the spotlight for radical criticism. It’s a business, their goals are obviously going to attract more customers and make a profit- like any other business. To say that Disney has a negative impact on a child’s development is also ridiculous. All of these so-called “studies” show little to no true impact of the films and those that do are extremely biased. Disney makes children and adults happy in innocent fun. There are just so many crazy people who take their criticisms to extremes and disregard that most of the Disney animated films are adaptations of classic stories, and most are coherent to the time period in which they were written in. Disney reinforces basic morals that children can understand- at the end of the day, does the child really notice that the Aladdin speaks with an American accent, or would you rather tell a young girl that she is not a princess and take away a child’s happiness? The only people who can be blamed for a child being a “hyper-consumer” and having other psychological issues is the parents themselves. If a parent is not willing to instill basic morals, skills, etc., to a child- don’t blame the corporations they grew up with, blame the parents. Punish the parents, not the company. Also, I will drive myself down to Disney World and enjoy the parks along with my collection of Disney mugs, and plush toys. Why? Because they are happy memories from my childhood that I shared with my family and friends. If anything- Disney has opened more doors for me than any other corporation and has taught me the most life lessons comparatively to any other business.

  12. Andrea on April 26th, 2013 6:49 pm

    As a high schooler nearing graduation, I can safely say that Disney has had nothing but a positive impact on me. I understand the criticisms and concerns pointed out in the movie and agree that it could have impact on some children’s mentalities about what people should look like or do, even if that was never what I drew from the films. But I think it is unfair to talk about the negative, without talking about the positive. Disney did impact my life by teaching me the basic things that everyone should know. “Hakunna Matata” tops the list. But also among them is the most important thing that a child should learn. Follow your dreams. If you work hard enough, your dreams will come true. This, I believe is the most important thing that should be said to a child and Disney does a phenomenal job of getting that across as well as encorporating a variety of other life lessons.

  13. Willy on November 11th, 2015 4:20 pm

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