There is one more harmful idea, actively promoted by Disney. It is discreditation and devaluation of parenthood. The way Disney actually treats parent-child relationship is quite different from its promoted superficial image of a “family oriented” company.
Let us see how the theme of parents is developed in 27 random, but more or less equally famous Disney products.
Absolutely positive parent images
Sleeping beauty (1959) (+)
There are positive images of mother and father, though they scarcely play any part in the story. Besides, we see three fairies, who replace mother for the princess – they take care of her selflessly until the spell is broken. The happy end is ensured thanks to their parent-like care.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) (+)
A couple of Dalmatian spouses represent a positive example of parents. They give birth to 15 puppies but later, as the story unfolds, they get even more children – the dogs save 84 puppies from death and adopt them. Mother and father characters behave as caring and selfless parents towards all the children characters.
Hercules (1997) (+)
Hercules, the main character, has two couples of parents: mortals and actual ones – the gods Zeus and Hera. All of them are alive from the beginning till the end. Hercules shows deep respect for both human and Olympian parents.
Mulan (1998) (+)
Here we see many positive parent images: both of the main heroine’s parents, grandmother, the spirits of family ancestors, who take care of their descendants and preserve their well-being. The main reason why the whole story takes place is Mulan’s respect for her parents: she decides to go to war, because her elderly father has already been through one and she wants to replace him.
Inside Out (2015) (+)
In this movie the main heroine’s parents represent positive images of a mother and a father who take care of their daughter. From the beginning till the end the whole story shows us the importance of family and the way its members care about each other.
Mixed parent images, including both positive and negative traits
Cinderella (1950) (-/+)
The main heroine, Cinderella, is an orphan. Prince’s father is an unbalanced man, who seems silly and can hardly control one’s anger. Nevertheless it is stressed that he cares about his son and his family happiness. The King dreams of having grandchildren and is eager to end royal family solitude. Prince’s mother is not mentioned.
Peter Pan (1953) (+/-)
Mothers: the main heroine’s mother is a positive character, though we see her only for few minutes in the beginning and in the end of the movie. The main heroine loves her mother very much and goes to the island of Never Land to become a mother of the Lost Boys and take care of them. Among the songs, there is one devoted to a mother who is the closest and the dearest of all the people.
Fathers: there is a negative image of a father. Here the father is shown as an unbalanced and silly man, whose worldview is criticized even by the plot itself: he doesn’t believe in the existence of Peter Pan, who appears in his children’s life and changes it dramatically.
The Lion King (1994) (-/+)
Mothers: a mother’s image is positive – Simba’s mother is a noble, responsible and thoughtful lioness. She is alive from the beginning till the end of the story.
Fathers: Simba’s father dies tragically.
In the end of the movie Simba and his wife become parents.
Tarzan (1999) (-/+)
Tarzan’s real parents die in the first five minutes of the story. The boy is adopted by a gorilla. The image of a mother, presented in the movie, is very rich and touching. Maybe it is the brightest and the most impressive mother image of all the mentioned in the article.
It is interesting and important to highlight the fact that for years Disney has had wonderful opportunities to create and release movies with amazing mother images, identical to Kala, but using human characters, still it is never done by the company. Of course, it is not just a coincidence.
The image of a father is connected with a conflict – he cannot accept his human child – this conflict is resolved only in the end of the story. The foster father dies, having named Tarzan the leader of the troop.
Finding Nemo (2003) (+/-)
Nemo’s mother dies tragically on the third minute of the story. The main message of the movie is not positive: changing Nemo’s father, Marline, which not only is done for the sake of Nemo, but also is initiated by him. The image of a father, who depends on his son’s will, is an allusion to the kind of “child protection” system, which promotes destruction of natural parent-child hierarchy. In this kind of CP system it is supposed that children’s will and actions should dominate those of their parents, so that kids, whose resources like intelligence and understanding of life are not that rich, get control over their mothers and fathers.
Still in Finding Nemo cartoon the general harmful idea is softened: 1) Nemo needs to work on himself very seriously in the dangerous situation, that he has created and that makes his father change 2) in the end we see a convincing depiction of improved relationship of father and son after their happy reunion.
Negative images of parenthood
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (-)
There are no fathers in the story. The position of a mother figure is taken by a wicked Queen, who wants to kill the main heroine, because she envies her beauty. The queen dies.
The Little Mermaid (1989) (-)
Mothers: There are none.
Fathers: The Prince doesn’t have a father. The main heroine is in conflict with her father and happiness is achieved thanks to her refusal to obey his will and stay within the limits he sets.
Beauty and the Beast (1991) (-)
Mothers: The main heroine, Belle, doesn’t have a mother. In the film such a trick as subliminal visual stimulus is used to show a mother, who has many children, as an ugly woman in contrast to Belle the Beautiful. Later the main heroine expresses her negative attitude towards her fiancé’s idea to have many children.
Fathers: Belle’s father is shown as a kind, but weak and pitiful man, that people make fun of.
Aladdin (1992) (-)
Mothers: There are none.
Fathers: The main heroine’s father is a pitiful, ridiculous man, who can be controlled easily. The heroine achieves success because she revolts against his will concerning her marriage.
The main male character is an orphan.
Pocahontas (1995) (-)
Mothers: It is mentioned that the main heroine’s mother is dead. She is replaced by a magic tree, which implicitly incites Pocahontas to risks and betrayal.
Fathers: Again, the heroine rejects her father’s will and it results in a happy ending.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) (-)
Mothers. The main heroine’s mother dies in the first minutes of the story.
Fathers: The heroine ignores her father’s will. Later he dies.
The main male character is an orphan.
Lilo & Stitch (2002) (-)
It is mentioned that the main heroine’s mother and father have died tragically. She is taken care of by her elder sister, who is on the verge of losing her right to raise Lilo. The elder sister, being a mother figure, depends on her younger sister, because it depends on Lilo’s comments (concerning her sister’s care) if they are going to be separated (the natural parent-child hierarchy is broken).
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) (-)
Mothers: There are no mothers in the movie and they are not even mentioned.
Fathers: Another happy ending takes place because the main heroine denies her father’s will regarding her marriage.
Ratatouille (2007) (-)
Mothers: Mothers aren’t present or mentioned.
Fathers: In the movie a confrontation between father and son is shown. The father of the main hero – the rat Remy – cannot understand his enthusiasm for cooking. Remy achieves success as he reject’s his father’s opinion. The father seems to be less sophisticated, than his son and in the end he conforms to the son’s world view. Remy doesn’t have a mother.
The main human character, Linguini, is an orphan.
Alice in Wonderland (2010) (-)
The main heroine’s father dies in the beginning of the story. She is conspicuously cold and disrespectful towards her mother. The story promotes the idea of rebelling against one’s mother – Alice experiences an adventure that proves it will be right to turn down the marriage proposal approved by her mother. Denying her mother’s will brings happiness to Alice.
Tangled (2010) (-)
Mothers: The main evil character – Mother Gothel – pretends to be the main heroine’s mother, so she behaves like a mother. The image of a mother is used as an evil one and the death of the mother figure is shown as an act of justice.
Fathers: There is no remarkable image of one.
The couple of Rapunzel’s real parents – the King and the Queen – is used to promote a child protection style idea, that a child should have perfect living conditions and perfect parents and that a child should aim at such a kind of life. Mother Gothel is a parent, cast aside by the daughter, as she fulfilled her duties not well enough from the child’s point of view.
The main male character is an orphan.
Brave (2012) (-)
Mothers: There is a confrontation between the main heroine – Merida – and her mother. Merida’s mother turns into a bear and is exposed to deadly dangers because of her daughter’s disobedience. This way the story shows a mother depending on one’s daughter: if a problem daughter doesn’t listen to her mother, it is not the child who gets problems and needs to change, it is the parent. In this story the main message, addressed to the child, is the following: if there is something wrong with your relationship with your mother, she needs to change herself and her decision, adjust to your behaviour and way of life. A child’s will dominates a parent’s will (= “child protection” ideology).
Fathers: Generally the main heroine’s father is shown as an agreeable man. He is strong, manly and has a good sense of humour. Nevertheless, when his wife turns into a bear, nothing is able to cool his hunting passion that verges on obsession. As a result he nearly kills his wife.
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) (-)
Mothers: The main heroes have no mothers and it isn’t mentioned, what has happened to them.
Fathers: It is mentioned that the main characters’ fathers are dead. One of the main sister-heroines has killed her father to gain power. It is highlighted, that the main character – Oscar Diggs – doesn’t want to be like his father, who was just a farmer. The main hero achieves his triumph thanks to this idea, among other things.
The main heroines’ – Elsa and Anna’s – father and mother are the reason of the basic tragedy in the story – they keep Elsa locked, as she possesses the magic power, that is both destructive and constructive. Eventually this results in a disaster, which is unintentionally caused by the girl in the kingdom. Mother and father, having put off the solution of the problem and made it even more complicated, are removed from the story: they die in a shipwreck. In order to get to a happy ending, Elsa needs to act according to her will which is oppositional to that of her parents – she needs to reveal her power. In fact, as Elsa’s mother and father create the main problem in the story, they are the villains in it.
In the story there is an underlying message that promotes the idea of rejecting a traditional family (death of Elsa and Anna’s parents, the fact that Hans and Anna’s and Kristoff and Anna’s unions are “not true”) and pushes images of alternative and homosexual families (Oaken’s family, the colony of trolls and such a couple as Elsa and Anna as an allusion to a homosexual “true love” union).
Maleficent (2014) (-)
Mothers: The princess’s mother dies. The fairies, who replace her, cannot take care of their stepdaughter. The Princess is “adopted” by a demonic character.
Fathers: The princess’s father plays the role of a villain in the story. He dies in a battle with the princess’s demonic stepmother. Moreover the princess helps her demonic mother to defeat her own father in this fight.
Besides in the movie there is an underlying idea of rejecting the traditional family (the brake-up of Maleficent and Stefan’s union, death of the royal family, the hint that Aurora and Prince Phillip’s love is “not true”) and a positive view on “alternative” homosexual families is promoted (Maleficent and Aurora’s union as 2-in-1 is an allusion to adoption by an untypical family + to a same-sex “true love” union).
Big Hero 6 (2014) (-)
It is mentioned that the main character’s father and mother died as he was 3. His guardian isn’t a significant parent figure, she even goes into a monologue about how little she understands about children. A father of one of the characters is a villain, who is arrested finally.
Cinderella (2015) (-)
Mothers: Cinderella’s mother dies tragically in the beginning of the story. It is mentioned that the Prince’s mother passed away some time ago.
Fathers: Cinderella and Prince’s fathers die during the story.
Prince achieves happiness because he refuses to live according to his father’s will. In the ending scene the newly-wed couple is standing in front of their parents’ funeral portraits.
Out of 27 randomly picked but popular Disney products:
- 5 support parenthood (a full family is shown, in which no parent dies, mutual support in a family is present, parents are devoted to their children and children – to parents);
- 5 are in between, as both positive and negative tendencies are mixed in them (one parent image is positive, the other is negative or one of the parents is dead etc.);
- 17 discredit and devalue parenthood in this or other way (death of parents is shown or mentioned, the main character achieves success as he denies his mother’s or father’s will, natural hierarchy is distorted and parents depend on their children’s will, parents play roles of villains etc)
To sum it all up, there are three times as many Disney products discrediting parenthood as family-oriented ones. This proportion is quite telling and it makes one consider the real quality of family information support that comes from Disney company, that is generally believed to be family-oriented.
The fact that the anti-parent policy of the company is intentional is best confirmed with characteristic, repeating and utterly harmful idea of confrontation between the main characters and their parents, as well as with the main heroes’ final success that is achieved because they refuse to obey their parents’ will – it is shown in 14 products out of 27 represented (denying one’s father’s will: Pocahontas, Oz the Great and Powerful, Frozen, Cinderella, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Aladdin, Peter Pan, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid; denying one’s mother’s / mother-like character’s will: Tangled, Brave, Alice in Wonderland).
Why is it necessary?
Constantly receiving such negative “codes of conduct” related to parents, the viewer gets accustomed to the idea that parenthood isn’t anything valuable, important or respected. Most of Disney characters’ parents: 1. are mentioned as dead; 2. die; 3. are dismissed. The heroes, cut out of the parent-child connection, experience something interesting, significant, captivating that ends in their triumph, true love, wealth, etc. As a result, regular portrayal of devalued parenthood and poetical, captivating orphanhood makes the viewers regard their parents, themselves as future parents and parenthood as a whole in a corresponding way: it’s better to be without parents, parents are something unnecessary, superfluous, something that must be dead / die / be denied – in absolute accordance with the policy, followed by Disney.
It is important, that devaluation of parenthood helps to impose the idea that a man is not connected with anyone as a successor. As a matter of fact, the popularization of eliminated parents cuts the historical basis from under one’s feet. Realization of the fact that being without parents is normal – that is what they suggest to the viewer. Nothing and no one precede a true and magnificent hero. No parents, no inherited experience, no traditions, no past.
Discreditation of parenthood and parent-child relations is a kind of awareness-increasing work that is done in order to promote the idea of atomized individuals and to weaken vertical family links: you are on your own, there was no one before, and there will be no one after you. Anti-parent propaganda helps to bring up people, whose worldview is the one of self-proclaimed orphans, who are loners with no predecessors or descendants. This is a stage of preparation for further manipulative actions concerning society – if a person doesn’t possess a tradition-involving worldview, based on respect to the past, on keeping one’s predecessors’ experience and passing it further, on attention and care of the people, thanks to whom one has been born and lives, such a person, pulled out of the family and clan, is likely to be enticed into something new, some “adventure” with no looking back (parents) or forward (one’s own children).
Translated by Alyona Karavaeva