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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

The predictable world of Disney

I created 'a whole new world' for myself as a child – one beyond the kindergarten classroom and weekend play dates. I was sucked into the power-hungry, image-centered world of Disney movies.

I danced around my bedroom singing 'A Whole New World,' 'Under the Sea' and 'Beauty and the Beast,' imagining that I was a young, beautiful princess with a handsome prince and a fairy godmother who would grant my every wish.

Little did I know that Disney movies were giving me a skewed representation of the world. Usually, the 'evil' characters were ugly or deformed and the 'good' characters, or 'heroes,' were the most beautiful or handsome people in the land.

Beauty not only indicates the 'goodness' of Disney characters, but it also proves to be an asset. Whenever a naïve, innocent princess is trapped in a dangerous situation, her beauty attracts a gorgeous male figure, a 'knight in shining armor' to come to her rescue.

Rarely does a Disney princess save herself by her intellect or her personal strength. She knows that she is beautiful and trusts that her 'prince' will take notice and save her.

In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the evil stepmother is angry because her mirror told her that Snow White is more beautiful than she is. Beauty is all that matters to the stepmother, and if she isn't beautiful, she's nothing. So she orders a huntsman to kill Snow White. The huntsman doesn't have the heart to commit the act, so he tells Snow White to escape.

Once the stepmother finds out that Snow White is alive in the dwarfs' home, she disguises herself as an old woman and brings her stepdaughter a poisoned apple. Poor, helpless Snow White falls to the ground dead, but is brought back to life when a prince visits her coffin and kisses her.

Cinderella is equally as helpless as she faces the vengeance of her ugly evil stepmother. (Notice a trend of evil stepmothers in these films?) When her stepmother tears her ball gown to shreds, her fairy godmother appears and makes her a new one. When the stepmother finds out that Cinderella attended the ball, she locks her in her bedroom. Count on the mice to find the key and free Cinderella from her imprisonment.

Only handsome heroes, magic and strange turns of events can free these damsels in distress.

Typical. Why do these beauties never foresee the danger that's coming their way? Why don't they defend themselves? Why are the female characters stereotyped as weak and helpless?

It's obvious that many Disney characters want power, and they know the deviant things they can do to obtain it. The bad guys want power and they know the only way at it is to push the innocent princess out of the way.

Good and evil are so black-and-white in these movies as well. The evil characters are always brutally evil, with no real justification behind their actions except, 'She's more beautiful than me, so I have to kill her' (or something equally as trivial). The good characters, either the helpless females or the handsome male heroes, are always good and never slip up. They never even accidently do something bad with their good intentions. It's so unnatural.

Granted, these are fairy tales geared toward children, so the plots need to be simple. Kids want to see the good guys winning and the bad guys defeated.

But the plots are so predictable: a villain (typically a stepmother) wants power or beauty but can't get it because a beautiful young girl stands in the way. The villain tries to kill off or somehow jeopardize the girl. The girl can't help herself, so she either lies dead or cries in distress until a handsome prince or fairy godmother comes to save the day.

As a child, I didn't mind the predictability, but I certainly was conscious of it. I always knew there would be a happy ending. Today, though, it annoys me that there are hardly any unexpected twists in the plot.

Once in a while, the female character should solve her own problems. Maybe – gasp – she could even save the handsome prince for a change. Maybe the good-looking characters could be the villains and the ugly ones could be good. Maybe the villains could actually have something admirable about them, and the good guys could have a fault or two.

It's time for a Disney revolution.




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