Editor's Note: The House of Mouse
It's hard for an adult to believe in a concept as absurd as Happily Ever After, but Disney does its best to make you try.
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I've always found it interesting that Disney nearly always finds a way to kill off one or both parents. I imagine this is mostly to save a lot of animation work, rather than just for the "budget pathos" it earns the film.
The other common theme? No one is ever happy where they are, particularly princesses. Ariel wants to be human, and in the (awful awful) sequel? Her daughter wants to be a mermaid. Princess Jasmine pretends to be poor, Cinderella pretends to be rich. Of course, "rich" always wins in that "grass is always greener" type dichotomy...
But these are just cut corners resulting in inconsistencies in stories meant for children. It's interesting, but it doesn't really bother me. I think we could stand to de-emphasize "princess" as a life aspiration for our daughters, but that's not the fault of fairy tales.
I've always been far more bothered by Disney's live-action offerings. The messages they send to children, and the way in which their child stars are used (used up, more like it). This is far more noticeable with their young girls than with the boys, as the entertainment industry is far more forgiving for boys. These young girls learn very early on that talent is not enough--you've got to put on makeup, wigs, costumes, and be pretty to really shine!
(Sure, Selena Gomez sings about how you don't have to be perfect to be perfect... but is she really a spokeswoman for the "average" girl? That's about like Taylor Swift trying to commiserate with us lowly geeks and nerds in that awful "You Belong With Me" song. It just doesn't read as authentic.)
And then these undeniably talented young girls grow up hooked on the attention, which comes easy to a famous, pretty, talented young girl. And then they grow up. Being a talented 16-year-old is a big deal--it has that whole "beyond her years" appeal. But when she's an adult? She's just another face in the "grown-up artist" crowd.
And Disney abandons her. No longer does she have the steady supply of "princess juice" keeping her personal spotlight running. And she quickly realizes that "cute" doesn't do well in the grown-up world... and she falls back on what she really learned from Disney: when talent isn't enough, they have to like looking at you. So she gives them more to look at--both literally and figuratively--in order to keep the attention coming.
All the while, the audience that "grew up" with her has been following her. Watching her. Learning from her. Sure, their parents tell them that's not how the world really works, but look at this girl! She's got it all figured out, and she says all I have to do is believe in myself, wish upon a star, and no matter what, I'm going to come out on top! Who am I going to listen to in my heart of hearts--my parents, or this superstar?
Outside of the animation side of things, Disney is a horrible monster that feeds on the innocence of children and the ignorance of their parents (because what parent doesn't believe, "My child is different! She's going to really make it as a grown-up!"). So, keep yours eyes out as the Spears/Duff/Lohan/Hudgens/etc. list grows and grows...
(But Pixar has my number. Those bastards have gotten me crying twice before the movie even really got started--Nemo and Up. I hate how I love them.)