Have you grown up with Disney? If you are a Millennial, like me, there is a great chance that you have at least grown up watching Disney movies. Even if you were not big on Disney movies, you still grew up around a Disney culture. So, this means we all grew up with great views of the world, right? After all, Disney is the epitome of innocence.
The problem with Disney is not its widespread recognition; the problems are the harmful underlying messages that each movie portrays. Although these messages are not made clear to the children viewers- they are understood as the children grow up. These messages can shape a child’s personality and person views! This is a problem.
Thinking of some of the most recent Disney movies some common themes are: whatever or whoever is different is bad, white people are better and more successful than colored, and some other cultures (besides our own) are barbaric and sometimes scary. Movies that portray these appalling themes are beloved classics such as: “Aladdin”, “The Lion King”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Tarzan”, “Pocahontas”, and “The Little Mermaid”.
Shocking, right? It gets worse. To think that these movies meant so much to us as children and now we see the truth in them! Common characteristics are people of different cultures being portrayed falsely. For example, African Americans being the big-lipped fish in “The Little Mermaid” and as dumb hyenas in “The Lion King”. Also, Arab people being portrayed as barbaric, harsh, and unforgiving in “Aladdin”.
How bad is that? I told you it would get worse. But I have only touched the surface; there are many culturally shocking messages in various movies. It makes me feel ashamed for loving these movies so much as a child! I loved “The Lion King” and still do. As a kid I loved the hyenas! I thought they were so funny! They really added to the whole movie for me. But now seeing as how the hyenas are to be portrayed as “dumb” inner city black kids, makes me feel awful. How was I supposed to know that as a kid?
I always watched Disney movies as a kid. I was completely immersed in Disney as a kid. I still am to this day; I go to Disney World every single year (Seriously, 2013 will be my 10th time). Although I cannot speak for anyone else but myself, I do believe that Disney movies, their most influential form of medium, had affected my views on different cultures.
Growing up I dreamed of traveling the world. However, before my stepfather came into my life I did not know much about other cultures, only what I had assumed to be true from what I saw in the media. Especially, what I saw in Disney movies. From Aladdin, I assumed that countries in the Middle East were violent. From Mulan I believed families in China to be very hard on all the girls. Worst of all, from Pocahontas I believed that the Native Americans were worse people than the Englishmen, which of course, is truthfully, the exact opposite.
My stepfather is from México city and I cannot begin to imagine how different my life would be if my mom did not marry him. Since I met him and started speaking Spanish and learning the traditions and foods of México I have opened my mind to all cultures. Instead of just accepting what Disney portrayed to me I actually looked into different cultures.
I have realized that Disney made me kind of scared of the world. Or at least scared of what is different. Disney made me think that nothing is better than here, in these United States, and that we have it the best. To think this way now seems ridiculous but with enough influence, as Disney has, they can get away with anything.
I am glad to have realized that what Disney portrays about different cultures has no correlation to those cultures in real life. It is only a point of view from one company. I only hope that all other fans of Disney see the same thing I did. I hope they realize that Disney may be innocent in their portrayal, but Disney does not portray the real world, nor should fans believe the real world to be that “Disney World”
Although Disney misguides our beliefs about different cultures, that does not mean that Disney does not teach us other valuable lessons. It is how well we sort the “Disney world” from the real world and how informed we are in our beliefs.