Lessons Learned from Disney

I saw a post on Facebook the other day about what people learned from Disney, only it was a positive thing. For some reason, a lot of people think Disney perpetuates stereotypes and gives unrealistic views of women and all these different complaints about Disney movies that ironically are taken from different cultures anyway. So today, I’ll be discussing the good things that Disney taught me, organized by movie. I’ll try to give 2-3 things from each movie, and I’ll probably do somewhere between 5-10 movies. So enjoy!

I’ll start with my favorite Disney classic: Mulan. I’ve heard people criticize the movie for saying that women need to be more like men, or that she isn’t really being a strong female if she’s pretending to be a man. I kindly reject those theories, because in order to do what she did took enormous courage and sacrifice and love. So lesson one from Mulan, protect those you love. Mulan took her father’s place in the army because he was too old. She broke the rules yes, but she saved her father from potential death, and managed to save the Emperor while at it. Not that breaking rules is condoned, but to a certain extent I would say that breaking rules for the greater good is acceptable. Lesson two: work hard. Mulan entered the army barely able to do any of the physical tasks asked of her, but through sheer determination and strength of will, she managed to become what I assume was top of her class since she got that arrow, showing brawn as well as brains. Congratulations Mulan. Lesson three: be brave. At the end when her commander and fellow troops abandoned her on the mountain because they found out Mulan was a woman, she didn’t just go back home. I think she may have started to head back, but then she went to the capital and faced Shan Yu by herself. She enlisted the help of her friends, which showed bravery to show her face to them again, and then they were incredibly brave, all of them, to save the Emperor from the Huns. Plus some style/awesome points for shooting a rocket at Shan Yu. And bonus lesson number four: follow your instincts. Mulan the entire time she was in the army was doing what she felt was right. When faced against the entire Hun army, she had the “sense” to cause an avalanche. It wiped out most of the Hun army, and even though a lot of her own troops were wiped out, in a purely statistical, “greater good” sense, she made the smartest move. Not only that, but she knew something was wrong with Shan Yu and the Emperor, and followed them and ended up saving the country. If your instincts tell you something, maybe you don’t have to act on them, but they are sure worth some consideration. I would even go the distance and say follow them, depending on what they are.

Pocahontas: It takes some guts to make a movie about a different culture. It provides all the critics with numerous different accusations about historical accuracy and racism and all of that. Personally, this is one of my favorite Disney movies, and I haven’t watched it in a really long time. So here we go, lesson one: Respect your elders. Grandmother willow and Pocahontas’s father are the main elders in the movie, and you can tell by watching it that Pocahontas respects them both and loves them both. There is a sort of clash between Pocahontas and her father over John Smith, but Pocahontas isn’t the bratty teenage daughter one might expect. She handles it maturely, especially considering her father’s first thought is to kill him because he is white. Side note: this also perfectly shows that racism is NOT only from white people to other races, it happens to white people as much as any other race. This isn’t to justify any actions, but just some food for thought. Lesson two: respect your youngers. I understand that for Pocahontas to marry a white man is out of tradition, and vice versa with John Smith’s culture, but they are both adults in their societies. If both sides would get over themselves and learn to accept one another, Pocahontas and John Smith could have lived peacefully happy lives together. This being said, Pocahontas’s father did not respect Pocahontas’s decision. Some might argue that he is their father and that is their culture, but Pocahontas should have been able to talk to her father about it without her father threatening to kill him, and then trying to. There is a fine balance between young and old, and it isn’t a one way street. There has to be a mutual respect for one another, or there is just trouble waiting to happen. Lesson three: don’t judge by appearance. Everyone was so quick to cast stones at each other because they were from different races and cultures. This is still something important to today’s world. If people just learn to accept differences and love, then it would be a more peaceful and fruitful world.

The Little Mermaid: This movie gets a TON of flack because Ariel traded her voice for a pair of legs because she saw a handsome man. Truth be told, trading her voice to Ursula of all things was a mistake, but she wasn’t as stupid and foolish as everyone says she was. For example, in the Disney version, they definitely do love each other, so Ariel wasn’t exactly wrong. Some people are just made for each other, and it seems this was the case for them, even though in the original fairy tale she doesn’t get the guy and ends up killing herself, or maybe just dying, and dissolving into sea foam. I’m pretty sure the sea witch, if present in the original fairy tale, gets the girl, but the point is, the original doesn’t have a happy ending. Now for the lessons. Lesson one: true love isn’t superficial. Ariel fell in love with Eric by seeing him (maybe it isn’t just guys who judge on appearance), and fell further in love without being able to talk to him. To me that says that love can overcome all obstacles. Ariel couldn’t talk, but she still communicated as best she could. Ursula had to step in in order to prevent Ariel from marrying him, because it definitely was true love, that why Flotsam and Jetsam had to stop that awesome “Kiss the Girl” song. Lesson two: ironically, communicate. Similar to Pocahontas, there was no acceptance of outsiders and the fathers do something rash. I mean come on, Triton blew up everything Ariel owned from the surface world. I think that was a little much, and it drove Ariel to Ursula for one reason to get back at daddy, but I would also say because she felt alone and that her father didn’t care for her. Understandable if you ask me, if my mom were to destroy everything I held dear to myself, I would be furious and also be convinced she didn’t care for me. Simply put, if Ariel and Triton had communicated better, I don’t think there would have been such a drastic course of action chosen by selling her soul to a sea witch. As shown in the Little Mermaid 2, Ariel and her father have a much better time communicating, but Ariel and her daughter, Melody, do not and the same problem happens with Morgana, Ursula’s sister. Either way, it seems pretty clear to me that communication is key among those you love.

Snow White: I’m not sure what people have to complain at in Snow White. If my memory serves me, Snow White didn’t want to eat the apple, the old hag pushed her into it. Some people also go so far as to say that Disney reinforces being scared of old people, ugly people, and fat people, with cases in all of the above examples, and all the good guys are beautiful and handsome. First of all, these Disney classics are all taken from different cultures, they aren’t original thoughts. Don’t blame Disney for that. Anyway, Snow White lessons. Lesson one: work together. I think this is pretty easy. Look how fast Snow White cleaned the dwarves’ house with the help of her little animal friends. ‘Nuff said. Lesson two: be kind. Snow White was probably the most gracious house guest anyone could ask for. She game the compliments, helped with chores, told stories, learned their names, everything. She was a perfect dear to them. There is a reason why all the dwarves wanted to get Snow White back and beat the evil Queen, who is by the way beautiful, even though she was old and ugly for a moment. It just shows that kindness beats hatred. Not only that, but super short lesson number three: leave conquers all. The jealous queen is thrown off a cliff by the dwarves and the forest animals because they love Snow White, and then Snow White is saved by her prince. Love leads to happy endings. Simple as that.

Cinderella: I’ll jump right to lessons. Lesson one: have patience. Cinderella was abused by her step-mother, but she kept on believing (haha, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” lyrics) and everything worked out well for her. These all go hand in hand, but have patience and hope and grace. There are people who call Cinderella and Snow White slave drivers for making animals do things for them, but she always said thank you, helped them out, and they all said they love Cinderella, or at least showed it. Anyway, her hope and patience and grace really show how awesome Cinderella is. It paid off for her. You think anyone like the step-sisters or step-mother would get a fairy Godmother? No, only graceful and patient and hopeful ones would. Lesson two: obedience. Cinderella never complained about her work, even though she had an absurd amount of chores to do. When asked to do some again, she said she’d already done them, but when told to do them again, she did them without complaining. The only time I saw her get mad was when she was locked in her room when the prince was coming, but even then she wasn’t very hateful, just sad and losing hope. But she held on and she got the prince.

Tarzan: Aside from the amazing song “You’ll be in My Heart”, Tarzan has a lot of awesome qualities, though that song is one of the best parts, and the “Shabba Da” song. Anyway, Tarzan lessons. Lesson one: don’t judge based on appearances. Sure, Jane was scared when she first saw Tarzan, but lets be honest, if a wild man were to be that intrusive, wouldn’t you be a little weirded out? Jane got over it and came to love him, and she taught him about England, and she learned about the jungle. If all people had a Tarzan-Jane relationship and sought to learn as much as teach, I think the world would be better. Lesson two: family is so much more than a blood bond. Tarzan isn’t even the same species as his gorilla and elephant friends, but they are a stronger family than any I’ve seen. It just goes to show that you don’t need to be related to be family. I mean come on, who wouldn’t want Tarzan’s mom? Lesson three: try new things. Jane tried going to a new land that hadn’t been explored, and Tarzan tried a ton of new things from England, and then Jane tried vine swwinging, ape walking, vine sliding shenanigans, and I bet they loved it. Stepping outside your comfort zone might be scary, but I bet it pays off.

That’s all I have for now, I hope you enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll do a part two, though I’ve been debating whether to do a defense of the movie “Frozen” for a while, so maybe I’ll do that as well. Thanks for reading, and let me know if I missed any from these movies, I’m sure I did.

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