My sons, along with millions of other kids around the world, joyously awaited The Lion King. I was intrigued because this time Disney appeared to be skipping the old folk-tales with their traditional and primal undercurrents.
I hoped Disney had grown weary of reinforcing women’s subordinate status by screening fables about a beauty who tames an angry male beast or a mermaid who gives up her glorious voice and splits her body to be with a prince.
So off we went to the movies, figuring we would enjoy an original, well-animated story about animals on the African plain. Even before the title sequence, however, I started to shudder.
Picture this (and I apologize for spilling the plot): The golden-maned—that is, good—lion is presenting his first born male child to his subjects. All the animals in the kingdom, known as Pride Lands, are paying tribute to the infant son that will someday be their king. These royal subjects are basically lion food—zebras, monkeys, birds, etc.—and they all live together in supposed harmony in the “circle of life.”
Outside the kingdom, in a dark, gloomy, and impoverished elephant graveyard, are the hyenas. They live dismally jammed together among bones and litter. They hyenas are dark—mostly black—and they are nasty, menacing the little lion prince when he wanders into their territory.
One of their voices is done by Whoopie Goldberg, in a clearly inner-city dialect. If this is not the ghetto, I don’t know what is.
All is not so perfect inside Pride Lands, however. The king’s evil brother Scar has no lionesses or cubs. Scar has a black mane, and speaks in an effeminate, limp-pawed, British style done by Jeremy Irons—seemingly a gay caricature.
Scar conspires with the hyenas to kill the king and send the prince into exile. In exchange for their support, Scar allows the hyenas to live in Pride Lands. But property values soon crash: The hyenas overpopulate, kill all the game, and litter the once-green land with bones.
Already Disney has gays and blacks ruining the “natural order,” and the stereotypes keep rolling. The lionesses never question whether they should be serving Scar and the hyenas—they just worry a lot. They are mistreated, but instead of fighting back these powerful hunters passively await salvation. (Even my 7-year-old wondered why the young, strong lioness didn’t get rid of Scar.)
The circle of life is broken; disaster awaits everyone. But then the first-born male returns to reclaim power. The royal heir kills the gay usurper, and sends the hyenas back to the dark, gloomy, bone-filled ghetto. Order is restored and the message is clear: Only those born to privilege can bring about change.
This is not a story about animals—we know animals don’t behave like this. This is a metaphor for society that originated in the minds of Disney’s creators. These bigoted images and attitudes will lodge deeply in children’s consciousness.
I’m not sure I always understand the law of the Hollywood jungle, but my boys definitely don’t. Scared and frightened by The Lion King, they were also riveted, and deeply affected. But entranced by the “Disney magic,” they and millions of other children were given hidden messages that can only do them—and us—harm. Margaret Lazarus, All’s Not Well in Land of “The Lion King” (via ellesugars)
“And the second reason was — during the years that I spent running Walt Disney Studios — I learned about how hard it was to find a fairy tale with a good strong male protagonist. You’ve got your Sleeping Beauties, your Cinderellas and your Alices. But a fairy tale with a male protagonist is very hard to come by. But with the origin story of the Wizard of Oz, here was a fairy tale story with a natural male protagonist. Which is why I knew that this was an idea for a movie that was genuinely worth pursuing.”
What’s the problem?
The number of good strong male characters in Disney films is approximately zero. Why are you so pissed off that someone wants to change that?
i am replying to this not remotely because you have a strong or remotely factually founded argument (p.s. everyone check that blog out; it’s hilarious and tragic) but because we started a list of disney [animated because i don’t have all day] male protags on twitter that i think is worth sharing:
aladdin, tarzan, kuzco, pacha, hercules, simba, peter pan, quasimodo, both the fox & the hound, pinocchio, taran, mickey, dumbo, the tramp, wart, mowgli, winnie the pooh, oliver, that mouse detective, bambi, mr toad, pongo, milo, jim, kenai, lewis, bolt, wreck-it ralph
and then of female protags, i bolded those characters in whose film a male supporting character still saved/resolved the narrative climax— which, we can talk about themes and power dynamics until the cows come home AND WE SHOULD, but at the end of the day, it is not ariel who defeats ursula
snow white, cinderella, sleeping beauty, alice in wonderland, ariel, belle, pocahontas, mulan, tiana, rapunzel
which is still ignoring all the films made by pixar under disney (all but one about men), all those films about dudes that i don’t know or care what they are, and all those films (the rescuers, the aristocats) in which arguably there are simultaneously a male and female protagonist but the narrative is still, like, super sexist
sexist against women
so for those of you keeping track at home, disney’s record for animated movies with narrative resolving male vs. female protagonists is about 27:4.
#do you know why you only know disney’s female-driven movies? #because they’re better #THEY’RE GODDAMN BETTER #also because you are sexist and any representation seems overwhelming #TOO MANY WOMEN!!!!!!!! you screech when one woman walks into the boys’ club #TOO MANY WOMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
#i would l o v e to know what movies he helmed at disney studios #because this is just the next level #oz: the great and powerful #this is especially gross to me because it is taking a world/story that hinges on female power and ruining that #like the whole point of the wizard of oz is that women have the power; dorothy has the power #nothing changes without her - the scarecrow the tinman the lion are need her because they are powerless to change themselves but she isnt #and supplementing that you have glinda and the wicked witch; active characters; gamechanging characters #who influence and affect dororthy far more than the wizard ever does - all the wizard truly is is a motivator for dorothy’s journey #and like it is heavily implied that the entire story is a dream of dorothy’s - she has created the whole world #and it makes sense that in her world the men are the ones who need saving and the women are the ones who wield power #so like taking the world of oz and that signifance and going OH TOO MANY *GIRLS* WE WANT A BOY LEAD #is some nasty ass shit #like lmao joke’s on you jerkface MOST FAIRYTALES ARE ABOIT GIRLS AND THEIR EXPERIENCES #and that is why they are so important and valuable to our culture #like even stories you think are about dudes? are about girls #peter pan is wendy’s manic pixie dream boy #scheherazade playing the long con #rumplestiltskin’s fatal flaw: underestimating a woman #like have as many male leads a you want - it will never change the fact that #the wizard of oz is a story about a girl looking for a man to help her #and then figuring out that she didnt need it - she could help herself (via apriki)
Possible candidates for a WOC Disney Princess
- Queen Liliuokalani: Hawaiian princess during the 1800's who must defend her land from a scorned volcano spirit that swears to destroy all of Hawaii.
- Princess Kaguya: Japanese folktale princess who is raised by the emperor and soon discovers her inherent alien abilities as a resident of the Moon, deals with social exclusion while simultaneously butting heads with a kitsune.
- Calamity Jane: Native American non-princess a la Mulan who deals with mystical creatures she must defeat while on the Western Frontier because she is the only one who knows the dangers of the land (like Wendigos and Cactus Cats).
- Maria Pistolas: Hispanic non-princess who rescues unjustly arrested revolutionaries during the Mexican Revolution against Spain.
- Queen Hatshepsut: Egyptian pharaoh who is cursed to become a wolf at night by the Egyptian gods and must discover a cure after realizing she has killed her entire family and become monarch.
- Princess Romanework: Ethiopian princess who must venture into Italy in hopes of escaping death due to being a twin and experiences culture shock.
“When The Fairy Tale Ends, Real Life Begins”
This is one of the most amazing thing’s Ive seen on Tumblr.