Why Can’t I Just See Things Simply?

It’s very frustrating.  I know some people who see the world in black and white, and while I almost never agree with them, I am also a little jealous.  Because I think sometimes it must be nice to not have a little voice in your head constantly saying, “But what about grey?  What about looking at it like this?  Or this?  Or this?”

So I went to Disney on Ice the other night and saw the “Dare to Dream” show.  As you know, I was very excited.  And it was great.  They had condensed stories from The Princess and the Frog, Cinderella, and Tangled, with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy introducing.  There was also a procession at the end giving face time to all the other famous human characters.  The skating was good; the music was fun and familiar; the energy was high.  Also, the little kids (a lot of them dressed up) there were SO thrilled, and that was pretty cute to watch.

But.

A couple of months ago, I read this book.  And as we often hear said, some things, once they’ve been seen, can’t be unseen.  Same goes for things you read.  So I was noticing things.

Like the line, “Leave the sewing to the women; you go find some trimmin’.”  This made me squint, but I moved on pretty quick because hey, Cinderella was made in 1950.  Times have changed.

Harder to forgive was the bit in Princess and the Frog (2010!) after singing with the voodoo swamp lady when our heroine says (and this might not be an exact quote, because I didn’t write it down, but it’s pretty close, anyway) “I used to think the important thing was my restaurant and working hard and fulfilling my goals, but now I realize all that really matters is you, Naveen.”

Yeah.  Way to go, Tiana.  You Dare to Dream!  Goals, schmoals.  Once you’ve got a prince, who needs them?

Now, I’ve seen the actual movie.  It’s not that bad.  I think she and her prince end up running the restaurant together, and the actual message was more about the people in your life being more important than work, which I can totally get behind.  So we lost a lot in the ice version’s attempt at brevity.

At the same time, context is everything.  And Disney context, when you look at all the movies together, does have a bit of a theme of “Oh Handsome Prince, please take me away from this evil stepmother/poverty/magic spell/drudgery/ocean/provincial life/tower so I can instead be in love, (even though we probably only just met) wear pretty dresses and be rich and married.”  It’s not exactly empowering.  And in that context, Tiana’s line gave me a bit of a sick feeling.  Because it’s a pretty damned iffy message to be delivering in so many words to a stadium packed with little girls.

And don’t get me wrong here.  Being in love is swell.  And I’m also quite fond of being married.  And of pretty dresses.  And you know, I’d be happy to give being rich a try too.  But there’s more than one way to be rich and your goals are a big part of that.  They are important.

So, Dare to Dream, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be daring to dream about here, but it looks a lot like it might be (somewhat glittery) domestic bliss.  And that’s fine and everything, but daring?  And as far as dreams go, can we have a little more breadth in our dreams?  Actually, that’s not fair.  Ariel wanted legs and Belle wanted adventure and Rapunzel wanted to see the lanterns and Tiana wanted her restaurant and Jasmine wanted freedom and Snow White and Cinderella and Aurora wanted… something, I’m sure.  I actually haven’t seen those movies in a long time.  But their dreams all became secondary in the plot once a fella showed up.

Right.

So I’m watching this and all this stuff is going through my head.  At the same time, I’m really enjoying myself, because hey, Disney can put on a good show.  And who doesn‘t love figure skating?

And APPARENTLY, a love for Disney is so deeply embedded in my psyche that despite my cynical nigglings at this point, when Cinderella got bippity-boppity-booed into her gown and fancy pumpkin carriage (which was covered in fairy lights and quite gorgeous), I honest-to-god teared up.  And I’m not a crier, folks.  I cry when I hit the perfect blend of stress and exhaustion, or I cry when people die, and sometimes not even then.  I don’t cry over happy things.  Because they’re happy.  I laugh at people who cry over happy things.  So what the hell was that about?

So then (of course) I start to consider issues of childhood brainwashing by the media.  Because clearly this is the only explanation for my reaction.

See what I mean about seeing things simply?  Wouldn’t it have been nice to just go and love this unreservedly?  Because I did really really love it.  But I also felt conflicted about loving it.  Like by encouraging this sort of thing, I was letting down… someone.  I don’t even know who.  Possibly every little girl in the world who doesn’t yet have the critical skills to take the fun of these shows without fully buying into their message.

I think I’m over-analyzing this.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Every now and then though, it would be nice to shut off that voice.

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9 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Just See Things Simply?

  1. Yes, you’re overanalyzing, but it’s hard not to when you see the same theme over and over. I say this ALL the time about Disney movies. And it doesn’t stop there — We’re back to those modern hit novel trilogies like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray. Same theme. It’s probably, simply, because people like rescue stories. We love stories about finding our princes, in spite of ourselves. And while I don’t think it’s all part of some conspiracy to put women in their place, I do think it’s a negative message for the young girls who read/see them.

    • But do they make the movies because we like the rescue stories or do we like the rescue stories because we’ve been watching the movies for so long and bought into them? 😉

      I don’t think it’s as organized as a conspiracy either. At the same time, I seem to be seeing/reading a lot lately (last several years) within mainstream media and culture that’s glorifying domesticity and the housewife, and rather than having those be seen simply as valid choices, they’re being presented as the be all of what it is to be a successful woman.

      When I read magazines and the like, it’s seeming that we’ve swung back to the fifties or something. But not even the real fifties, but some re-imagined golden-age version of them. And the part that worries me the most about it is that no one seems to notice. Because it’s subtle, I suppose. But I wonder if it’s not also because we’ve been getting these messages since we were small, tucked into happy ending stories where the best possible outcome is a wedding, no matter who you are. This stuff sinks in, even if you are aware of it.

      Right. I’m not even sure if this response is coherent, so I’m going to stop now. I don’t think Disney is evil or anything. I’d just like to see a bit of diversity in their messages, I guess.

  2. I love your analysis! There seems to be a deeper philosophy behind the movies than the fact that dreams become secondary when the prince shows up.
    “One who lives for nothing would die for anything”.
    One who discovers a reason that is truly worth living for would often forfeit anything.
    Imagine a man who finds valuable treasure and he sells all that he has to acquire it.
    His work and his dreams may have been worth making goals, but they seize to be of value when compared to the new found treasure.
    Without following our hearts, our dreams and giving our best to the things we do, we may not just discover that one thing that matters most.
    Lovely post and lovely analysis too!

  3. I don’t think you’re overanalyzing at all! If I had been in the audience, I’d be thinking the same things. I’m a big Disney fan myself, but empowering women has never really been a staple of ANY of the Disney movies. Just look at Lady and the Tramp–Tramp CHEATS on her and she still takes him back and has a whole litter of pups with him. Though, while I’m thinking about this, in 101 Dalmatians, Pongo really isn’t complete until he finds Perdita, and Roger isn’t fulfilled in his life until he meets Anita. …This is actually very interesting to think about.

    • I’m glad you liked it! I don’t remember that bit in Lady and the Tramp, but to be fair, 1) His name *is* Tramp, which would seem like pretty good truth in advertising for someone who cheats, and 2) I don’t think dogs are really known for monogamy.

      Actually, despite my misgivings, I would now very much like to dedicate an entire weekend to watching old Disney movies.

  4. Pingback: Eternal Night « The Twilight Fun Blog

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