What Disney Has Made Us

Whether or not you grew up watching Disney films (you did), they are a vastly common form of pop culture for children. Disney has created a slew of famous movies with mostly female main characters. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was released in 1937 as Walt Disney’s first full length feature film. If you adjust for inflation, this film is one of the top performers in the North American box office ever. It stars a female, who is beautiful, graceful, and kind. She brings joy to those around her and makes friends easily. However, she is dependent on a prince showing up to save her life and carry her away to a brand new future.

It goes on from there. You’ve seen the movies. Currently, Disney and it’s acquired company Pixar keep spitting out hilarious, adorable cartoons year after year. These main characters are definitely much more opinionated and adventuresome than their precursors.

Of these royal Disney movies, the female has always been the lead character. We can list our Disney princesses much easier than the Disney princes. Still, it comes back to what kind of character Disney will give us. In 1937, would a movie about a bold, opinionated princess have grossed as much as Snow White did? Does Disney create characters that they 1) know, 2) think that the public wants, 3) think that the public represents, or  4) think that the public needs?

There are a few lessons that Disney films have given me that I find ridiculous. The first is a common idea today: Disney gave me unrealistic expectations of love. The earlier princess films give a clear picture that a handsome prince with all of his hair is going to show up and save me from the villains of my life. Sure, it is ok to ask for help, but no prince is going to omnisciently know that that I am in trouble.

The other falsehood Disney gave me: tying my hair up with a ribbon. Not only could birds do it for me if I was lovely enough, but this ribbon would stay in and continue looking fabulous. Malicious lies.

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Watch This: Once Upon A Time

photo of once upon a time pictures
You guys, my Super Best Friend has only recently started watching Once Upon A Time. He and I tend to watch a lot of different television shows and put off watching others or giving others a try. When we finally do, the result is usually similar to Squidward’s first time tasting a Krabby Patty on SpongeBog Squarepants: “All the wasted years!”

I mean, he’s the guy who first got me to watch Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Dante’s Cove, Titan Maximum, and Gundam Wing. And, soon, Revenge, which I know is totally up my alley. “This is not a story about forgiveness.” That line could be the blurb under my biography.

Right, so, the show comes on ABC on Sunday nights and, honestly, I was not all that impressed when I watched the first few episodes. Well, the first episode. It’s one of those shows that has an awkward beginning but gets better and better until you can no longer remember a time when you were not in love with the show. Every week slows to a crawl as you anticipate the arrival of the next episode.

Yeah. This show also has a very rabid fandom.

I want to talk about the women on the show. Women have not, historically, had the best roles in fairy tales. They tend to be the villains or the helpless damsels. And while Disney “villains” are typically the most interesting parts of the films (and ABC is a part of Disney, so there are overt references on the show to Disney’s interpretations of a few fairytales. Jiminy Cricket is a character, the “Evil Fairy” from Sleeping Beauty is called “Maleficent,” etc), the princesses did not really possess a great deal of agency until more recent years.

Regina Mills is, as far as I am concerned, the main character. In season one, the writers try to make her out to be the primary antagonist, but …

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