Disney's Women and Girls

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December 26, 1995 EvaS: Do Disney's films deal with fairy tale themes? How are they altered? To what end, what message?

KLMaio: Yes, fairy tales have always been the stock and trade of Disney from Snow White back in 1937. Things have changed over the years, but not necessarily for the better. Beauty and the Beast, which we'll talk about in a bit, is actually worse in the 90's version than it was a couple hundred years ago.

EvaS: What about Snow White? Don't fairy tales have older women, witches, evil?

KLMaio: Snow White was standard stuff, with a beautiful virginal babe waiting for the healing kiss of a good looking guy. Back in 1937, not a surprising message. And I have two minds about the evil female characters. At least they did something, went after something....acted out.

SueBD: I was just going to ask what was worse about Beauty and the Beast this time around.

KLMaio: Well, if you remember the old fable, the beast was an ugly, sweetheart of a guy. He treated the Beauty with respect and tenderness. And the moral was, don't judge a book by its cover. But Disney's Beast is mean! He leaves his servants trembling with fear. He's a brute. But Belle tames him. To me, that tells girls that if they are pretty enough and nice enough, a man will not be brutal. It makes the woman responsible for male "violence". Dangerous!

EvaS: A blame the victim thing again...and again.

KLMaio: Absolutely. Yet Disney went out of their way to promote their Belle as "active" and "liberated". Just goes to show.

EvaS: Kathi, tell us about Aladdin, what the themes are in that movie.

KLMaio: Now, Aladdin, another "trophy babe," sorry to say. In a story loaded with ethnic stereotyping of Arab people, Aladdin is actually very "American."

EvaS: Kathi, and what about The Lion King? And the accusations of racism there?

KLMaio: Lion King is fascinating. Disney took a lot of shots over the negative depiction of Arabs, so they really tried for multiculturalism in Lion King. And succeeded, in a WAY. But the divine right message of a MAN born to rule all others is hard to take. The female characters were just as brave and active, but were forced to be passive and wait for a decent male ruler to save their community. Then there's the depiction of the evil hyenas as street-jivin' blacks and Latinos voiced by Whoopi G. and Cheech Marin. And the evil lion being a crypto-gay figure. Lots to chew on in this one!

EvaS: Who played the evil lion? I've forgotten.

KLMaio: Jeremy Irons.

EvaS: What makes Pocahontas different from other Disney movies?

KLMaio: Well, for the first time, according to Disney PR, they were telling a TRUE story. Only it was anything but.

EvaS: How was it distorted to fit their usual stereotypical view of women?

KLMaio: First, look at her! She's the Native American Barbie. Six feet tall with a 36-18-30 figure, and hair down to there, and legs up to there.

EvaS: :)

KLMaio: Not at all like the real "woman" who was, in all likelihood, 11 years old when she met Smith. A girl with short, short hair in a tribe that wore little clothing. Certainly not off-the-shoulder sheath dresses!

Carolwynd: According to NA activist/poet Chrystos, Pocahontas was raped by a white man, so her tribe, which had never had to deal with a child raped by a stranger, didn't know what to do and sent her to live with whites and she died eventually of VD.

KLMaio: An interesting version of the story!

EvaS: What is the real story, Kathi?

KLMaio: Different from the version held by many historians (and herstorians). But, certainly, the Disney version is way off and ignores much of her life AFTER her encounter with Smith.

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