There’s a funny College Humor about this phrase which totally encapsulates my hatred of it. It’s funny and also extremely dark, my two favorite things. But besides watching the video I haven’t actively been around people who say this that much. It’s usually just on the internet and I usually scroll past it. However, recently on campus in an academic setting, I heard this phrase used. We were talking about Disney movies which we were dissecting for our Gender in Children’s Literature class. Ripping apart Disney movies is my all time favorite hobby, so I was really excited about it until I realized everyone in my group was for Disney, and actually hated the class because it was ‘running their childhoods.’ They claimed that knowing Ursula was portrayed by the drag queen Divine was baffling. They said after reading the article about Ursula teaching Ariel that gender is a performance means that they can never look at her the same way again. They said they’ll still watch the movies and love them, but through a more perverse lens.
I guess in a horrible way I’m happy it was ruined for them, but I also wonder, why is learning about gender and other biases in Disney movies bad? If anything it makes my childhood better. I love looking at Disney movies critically because there’s so much there. People say ‘it’s just kids stuff,’ but then why put so much thought, effort, love or hate in it, even as adults? It’s because Disney is shown as teaching a ‘public pedagogy’ to children. Parents turn to Disney (perhaps subconsciously) to help shape their kids minds about gender, and to an extend race. However, Disney does a horrible job at teaching both, so it just perpetuates sexist and racist beliefs. In addition to that, having Disney as a part of the American childhood separates the ‘losers’ from the ‘cool kids.’ If you haven’t gone to Disney world by 6th grade you’re marked as an outcast because you’re not rich enough to go, and you ‘didn’t have a childhood.’ These statements are ridiculous. Disney doesn’t define childhood, imagination and creativity does. Disney discourages both by creating seamless marketing between toys and films. Kids are told with the toys to ‘play the movie,’ and therefore their own imagination is trapped in a white heteronormative cis gendered financially privileged world.
So no, tearing apart Disney doesn’t ruin childhoods. It will make childhood better. If Disney stays the monopolizer of childhoods then so be it, but at least teach better lessons. Stop rehashing the same tropes for mere profit and try to open up and add other stories to your repertoire, told by a diverse range of directors, animators and producers. I know we have gotten some ‘better’ stories recently, and I really hope Moana is good, but live action remakes of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King? Really?
21 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.