I have to confess. I hate Disney and all that it stands for. Yup. Hate it. Loathe it. Abhor it. There. I said it. The responses I get from this statement usually go like this: “How dare you?!” (I can hear the gasps all the way from here.)
“Did you not want to be a princess when you were young?” Umm… nope. I actually didn’t. I wanted to be an astronaut, a pirate, and a detective. In that order. Even had star chart and a magnifying glass and all.
“Child, did you not watch the movies as a kid?” No, I read the books. Yeah. The ones by Brothers Grimm, mind you; and boy, are they a hoot! Makes you kind of wonder why even the abridged versions were in the kids section in the first place.
“Even Lion King?!” Well, maybe not Lion King. I mean, sure, the 7 year-old me was sobbing uncontrollably in the stampede scene but what possible lifelong damage can a little emotional trauma do to a kid anyway?
“Do you not believe in True Love?” Now this, this is a tough one.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is what Disney stands for; the first programmed construct a child, primarily a female, has of “true love.” Those young beady eyes get glued to the journey of self-doubt for the female protagonist, they follow the twirling patterns of song and dance within the movie and widen as the movie is sealed with a kiss. (This, coincidentally, is also the plot of most hit Bollywood movies tailored to adult taste, but more on that next time.) Each Disney movie has the same basic pattern, and the same basic audience. Young kids — mostly girls — are constantly conditioned to believe that true love is awaiting them if they become pretty little princesses who will be swept away by the handsome prince and live happily ever after.
What bothers me, genuinely, is that the portrayal of Disney’s true love is flawed beyond reason. The fairy tale concept is precariously balanced on the existence of a damsel in distress and her savior toward whom she will forever be in debt. Forgetting the parents/guardians who protected her, overlooking the loyal friends who helped her, it is the cheeky necrophilic stalker prince (in most cases) who becomes her savior. Does that not come across as weird to anyone else but me?
The whole notion of love at first sight has to be one of the most misguided lessons you could teach a 6 year-old girl. Tell her that it doesn’t matter what she is capable of, it doesn’t matter what she wants to become, but what matters is how she looks like. Now for some absurd reason, most people feel perfectly comfortable inculcating these highly questionable values in their young girls.
Although the cynical adult in me may not believe in the frayed concept of Disney’s true love, but it has seen the existence of unconditional love. Yes, true love does exist; in the twinkling eyes of your mother, the proud smile of your father, the toothy grin of your grandmother. It even exists in the laughter of your siblings, the beach trips with your friends and in the springy steps of your toddler running directly towards you. Correct me if I am wrong, but it does not exist in the chapped lips of a creepy prince kissing a comatose princess, Disney or otherwise.
I honestly wish that millions of little girls everywhere didn’t watch these terrible princess movies. I wish that their ideals were less miserable confined women who have no character nor strength. But thankfully it seems as if finally someone at Disney went on a soul searching journey and decided to turn the wretched formula on its head, producing Frozen and Maleficent. I must admit that it feels good to know that you weren’t the only one who saw the gaping hole in the true love concept.
I won’t lie, the only reason I saw these movies were my darling nieces who told me in their squeaky voices that “Frozen was the best movie EVER!” Umm… okay child, I’ll watch it; let’s all calm down because that’s what you said after watching Tangled. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the ending and a small part of me finally started to warm up to the newly hired directors at Disney. But what really pushed me to pen down these thoughts was Maleficent. The character itself was the epitome of strength and femininity. The perfect balance between power and emotion. Someone so starkly different than conventional Disney princess that many young girls may not have realized that what they were in fact observing a queen in the making who valued loyalty and yet truly did love that annoying little beastie.
It’s the sudden alteration in the definition of true love by Disney that gives me a momentarily glimpse of hope for the future. Don’t worry — I still am not the number one Disney fan, but maybe I hate it a tiny bit less now. I do hope that there are many blockbuster movies that slowly rework the concept of true love for little girls everywhere to become lovely characters of strength rather than objects of superficial affection and manage to correctly redefine true love in its entirety.