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In Kids & Family

"Motherfest" is a monthly column about parenting in Milwaukee.

Motherfest: Are Disney films good or evil?


For most Americans, Disney films were as prevalent in our childhood as Lincoln Logs and trips to the doctor. It's the same way for kids today, and not only do they have the Disney films that their parents grew up with -- classics like "Bambi," "Snow White" and "Alice in Wonderland" -- but they have more-modern movies like "Finding Nemo," "Chicken Little" and "Lilo And Stitch."

Disney films, like most classic fairy tales, have always dipped into the dark side, with themes like death and evil stepmothers commonly being a part of the story. Although unconfirmed, some believe it's because Walt Disney was unresolved with his own childhood -- particularly the fact he wasn't raised by his biological parents.

New-school Disney flicks sometimes have questionable language. Even films with a "G" rating use the word "stupid" or "idiot" which frustrates and confuses many parents who believe a "general audience" rating should eliminate mature plots and language. However, many young kids are exposed to programs like "Jimmy Neutron" and "Fairly Odd Parents," and so they are used to action-packed visuals and pre-teen plotlines. Hence, Disney is just trying to compete.

Menomonee Falls' Nan Galica, who is the mother of a 2-year-old, overall enjoys Disney films and feels comfortable having her daughter watch them. She does, however, question some of the dialogue.

"Even in 'A Bug's Life' there are phrases I wish I could omit, like 'die, die, die' when the little bugs are putting on a skit. We have enough of that in this world. I don't want to expose that to my daughter sooner than I have to," she says.

The depiction of certain races is another concern for some parents. Marianne Miro has a Guatemalan-born child, and she wonders what kind of messages some Disney films might send to him.

"I was watching 'Peter Pan' the other night for the first time in many years and I was appalled at the portrayal of Native Americans. How will I explain that one to my Mayan son?" asks Miro.

Both of the sexes are stereotyped in Disney films, although in all fairness, this is not a Disney-specific issue. Enforced gender roles still appear in much of children's programming, including "Dora the Explorer" and "Maya and Miguel."

Erin Moynihan, a Burlington mother with six kids, has many Disney films -- mostly because she enjoys the music -- but wonders about the gender stereotyping.

"I always looked at 'The Little Mermaid' movie as a movie with beautiful music, but with an odd message for girls: Sacrifice your voice for a man's affection. It seems strange to me," she says.

But not every parent has problems with yesteryear's Disney productions. For many people, Disney movies are the comfort food of childhood cinema, and they harbor nostalgic memories of their magical qualities, beautiful scores and fantastic imagery.

"I prefer the classics, like 'Peter Pan,' 'Cinderella,' '101 Dalmations' and 'Lady & The Tramp.' I think that the original Disney movies were wholesome, evil stepparents and all," says Heidi Schmidt of Muskego.

And although some of the new Disney films use harsh words and feature storylines that aren't always age-appropriate, this summer's "Cars" is surprisingly tame and compassionate in comparison.

"'Cars' is a great new movie -- no real evil guys, yet teaches a lesson about caring for others instead of yourself," says Galica.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Sept. 10, 2006 at 1:25 a.m. (report)

JW said: You guys are all morons and missing the point. Whoever in the article that said the little mermaid is about selling your voice for affection must be out of it. It is about being yourself, and being liked who you are, not trying to be liked for who you are. Should we not see pinocchio because they get swallowed by a whale, or see it because it teaches us about the importance of telling the truth? Also, I agree the song of the south is a little inappropriate, but that is the reason disney doesn't sell/advertise/distribute the movie. Doesn't this show Disney's interest for good? I challenge you to find a disney movie of popularity, and find any problem or inappropriateness in it. Email me at jay_penguin150@yahoo.com. And for those who are too scared to email me, pick up a book entitled "The Gospel According to Disney: Truth, Trust, and Pixie Dust". JW

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OMCreader | Sept. 8, 2006 at 2:57 p.m. (report)

Meg said: Song of the South IS a racist movie. While I doubt my comment will be replied to as it's been a while..... It was made before civil rights were a "big deal". It glorifies plantation life and slavery and how the slaves were an "amusement" to the owner's children. While the stories that Uncle Remus tells are valuable parables, the way the stories are presented and the story line around the presentations are very, very racist. For the record, I'm white. I've read the story-line and I've watched clips, and there's no way I'd allow my children to watch it (if it were avaliable) until they'd learned about the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. I think it could be a valuable tool in teaching OLDER children about the beliefs and attitudes of not only the days of King Cotton, but the days before the CRA. I think Disney made a good decision in not releasing it, seeing how many parents (even if they don't post here ;) ) just pop in any old Disney film as a babysitter seeing as "but it's DISNEY!!!!" Meg

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OMCreader | Aug. 22, 2006 at 8:18 a.m. (report)

Family Man said: Get Bent: Another problem with parents is the need to protect their child from movies like "Song of the South." When I was kid my parents MADE me watch Roots so that I could understand the degree that slavery and ultimately black people played in the building of this country. They aslo wanted me to understand the history of racism and hate, so I could recognize it as an adult. Song of the South hasn't been released on DVD and it is likely it never will because Disney doesn't want a lawsuit on its hands but it is ridiculous to assume that this movie is racist. It's even more ridiculous to over interpret a movie like this which is far less damaging than something like "Natural Born Killers" or, as I said beofre "Saw" would be on a child. I think it's more important to keep things in persepctive. Song of teh South is what it is: a movie that tells the tales of Briar Rabbit and Uncle Remus. Why would we want to let that part of our history die? Why can't people move beyond things like this and worry about REAL problems facing our kids... a president who refuses to realize that the war against terrorism is futile and we're wasting lives and money that could BOTH be better spent HERE, where it's really needed!

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OMCreader | Aug. 21, 2006 at 10:48 a.m. (report)

Defintion said: "Get Bent - a much more subtle way of saying f*** you or go to hell, but with all the impact." In fact the person posting on here under that name should probably take their own advice after reading all these comments.

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OMCreader | Aug. 21, 2006 at 10:14 a.m. (report)

GROW UP said: Yes, I agree Family Man. However, Get Bent I guess I missed the part where you were eloquent and not name calling..........

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