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The dark side of Disney

By Isabelle Tyner

It is very hard to be perfect. There are a lot of issues and controversies that we, as humans, all contribute to in small ways. For example, no one is pro-child labour, but yet I’m sure you have an item of clothing in your wardrobe that was not ethically produced.

It is depressing and yet, the real world we all live in.

HOWEVER, the dark side of Disney is something I can proudly talk about without hypocrisy.

I was never brought up with a saturating flow of Disney. My mum and dad took us to Disneyland once in Florida, and once in Paris when I was very young- and we actually got our money back from the Paris trip because of the horrific experience.

I mostly grew up on musicals more so than Disney films. At the time it was just from an innocent place that I enjoyed them more. Now whenever these films show up on my TV, whilst I don't exactly shut my eyes, gag and refuse to watch them, I don’t invest any money or voluntary time into it either.


*I am aware corruption is included in almost every big company. However, I am passionate to discuss this one particular topic because of its innocent, pure and fantastical selling point…which is paradoxical from its political and social contexts. I also think Disney gets fed into our lives without much thought from an early age. So here is a reality check*

Inside the walls

I can see the attraction as a child. It is a magical land filled with your favourite characters, sweets, rides and music. But as an adult, I can’t help but sigh when I see grown-ups skipping up to the Disney palace, smiling while posing for their picture to be taken with Mickey or Minnie Mouse ears on…

All this while the real world is falling apart outside.

Let us take Disneyland Florida, where guns are LITERALLY legal outside those walls.

I find it mind-blowing that people can throw away their senses, to act like fairy tales come true, whilst meters away there are political and social justice issues that are yet to be addressed.

Whilst children may not be privy to this information, there is something quite sinister about the contrast at play.

Race portrayal

Perhaps the only accountability that is held by Disney more recently is the prejudice and inaccurate portrayal of race.

To name a few of these examples are:

-the Chinese cats from The Aristocats, sing about fortune cookies (invented in America by the way) with a clumsy Asian accent

-Pocahontas is historically mistaken (with 90% of the indigenous people in America wiped out by disease or genocide)

-Only recently did they have their first black princess, in Princess and The Frog in 2009…Long overdue.

And even so, all princesses and princes possess perfectly tiny waists, big eyes, smooth skin complexions and luscious hair. No wonder our children grow up so insecure.

The diversity and representation of ethnic minorities and body positivity is far from healthy. I have linked a website below which provided me with this information if you wish to follow this up.

Virginal or evil/ Angel or whore

It seems most Disney films will not pass the Bechdel Test.

If you don’t know what this means, I’ll explain. It is a way to measure if a film has a feminist agenda, which is measured in three simple ways:

1) Does it include at least 2 female characters?

2) Do they talk to each other?

3) Do they discuss anything other than a man?

And within those female characters, Disney present women in 2 categories- virginal or evil.

The problem is it shows women as either reliant on a man, pure, lady-like, passive and weak OR hysterical, manipulative, controlling, jealous and ugly. Isn’t this narrative boring?

Let’s leave these films in the 20th century when they were mostly made. One could argue, ‘but Frozen has 2 strong sisters in the narrative?’

Yes, but Ana falls madly in love with a toxic male within seconds, portraying women as having no standards when it comes to love. Whilst setting off on a journey to find her sister, she has to be accompanied by another male to protect and help her. Elsa is banished from her OWN kingdom for being ‘cursed’ and dangerous, seen as being unable to control her life and her powers, which further emphasises the two categories demonstrated by the sisters. And then suddenly all of these factors are swept away and we have a happy ending…? Confusing.

Other stuff that pisses me off:

-Sleeping beauty doesn’t even give consent to be kissed.

-We’re told a happy ending must consist of being in a heterosexual, conforming marriage.

-Cinderella has to dress up and transform herself physically to gain a Prince.

-Belle claims to love the beast, though he is her captor.

-In 1938, The Walt Disney Company sent a rejection letter to Mary Ford, stating that "girls are not considered" for creative positions.

-Men are pressured to be heroic, to not cry or show sensitivity, and always be up for a fight.

-Belief that happiness is a destination we can reach if only we find a ‘true love’.

To top this all off, I was scammed out of £36 by a fraudulent website whilst trying to download a free Disney Plus trial so I could put on Frozen for Mum…

Regardless, I’m not suggesting everyone is going to like this blog. I’m sure I’ll be bombarded with examples of where the princesses are strong, where Disney is inclusive etc.

However, beyond that is a flood of scandal, controversy and subliminally damaging communication (see links below).

Let’s take accountability for what we consume, especially what we show to young children, and not put Disney on a pedal-stall.


(Top 10 Ways Disney Corrupts Children, , 2012)


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