Monday, July 29, 2013

My Trouble With Disney

©Susan Jaye 2013      Just some happy go lucky clouds
     Just a thought that could go into my "Bete Noire" or "Curious Things" lists, but once again proves a tad too long.  So... it gets its own post.

     It's not just Disney, but an overwhelming amount of kid's movies, books, as well as adult movies, have as their central theme, a mom who is dead or dying.  Once she's out of the picture, in steps the stepmother, who is, let's just say less than maternal.

     Why is Mom's dead, dying, a widely used theme?  Or my stepmother is wicked?  Why, when studies claim that women outlive men 5 to 10 years on average?  And what's with the wicked theme?   When 50% of marriages, (or whatever today's statistic is) don't see "till death do us part", there's bound to be a stepmom in that mix from time to time.  As if a "modern family" is not hard enough, the stepmoms must crank up the patience, niceness, thoughtfulness, to debunk widely spread predisposed fears.  Misogynistic?  Or is it just a trite, cheap way to draw tears that are confused with empathy, compassion, and ratings; which I guess must translate to profits.

     Some of the movies that come to mind but are definitely not alone, are:  My GirlBambi, The Little Mermaid, The Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Snow White, Cinderella, Finding Nemo, and Up.  Even as late as this summer's Epic.  As I have mentioned a few times I am a happy movie kind of girl.  So, imagine when I went with my mom in 1991 to see My Girl.  The preview led us to believe it was a light comedy.  With Dan Aykroyd Jamie Lee Curtis, and Macaulay Culkin,  as the leads, as well as a preview that showed the crazy fun of kids, and great comic genius of Dan Aykroyd, who would think otherwise?  Seemed like it would be a great light fun flick.  WRONG!   To start off, "Mom" was dead.  Then, the little girl's best friend/first boyfriend dies by excessive bee stings, depicted by what I thought was a disturbing scene for me, a 23 year old; I'd think even worse for a child.  Lastly, the little girl tells her friend's grief stricken mother, something along the lines of, "don't worry, my mom will take care of him now."  Oh please.  Again.  I was so miffed when I exited the theater, I exclaimed loud enough for the extensive line in waiting to hear,  "I can't believe Macaulay's character dies!"  Mom laughingly aired her disbelief at admittedly not my most mature moment.  That began my pet peeve with films that are 180 degrees different from how they're promoted.  Misrepresentation in a nutshell.  Just checked and I am a tad surprised it wasn't on my list already, (it's there now).  Thankfully, I now have a computer with google and Wikipedia.  Going to the movies costing what it does, seldom do I go to one where I don't do prior research.  This habit doesn't work for everyone I know.  Just I would rather get a gist, then make my choice, rather than trusting the trailer, and feel duped after. 

     Back to the subject at hand.  Bambi, in my opinion is just sad all around.  Cute, fluffy, wonderfully illustrated, animated animals, I'll give you.  Then Mom dies.  Dad is not exactly warm, present, and loving.  Seems to me it wasn't even clear if that was Bambi's dad.  Bambi has to contend with hunters, fire, and another buck trying to make a move on his doe.  Timeless trials I'll concede; but this is a kids' movie!  As life goes, children usually have enough reality by a young age, so can't we please not use the darker aspects of life to entertain them?  I am aware that some of the older Disney classics such as Bambi, were primarily watched by adults when originally released.  Fine, just don't promote them as "children's classics" then.  The "Mom's dead, don't know who dad is, female is my possession" theme, may not be the best to present to impressionable youth.  Not to blame for all, I also realize a good majority of these stories come from old European tales, when children were not as cherished as they are today.  To that I suggest, time to broaden your mind, and make up some new classics.

      Sure, life is filled with good and bad, and the young must learn to deal with all, but let's make sure they get enough of the good as well as the less fortunate, sadder, aspects of life.  It is my humble opinion that kids today as stated before, get enough reality in their every day lives.  Death, broken marriages, drugs and alcohol abuse, bullying, violence; show me a kid who hasn't witnessed any of these by the time they're 5 and I'll say that's one lucky kid.  With this being a majority of our children's day to day reality, then if their entertainment is more of the same, when do they witness happiness?  I believe a lot about being happy is based on perception and choosing to look on the bright side.  That needs to taught, hopefully through example, but if a family can't provide that scenario, kids at the very least need some happy go lucky examples from somewhere.  Why not their entertainment?  It might have been an argument of yesteryear that some of the "classics" were written to teach the young how to deal with with the bad; but I believe now conversely is the time to teach the young how to see the good and to be happy.

     Didn't we learn anything from Field of Dreams? "Build it and they will come.We'll never have "heaven on earth" till we believe that we can.  First we have to imagine it.  For ourselves, our kids and for the generations to come.  So let's begin with the stories.

     I think it's time to, in the words of Sgt. Hulka from the great 1981 comedy Stripes, Lighten up Francis!


     I am sure that there are several moms as well as stepmoms, that would be grateful.