Oct 23, 2014

Feminism - Using Current Standards on an Outdated Source

Say what you like about Disney movies.  You're probably right.  But you know what?  The one you're referring to was made how many years ago?  Are you taking into account what the culture was like back then?

I'm not saying that something's inherent "rightness" or "wrongness" can change.  (that's anyone's guess)  But our perceptions as a society most certainly do, and what we think to be right and wrong does.  So we vilify some of the older Disney movies for their uninspiring or unheroic heroines, and we make each other feel guilty for enjoying these staples of our childhood.  But what we're forgetting to consider is the time frame in which it was made.

Some of the oldest films feature heroines whose primary virtues seems to be beauty and an optimistic spirit.  They teach us to wish upon a star, or that our prince is on his way, and we don't need to take action to improve our own lives.

Sure.  But what was domestic life like at that time?  Women were primarily housewives, no?  If the internet isn't lying to me, there was even social pressure not to work if you were married, in order to open up jobs for unemployed men.  So why shouldn't the idealized women in the movies be preparing for roles in the home, rather than displaying more individualistic tendencies?

And the one other thing the Disney leading ladies had in common was their genuine kindness - a virtue that seems to be all but forgotten in our modern world as we push people out of our way to get what we want.

Now Disney is hardly one to scare off it's fans by an excess of liberalism.  So they cater to whatever is most widely accepted by society at any one given time.  Does this make them the bad guys?  I would argue that it's our society that spawned Disney's stories, and as our demands have changed, so have the heroines.

And so we've finally traversed all the way to the other side of the spectrum.  From Cinderella to Elsa and Anna.  From Snow White to Merida.  And I think it's fantastic that Disney's finally dropped "true love" as the panacea for all ills, and that their heroines are flawed human beings who have to work to better themselves and to fix their own problems.

But you know what?  I'm also a little regretful that our society, while increasingly enlightened, has to be one that values consideration and generosity of spirit so little.  Sure, Merida's story was enthralling.  But I found her personality hard to relate to.  Basically, I think she's a brat.  Sorry, Merida-lovers!

I mean, I in no way, shape, or form think anyone should be forced into marriage.  I just don't think they should turn their mothers into bears, either.

So I guess what I'm saying is that while I wouldn't necessarily want my children to grow up with the helpless damsels of the past as their role models, I also don't want them to take for granted everything the modern heroines embody either.  And I can't prevent them from being exposed to gender roles - our society is full of them.  But I can encourage them to question everything and to make their own rules.

So no, I'm not terribly worried about my children watching a few Disney movies.  And no, I won't feel guilty for enjoying them.  There's good and bad in everything, and at least in this case, we can look at the bad and see how far our society has progressed since then.

Did I miss anything important?  What's your take on the Disney franchise?

Bonus: now that we've all agreed that Disney isn't the soul of evil corrupting our society, let's enjoy some artist adaptations!  I've seen some great ones lately.

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