Of Mouse and Men

Alice Stanley, who would never dream of crushing the perfect nostalgia of simple childhood films by over-analyzing them, evaluates the unrealistic ideals she was promised in men by animated Disney classics.

Disney has always been praised for its kid-friendly plotlines and morals, but in reality, they have been causing deep psychological harm to women for generations. No, this isn’t another tirade about animated nudity in The Rescuers. I’m talking about the unrealistic romantic ideals these cartoon classics fed me at a tender age. Let’s take a look at a few of the Disney men and how they warp a girl’s mind.

Aladdin

First of all, he goes hoes before bros immediately. The Arabian Knight drops Abu for Jasmine like a hot scarab. This can make a girl think that when we find boyfriends, we become their first priority. Good luck with that.

Secondly, he’s a liar. Prince Ali is a total scam, but unlike all the other lying men in a girl’s life, his intentions are good. He lies so he can become a real prince for his dream gal. A girl might believe that while her guy is skanking around, he’s secretly planning a ridiculous surprise wedding and selflessly freeing a Genie. False.

The Beast

Initially the beast is realistic (moody, possessive of his space), but it doesn’t take long for Disney to show that he wants to work on his manners, entertain his sweetheart with a library, and that he doesn’t mind sacrificing himself in the name of love.

Not to mention he can naturally ballroom dance. What is that about? These days it’s lucky to find a guy who can Macarena.

Simba

Where did Disney get this character? He’s brave, loves his mom and pop, and is willing to eat various ethnic food outside of his comfort zone. Oh, and he’s literally a prince. Come on.


It’s confusing to grow up with these models of wonder, only to find that our other halves aren’t all they’ve been sketched out to be. Why didn’t Disney make a model hero who is unreliable; leaves the girl with all the kids while he cohorts with other, prettier women; and never wants to grow up? Oh wait. One win for Walt: Peter Pan.

To be fair, the men of our generation aren’t all so different from the Disney heroes I’ve just bashed. It would be unfair to criticize all guys because of a few Jafars, Gastons, and Scars. Still, when you’re five years-old and all you see is on-screen perfection, it teaches you two things. First, that you’ll fall in love with a heroic man who will change your world, and second, that that is the key to happiness. The latter happens because, while the Disney heroines might have gained more personality since Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, they still don’t aspire to much. Sure, Jasmine and Belle are saucy and smart, but what are their life goals?

Even at a young age I thought about marriage, but I had no idea which characteristics I might find attractive because I barely knew my own personality. It was several years before I saw myself accomplishing more than being a wife. While Disney movies are near to my heart, I believe that if I ever have my own girls, I will be careful about what they take away from the classics. Life can be a fairy tale, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a romantic one. Women know they can make their own dreams come true, but do girls?

Alice Stanley is an MFA candidate in Dramatic Writing at Arizona State University. Follow her tweets or send her an email. She also has a website.