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

By Naychelle Lucas

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].