We’ve all grown up watching Disney and Pixar movies as kids, and singing along to Ariel’s ‘I Want More’ and ‘Under The Sea’. If you’re a girl, and a 90’s kid, you would have grown up swearing by the Disney princesses, and wanting to be everything like them. You would have dreamt of your Disney Prince coming to save you – the damsel in distress. As you grew up and became a 21st century adolescent/adult, the woman in you could probably no longer relate to these damsels in distress. Ariel left her entire world and completely altered who she is in order to live happily ever after with the human boy. Sleeping beauty and Snow White could only be saved by true love’s kiss. Whatever happened to consent? What were these chauvinistic fairy tales that inspired little girls only to be beautiful in hopes that one day a Prince would fall in love with them, so they could live happily ever after?
It often feels like that the writers of children’s stories back then did not think much of ways their stories and movies would impact children, or what sort of message they were spreading. For starters, love almost always trumped family life, why can’t you have both? Ariel had to leave her entire world behind to be with her prince. Secondly, enough with the damsels in distress already, how about some powerful women for role models? Then we had movies like Peter Pan and Aladin, which directly conveyed to us that running away with a stranger has no negative consequences and only good things can come out of it. Also, lying to our parents and disobeying them was no big deal.
Disney movies have taken quite a positive turn over time. The stories have been altered to be fitting for the children today, who are far smarter than we were at their age. Most of the latest Disney renditions have some great life lessons hidden in them, which is definitely an improvement, yet we’re not entirely there yet. The new movies portray the princesses as more individualistic characters; take Repunzel from Tangled and Ella from Ella Enchanted, both the characters shown here are feisty, adventurous and brave. However, the fact remains that a ‘happily ever after’ is still incomplete without finding a prince and true love.
Not only is the extreme focus on finding true love still a questionable topic in children’s movies, but so is the topic of disobedience. Example 1: In Brave Merida is shown as a strong little girl, who refuses to get married and goes to strike a deal with a witch, one that turns wrong. By the end the only way out of the deal for Merida was to swallow her pride, ego and mend her relationship with her mother. Example 2: In The Croods young Eep is another teenager who cannot abide by her father’s rules. She struggles to escape and meets a young lad who wins her family’s trust and leads them out of danger. Example 3: In How to Train Your Dragon Hiccup is a young lad who never fit in to his town’s ways of hunting and fighting dragons. By disobeying his father, he not only befriends a dragon but also changes the entire dynamic of his town for the better. All of these movies did carry a beautiful message and teach children to be themselves without hesitation. The movies might have their hearts in the right place, but somewhere, they also send a message that defying your parents will end well for you. Which is not always the case in the real world.
I’m not saying there aren’t some really great children’s movies out there. Inside Out and Up were two brilliantly written stories, and beautifully created animations. Cartoons and animated movies by now have grown to such an extent that they are no longer unrealistic fairy tales, but carry messages about love, life, friendship, family and much more. They are relatable not only to the children of today’s generation, but us adults as well. The only question is, that kids are highly impressionable beings at that tender age. Everything that they watch and hear impacts a certain part of their character and being. Then is the content that is fed to them being filtered sufficiently?
There is only so much that children learn at school and from their parents, and as the world digitalizes further, half their education comes from the television. It has become an integral part of development of any child today. Filtering everything around children would be rather difficult, but it shouldn’t be difficult to pay a little more attention to content that is specifically made for them. Of course, at the end of the day it still comes down to what message the parents help the child take from the movie.