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Disney and the Messages it Sends

disney-princess-merida-disney-princessI grew up on Disney. The moving drawings, the damsel in distress, the out of the blue songs that make me cringe and yet I know all the words. A world of dragons,  talking animals, carpet rides, evil step mums, ugly sisters, useless fathers, pretty stick thin women in chains and heroic men on a white shiny white horse with a sword which may or may not be able to sing…

I really like Disney. I think they make good (predictable) stories. It is true that they pump out the stereotype of a princess who is useless but has perfect hair and can sing to birds which may or may not blow up, who are deeply unhappy and alone without a man to complete her. She then unfortunately gets into a tangle and gets captured and the only way to be saved is through a man who can probably sing and who goes on countless adventures and ends up being her true love and then they live happily ever after.

On the surface the classic Disney cliché of prince and princess gives out a few bad vibes like:

  • Women are only truly happy and complete when they meet their man (who may or may not be able to sing).
  • Women are always the damsels in distress… men almost never get captured and need saving.
  • Men do the saving, they have the adventures. The women are stuck inside four walls.
  • Women can sing to animals and while the men are away the animals do all the work while the woman reads Hello magazine..
  • The woman is the princess and wears pretty dresses, eats only celery or dust to maintain her hour-glass figure.
  • The men are handsome, unless you are a beast… in which case you are very hairy.
  • There is nearly always a useless father…
  • There is nearly always an evil woman or witch
  • There is nearly always a dim woman in a pretty dress that thinks animals can talk to her
  • There is nearly always a man on a horse who over time will turn into a useless father or a frog.
  • A Kiss will solve everyone’s problem.
  • Never eat fruit in a Disney movie…

Here is the thing, although some of this lurks in our Disney movies and it doesn’t always give out the best image or vibes of what it is to be a man or a woman (Although I think it is slowly changing like in Brave), it does however get something right.

The need for salvation.

It is easy to get frustrated at the “fruit-eating, singing to a flower” woman being all perfect and in distress and for the man to carry her away into the sunset after a great adventure. However it is kinda true.

The need for a saviour is imprinted in our narratives. Our stories burst at the seams with the need for salvation, a rescuer and a hero. Our Superman’s, Ironmans, Harry Potters and Lord of the Rings cry out for a hero to save us.


In the film Superman Returns, Superman says:

“You wrote that the world doesn’t need a saviour, but every day I hear people crying for one.”

The world is crying out for one. Our culture reflects that. Our Disney movies reflect that. And it’s not just women who need a saviour, but its the men as well. And the true saviour doesn’t just have a great adventure and jumps on his horse. He actually dies and gives up everything for his bride.

He is a hero that sacrifices.

Disney may get some things wrong. But it gets one huge thing right. It echoes a story of a bride who is trapped and in trouble and the man who is the King dies for her, is risen to life, carries her, speaks tenderly to her and saves her.

When we have kids and they watch Disney movies, I hope I can discuss this with them. I hope I can dispel some of the myths that Disney leaks out about men and women. But I hope I can draw them into the true story that Disney echoes. We are all, male and female in need of a saviour. And this saviour Jesus Christ, is far better than what Disney portrays their hero as. And we are in way more trouble then what the princess is in. And its going to take more than a kiss to save us. It’s going to need blood.

And yes there will be a Happy Ever After.

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