I’m Anti-Disney and I’m Not Afraid to Own It

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Cinderella's castle with a "don't" sign on it Providence Moms BlogIf you are a Disney-loving gal, let me tell you up front that you aren’t going to like what you’re about to read. If you didn’t dislike me from the title alone, you will by the time you get to the end. Why? Well, hopefully, you won’t be able to deny the accuracy of my complaints about Disney, and that’s probably going to ruin it for you forever. Is it wrong to admit that I hope that happens? Go ahead, cast me as the wicked stepmother in your mind right now. Lord knows Walt and Roy would have. But I’m anti-Disney and I’m not afraid to own it.

And now, without further ado, the top 7 reasons why I just *can’t* with that stupid mouse and his girlfriend:

Reason 1: Everything Disney says about females is totally messed up.

Sure, sure, with “Frozen” they really moved away from that whole “girl must marry Prince Charming to have any meaning in the world” thing that they had going for seven decades and celebrated sisterly love, blah blah blah. Let’s pretend that “Frozen” is a totally feminist flick for a second (it’s not, but whatever) and get real: are you okay with the prior seven decades of misogyny? Are you okay showing all of that to your children and celebrating it incessantly? I’m not, and every time we ignore everything we know to be wrong with Disney’s message and dive in anyway, we undo any positive steps we’ve made with our girls towards creating a world where they really can be and choose anything they want. Don’t let them grow up believing marriage is the ultimate goal. Don’t let them grow up buying into the damsel in distress trope. And for heaven’s sakes, don’t let them grow up thinking Prince Charming didn’t #metoo his way right into a sexual assault on Sleeping Beauty and/or Snow White. (Was it the same guy? It seriously looks like the same guy with different hair. Maybe he’s a serial sleep-kisser.)

Reason 2: “Princess” is not a job, and it is not something anyone should aspire to.

There are only two ways to become a princess: by birth or marriage, and neither has much to do with a girl’s talent, brain, accomplishments, or character. Over school vacation week I had to wonder: Why is my Facebook feed full of artfully filtered shots of Cinderella’s (plasticized) castle? Do you realize that actual castles are cold and drafty and would not be fun to live in at all? Are you women seriously so hungry for someone to romance you or make you feel pretty that you will accept everything else that is wrong with the princess story and life? I humbly suggest that you speak to a therapist about that…it would cost you a fraction of what you spend on one Disney trip, and it might lead to true, real, actual happiness. Conversely, if you have no idea what I mean about what’s wrong with the princess life, I encourage you to listen to Carlos Andres Gomez’s spoken word piece “If a Princess Tries to Kidnap Your Daughter,”  which articulates all of this better than I ever could.

Reason 3: Disney theme parks are overpriced plastic dystopias masquerading as utopias.

I think this is what gets me the most. There are so many people who won’t eat a nugget from Chik-fil-a because of the company’s Christian (and arguably homophobic) practices who will spend thousands of dollars on a family vacation to Disney. These same people don’t give a thought to what Disney supports. It’s elitism at its core! For example, you can pay more to cut line. “Sorry, working-class family who saved for years to ride Space Mountain…Us rich folk are jumping the line because we can!” And this is just one example of the horrible values Disney actually stands for.

Cruelle De Vil, Providence Moms Blog
Call me Cruella, but I just can’t get on board with the Mouse.

Reason 4: Disney is fake plastic culture, and there is so much real culture in our world that we should be appreciating instead.

Aside from the questionable ethics, can we get real about the complete lack of culture? You could spend less and see major museums and cultural landmarks in Europe or Asia, but instead, you pay to traipse through a concrete and plastic jungle, to photograph a fake baby elephant blowing water out its trunk, and to get faux autographs from kids in costumes. I don’t get it, and I’ll never get it. Of course, rides are fun, and there is a place for theme parks in your arsenal of family vacations. I simply refuse to understand why people go back again and again and again without ever bothering to see the rest of the world. And I really don’t understand people who go there without children. Get your head out of fantasy land and pay attention to the real world, please. Sure we all need to escape sometimes, but I have to wonder if the world wouldn’t be a better place if more Americans learned a bit about other cultures and peoples instead of mastering the best shuttle schedule and when to book Cinderella’s breakfast.

“But Gigi, I can have beers from around the world!” Okay. You could also go on a tour of local breweries and support your local economy instead of lining the already-stuffed pockets of billionaires. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Reason 5: Disney is a total money grab. It’s the very commercialism that Charlie Brown railed against, and it’s destroying us.

Disney is about one thing: money. If you think for one second that Disney is about anything else, ask yourself why there is a gift shop every three steps at any of the theme parks, why Disney characters are licensed onto everything from clothing to lunchbox snacks to household decor, or why it costs so freaking much to enter a theme park. What’s dangerous about this is that Disney pretends it’s about happiness. Walt famously insisted that Disneyland was “the happiest place on Earth,” but that’s just the tragic voice of his crushed inner child wishing and hoping that he could finally find joy after his miserable childhood. Look, I am sorry Roy and Walt’s dad was such a jerk to them, and sure, they were creative geniuses, but don’t kid yourself that the Disney we know (and some of you love) today is about anything other than cash. Disney is Vegas without the strippers, although some of those Tinkerbell and Jasmine costumes come close.

Reason 6: Disney is racist.

You know I have to mention race, right? I have the “Aladdin” cassette with the lyric “where they cut off your hand if they don’t like your face/it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home!” Hahahahaha! Oh my goodness, Muslim stereotypes set to kicky rhyme sure are hilarious! I *totally* see how that lyric made it through a zillion focus groups! Should we talk about Tianna finally being the first black princess? Just kidding–she’s a frog! Have you watched “Peter Pan” recently or has your creepy obsession with Tinkerbell allowed you to block out that entire song “What Makes the Red Man Red” and the way those characters are portrayed? And as for “Pocahontas” — well, at least they skipped over that pesky smallpox epidemic. 

Reason 7: Disney is ruining your daughter’s self-image.

Okay, moms of daughters: let’s get really real here on the last entry. I’ve railed against princess culture, and I’ve complained about materialism. I think Disney is racist, and I don’t understand why grown adults refuse to expose themselves to actual culture. But if none of those reasons to turn your back on the mouse hit home, this one should. Body image. When I taught 7th grade, we did a partner project with math where we took ratios of female Disney bodies and then applied them to ourselves. Jasmine or Ariel or Belle of Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella or Elsa or Snow White or Tinkerbell’s impossibly small waist, for example, really doesn’t work on an actual human body. Neither does their leg length, neck length, neck circumference, eye size, hair length or volume, or myriad other parts. None of these cartoon women have a body shape other than what’s considered traditionally “perfect.” No one is curvy, overweight, boy-shaped, flat-chested, or anything other than Playboy-perfect. It’s not healthy for your daughter to idolize fake women with unrealistic bodies, and trust me, her brain will not make the distinction that they are animated and not real. No, her brain will understand that this body type is the goal because this is what princesses have. Which really brings me back to #1, and makes me ask you: why do you want her to want to be a princess (or why do you want to be one yourself)? Why are you spending time and money on the machine that perpetuates this? It’s keeping you down. It’s keeping all of us down.

Listen, I am not taking a family vacation to Disney any time soon, but we have our fair share of Disney movies and princess costumes around the house. It’s almost impossible to avoid. But I have drawn the line at visiting the theme parks–we’re not doing it. And I have become more selective in what movies and shows we watch. I hope you Disney lovers out there will think about it, too. Not to be too dramatic, but I actually do think Disney-worship by adults is part of many of the larger problems in America, and I know we all want to solve those. 

Cinderella's Castle Disney World Providence Moms Blog

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Gigi grew up in Tennessee and moved to Boston in 2001 to attend law school. She and her husband, JR, and their boy/girl twins moved to Attleboro, Massachusetts. The twins are now 6, and along the way, Gigi realized that the practice of law wasn't for her. Currently, Gigi is a Mary Kay Sales Director and a Lecturer at the Boston University School of Law in the Lawyering Skills program. Prior to teaching at BU, Gigi taught English at Lincoln School in Providence, and fell in love with the city and her new community. Gigi enjoys Mexican food, yoga, occasional gardening, Pinterest fails, home decorating, and a good book.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, Yes, Yes. I too have never understood the adults who go to Disney without kids — OVER AND OVER AGAIN. So, so strange.

    • It is a lot of fun to go to Disneyland or Walt Disney World on your own. Single rider lines for roller coasters, moving at your own pace, last minute parade spots, doing your favorites over and over again. It appeals to the child within and a happy carefree heart.

  2. So…

    “It’s not healthy for your daughter to idolize fake women with unrealistic bodies, and trust me, her brain will not make the distinction that they are animated and not real.”

    I don’t think it is healthy to assume that your daughter can’t distinguish fantasy from reality. Does her brain not understand that animals don’t speak English in the wild? Does she really think that mice can sew, and woodland creatures will help with the dishes? I don’t think you are giving your daughter and her brain enough credit. Or maybe you aren’t doing enough to teach her the difference – and to see that being a princess doesn’t equal weakness.

  3. “are you okay with the prior seven decades of misogyny?”

    You do realize that the origins of these stories are from 2,000 plus years ago, right? The Brothers Grimm wrote down folk stories and fairy tales and put them into multiple volumes of stories from 1812 to 1857. They may have been made into movies in the 1930s and 40s but the stories have been around for such a very long time.

  4. First of all, there is no such thing as pay more to get to the front of the line. Get your facts right.
    Second of all, fairytales are fairytales. It’s make believe and pretending. It didn’t originate from only Disney. Fairytales been around before Disney did!
    When your child pretends to be a princess or prince, what do you do? Ban them from doing so?
    I hope Tinkerbell sprinkles pixie dust on you, the bibbity boppity boo & supercalifragiliciousexbeeallidosius songs continuously plays in your head. You need to take a chill pill and blog about more worthwhile things instead of m trying to put down Disney.
    I suggest you donate all the Disney items you own. You’ll bring a smile to someone else who would appreciate and love all things Disney. Talk the talk? Then I walk the walk, Lady.
    Glad you don’t care for Disney. We don’t need people like you spewing hate and taking away childhood dreams, wishes and make believe. Ever think many have great childhood memories at a Disney park? How about people’s very last visit with someone that passed? Engagement? Make-a-Wish Foundation visit? That priceless smile meeting a character for the first time? There are a lot of great things at Disney Parks. Don’t assume people who love all things Disney don’t do anything else outside of Disney. All my Disney friends and families have a life outside of Disney. We love going to cultural events, community events, museums, baseball games the zoo, aquarium, etc.

    Lastly, “Hi ho hi ho” it’s off to vacation I go. I know i don’t want to be “Part of Your World”. Maybe someday the “Color of the Wind” will get your “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” into a “Hakuna Matata” way of thinking. Because really, you need to “Let it Go”. Maybe then “You Can Feel The Love Tonight” and others who love all things Disney can say a “Friend LIke Me” would love for you to “ Be Our Guest” and talk story about the “Circle of Life”.

    May the magic of Disney be with those around you always.

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