Disney is a massive franchise that is talked about in most households around the world. I grew up watching the movies and having strong opinions on the characters and stories that were shown to me.
In a questionnaire that I conducted, 63.6% said that they watch Disney movies every month, 18.2% said every day and 9.1% said whenever they get the chance and once a year. In this same questionnaire, 81.8% said that they believe that Disney has a positive effect on their lives. This shows that the general view of the Disney franchise is that it is child friendly and only promotes good things. Whilst this is somewhat true, some aspects of this massive franchise are negative and could have a large effect on children who regularly watch the movies. My research will focus on both the negative and positive aspects of Disney’s role in young children’s lives. I will look into lessons that Disney teaches us and evaluate the effects these lessons have on their target audience, children.
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One common lesson taught in Disney movies is that all step-mothers are evil. There is many beliefs as to why the Disney franchise choses to make step-mothers like this. One belief is that it creates a greater sense of drama. When a character is going through an issue, they normally look towards their mother, however if that mother figure is not there, then it creates even more drama. The reason for this occurring in a lot of Disney films can be found when we look a Walt Disney’s tragic backstory. Walt Disney brought a house for his parents, where his mother died due to a gas leak 101 Facts About Disney. This could explain why mothers are often absent in Disney films as it may have been too painful for Walt Disney to put a mother into his films. Another reason for Disney step-mothers being evil characters can be found by looking at the origins. Most Disney movies originate from ‘The Brothers Grimm’ and these stories often contain a lot of violence.
The brothers Grimm created the original stories that many young children know as fairytales today. For example, they wrote the original version of Rapunzel, however in this version, the prince goes blind after falling into a thorn bush. The original stories of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (17th Century) involved the mothers persecuting the characters. But the Grimm Brothers didn’t want to dishonour the roles of mothers and so changed them to evil step-mothers. The stories have remained with evil stepmothers ever since. Despite their dark beginning, Disney has made the stories more family friendly (although keeping the evil stepmother). For example, the original version of Snow White had a very dark ending as Snow White and the Prince invited the step-mother to their wedding, but made her dance in a pair of red hot shoes, until she dies.
We must also consider the time that these films were written and produced. During these times, women would often die in childbirth and the men would often re-marry in order to continue working and providing for the family. These stepmothers would scheme against the children and try to get the husbands wealth for themselves. Also, at this time, children weren’t treated as well as they are today, therefore Disney stepmothers are not extremely loving. However, we know that in real life, stepmothers are very rarely as evil as they have been portrayed in the Disney franchise. In an article, written by Sara Abdel Aziz, she states that she shops for her stepdaughter, plans kid friendly vacations so that she can join them on holiday, buys her birthday and just-because gifts and takes her out for girly days. She also states how her step-daughter, when they first met, cried her lungs out, wouldn’t eat the food that she cooked, wouldn’t talk to her or even walk next to her. She later said ‘Sara? You’re not as bad as they said you would be,’ showing that movies and people’s views on step-mothers are often negative and can have a huge effect on young children who have step-mothers, or are going to have step-mothers.
Why Does Disney Hate Us Stepmother, So Much? Clearly it shows that evil step-mothers in Disney, such as Lady Tremaine, Frieda, Queen Narissa and the Queen cause children to believe that any stepmother is willing to attempt to murder them. James Bray, Mavis Hetherington Constance Ahrons conducted a study that found that less than 20% of stepchildren felt close to their stepmothers after a while and less than 30% were happy their father remarried. This could be explained by the wrongful way Disney stepmothers are presented. In the Disney franchise there is quite often a step mother and rarely a stepfather. This is obviously not the case in the real world as a lot of children have either a stepmother or stepfather, who are willing to get on with their partners children, as long as they get respect in return. The way the relationships between stepmothers and stepdaughters are shown in Disney affects 21st century relationships as children believe that their stepmothers are trying to kill them and are convinced that they are evil. This is a massive problem in modern society as, whilst mothers dying in childbirth or dying young has decreased, divorce has become a common thing. This means that more children will have stepmothers or stepfathers as their parents may re-marry. Children in modern day society will watch more films as the majority of households have a TV and a DVD player, meaning the children will be more likely to watch these films with evil stepmothers. They will be gullible enough to believe all stepmothers will be trying to kill them.
A positive effect that Disney has on young children in society is that it teaches them various honest life lessons. These life lessons can be seen through the morals shown in Disney movies and through the quotes said by the children’s beloved characters. One quote that could influence children is ‘You must take your place in the Circle of Life’. This is said by Mufasa in ‘The Lion King’. The lesson that children could learn from this quote is that even though we are all different, we need each other to survive. This could help them when they grow up and begin to meet a wider range of children as it would allow them to accept people for who they are.