Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Disney Princes and Princesses

     As I was reading Linda Christensen's chapter, I kept thinking about my childhood and if she was right about this "secret education" we receive when we watch princess movies. I didn't watch the classic Disney movies but I have an idea of what they're all about. I remember watching The Little Mermaid and how Ariel fell in love with Prince Eric. I remember how embarrassed she was of being a mermaid and how she had to change her body and hoping he could fall in love with her. How crazy is this idea? When I was a kid, I didn't think of it that way. I wasn't mature enough to critically think about what I was watching and no one ever discussed this idea with me. Coming from a patriarchal family and culture, there was nothing wrong with watching princess cartoons. When I speak about The Little Mermaid's "secret education", I can also think of other Disney movies (Pocahontas, Aladdin) where the female characters are wild and adventurous and need to be "tamed". Then, their main goal is to find a man/ prince and marry him. There's nothing more to the princesses' lives.
     After watching Brave, it looks like Disney has taken a closer look at how they were illustrating women thru their prince/princess characters. It was refreshing to watch a Disney princess movie with such an adventurous girl who had a mind of her own and fought for what she believed in. The story was focused on a daughter-mother relationship rather that the usual, conventional prince- princess relationship. Although the cartoon was quite stereotypical (how the baker looked like, how the clan members looked like and how they behaved), it was more realistic. There are cultures where marriage is important and parents are involved in the process; in other cultures, one doesn't marry for love but to strengthen ties between families; the lord's sons looked more like regular kids, not as these sexy, muscular, pretentious males; the girl was really good at something (archery, in this case) that the boys weren't.
     Disney movies portray this unreal, utopian (maybe to some, not to all) idea of what the world is like: what people should be/look like, what relationships look like, and how communities are like. As kids grow up and watch TV, they'll realize that this portrayal of Disney "reality" is totally different. Today's TV is full of reality shows that do not portray what reality is again. If we look at the Kardashian's TV show, it "sounds" real, but how many people in the US alone live that lifestyle? Very small group of people.
     Thinking about what I can do with this learning, I can see how important it is to have these discussions with our students- not with just the girls, but with the boys as well. I teach in a middle school. Most kids have watched these cartoons and probably this "secret education" has been instilled in their brains. If we have discussions of what the Disney characters represent,  teachers can help develop students' ideas on these matters and start engaging students into start thinking critically about the text they're exposed to.

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