Sunday, March 30, 2008

What Does Disney Have Against Mothers Anyhow?

Last November I purchase the Disney movie, Bambi, for Sugar Bear. I had reservations about whether she would like it, but being that one of my favorite quotes comes from that movie, I was eager to add it to our collection. I was fairly certain that the more difficult pieces of subject matter in the film would go over her head...at least for the first few viewings. Even though my Hubby is a hunter, I have not yet figured out the best waY to explain that process to my animal lover of a Sugar Bear.

I was correct, in my thinking, and despite the rather depressing plot, Sugar Bear fell in love with the movie. She would have chose to watch it 24/7 if I had let her. I proceeded to busy myself during the parts that invariably make me cry. Sometimes, Sugar Bear would wonder where Bambi's mama went, and I would just simply echo what his father toLD him, "She can't be with you anymore.", and it seemed to satisfy her.


When Christmas arrived, and my sister-in-law gave Sugar Bear a lovely Bambi story book. This present was in deed a hit. In fact, I became subjected to reading it EVERY.SINGLE.NIGHT before bed. While reading, and holding my child so close, I could not hide from the emotion of the story. EACH.AND.EVERY.TIME I had to say the words, "your Mother can't be with you anymore..." my heart broke, my throat closed up, my eyes filled with tears, and I was barely able to squeak out the words. EACH.AND.EVERY.TIME my dear little Sugar Bear would look up at me, and say, "Are you okay mama?", and I would pull her into my body a little tighter, and mumble something to assure her that I was going to be fine.

Sometime during my 13th night in a row of emotional torture, I began to wonder.....WHAT ON EARTH DOES DISNEY HAVE AGAIN MOTHERS ANYHOW? Later that night, I lay awake mentally clicking off Disney movie after Disney movie that in some way harmed a mother, or completely disregarded her presence. Now I know many of these stories were written before Disney decided to make them into movies, but SERIOUSLY....there is a disturbing pattern here.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs- Snow's mother dies...and her step mother is so jealous of her, she sets about having her killed.

Cinderella- Cinder's mother dies, and her father marries a horrible woman who defines the term "evil step mom."

Dumbo- The mother gets jailed for trying to protect her little one.

The Jungle Book- Mowgli appears to have been abandoned by his mother.

The Fox and the Hound- The mother fox is killed by a hunter in the first 5 minutes of the movie.

The Little Mermaid- Where is Ariel's mother, anyhow?

Beauty and The Beast- Again.....no mother.

Aladdin- Ummmmm.....does Jasmine have a mother?

The Hunchback of Notre Dame- The mother is killed.

Tarzan- Both Parents are killed by a leopard.

Lilo and Stitch- Again.....no parents.

Brother Bear- OH don't get me started on Brother Bear.....that dang movie rips my heart out throws it on the floor and stomps on it with big steel toed boots. Again....in the beginning, the baby bears mother is killed.

Chicken Little- Mom is AWAL.

Finding Nemo- Movie opens....mother is killed. NICE!

Monster's Inc.- Is it just me....or shouldn't Boo's mom be worried?

Ratatouille- AGAIN....the mouse has a dad.....but where is the mother?


The list goes on.....it really has to make you wonder. What is the message Disney is trying to send here. Do they devalue motherhood so much, that they figure their main characters have no need for a mom? Are they still so old fashioned that they still focus on the father being the head of the household, so when cutting characters to save time and money, they get rid of the mother? WHAT.IS.THE.DEAL.HERE!!!

I have a theory....I really do. Wanna hear it? Are you sure? Okay....you twisted my arm. This is how I see it. Disney really places the highest value on the symbol of motherhood, and the strong maternal bond. They know that the relationship between mother and child is something most people can relate to. By taking the main character's mother away, they are secretly forcing us to relate strongly to them, and feel more connected to the character. We can all imagine how horrible it is to be without a mother, so when a main character is without mother....we feel sorry for them, and become emotionally connected to them. We root for them, and want the best for them. I mean....who doesn't feel sorry for the underdog....and what is more sad, then a motherless child?

Am I on to something here, or is it all coincidence that like 90% of all Disney movies are without mother? No matter the reason, I find it terribly sad. Children viewing these films are not getting the opportunity to see strong maternal bonding. Several times while watching these films, Sugar Bear has said to me, "Where is Ariel's mama?" or "what happened to fox's mama?" It is confusing so for her.

Now don't get me wrong. I am ALL about diversity. I am certainly NOT saying that all movies should feature an intact Nuclear family, but why is it ALWAYS the mom? I sit here trying to think of at least one animated Disney flick where the father has died, and the mom is raising the child? I'm stumped.....Can you think of one? See what I mean? Shouldn't it be equal opportunity? Shouldn't children see single mother households as well? Shouldn't they?

I'm just sayin'.....

34 Live It or Love It:

Hanlie said...

Excellent post! You made me think!

Carolyn said...

Wow. I'd never looked at it this way! You're totally right.

To further intensify your argument, I find many children's shows to be like this too. It's the main reason we've stopped watching “Dora” and “Diego”. Have you noticed that some poor little animal always loses their mommy and needs to be rescued? It was giving Csilla nightmares. I didn't figure it out right away until she made a comment about being worried about losing her mama just like the little baby jaguar (or whoever it was). I was horrified. Needless to say we stopped watching!

Here's another weird one – I don't know if you get “Max & Ruby”, but they appear to live all alone in their house with no parents and only grandma down the street. What up with that?

Carolyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolyn said...

Ooops. That was me. I posted my comment twice. Sorry!

Corey~living and loving said...

LOL yeah....I have notice both the things you brought up. I think Dora and Deigo writers actually play upon children's fears of losing their mama. They know that Children can relate to the little animals missing their mama, to the child will get invested in watching to see if the baby animal finds mama.

oh and don't get me started on Max and Ruby...where the heck are their parents? I don't get it.....sigh....

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

And NEMO. Don't forget Nemo.

Bean constantly notices people, animals, etc. who appear to be alone and asks me, "Mama, WHERE IS HIS FAMILY???" Kids are definitely in tune to exactly what you're noticing in these films.

And as a stepmom myself, I have a VERY hard time understanding why the stepmother is so frequently the bad guy, too. I guess that's a feature of the older movies really. If they made an evil stepmovie these days, there'd be an uprising!

Terry said...

Corey, I refuse to watch Bambi and Dumbo. Those movies are wayyyy too sad for me. But you are right about the mommy trend. Curiously I just asked my princess why Ariel and Nemo do not have mommies and she said "Mom, mermaids and fish don't have moms. Only people have moms." Oh Dear. I will have to explain this as she gets older. Tee Hee.

Driving With the Brakes On said...

I really like your theory about Disney wanting to place a higher value on motherhood! Hubby and I took the 3-hour tour at DisneyLand the first time that he took me, and we were told that Walt actually lost his mother to carbon monoxide poisoning when he was very young - hence the frequent death and/or absence of a mother in his films. I don't recall if his father remarried and gave him an evil stepmother . . .

Michelle said...

There is also The Land Before Time (Little Foot's mom dies) and Ice Age (the mom dies).

I used to love all those old Disney movies - as a kid I guess we really don't notice the reocurring theme there - until we become a parent. I discovered this last summer. We went on a road trip from NM to MD to visit my family. While there Kayla watched a bunch of Disney movies for the first time (that they had saved from my sister) not to mention a few new movies she hadn't seen yet and we borrowed for the DVD. I slowly started to notice a theme with the no mother. I posted this upon our return home:

Which reminds me - how come the mom always seems to die in kids' movies? Seriously! Bambi, The Land Before Time, Finding Nemo, Brother Bear, Ice Age - see what I mean? The mom always dies! I find that a little morbid.

Someone left a comment that is somewhat similar to your theory: I think the reason for all of the dead moms in kids' movies is because mothers are the people who keep children safe - and so the absence of mothers is the plot device that puts the movie child in danger and sets the story in motion.

Whatever the reason, I still find it sad.

I think The Lion King is the only one I can recall where the father dies...but still...a parent dies.

Amy said...

Interesting and eye-opening. I had actually never given it any thought! Great post!

CMB said...

The Lion King. Mufasa is killed. The mom lives but the Uncle forces Simba to leave. Other than that, I can not think of another. Great post. I am a HUGE Disney fan, but I do not know much about Walt himself. Maybe his Mom died and his Dad married a real witch!

Jenty said...

Fascinating post. I've always thought that all Disney movies were quite scary actually and sad, but never looked as deeply as this into them. I think you have a point!

Laura said...

YES, this is quite strange! I've noticed it too. Maya hasn't seen a single Disney movie yet because she is far too sensitive a kid to be able to handle the intensity, and because I don't want to have to face the inevitable questions yet. *sigh* I think you have a good theory!

Autumn said...

Yep, I've noticed that too. The wicked step mother theme is the one that really pisses me off, we aren't a bunch of money hungry witches! UGH.

Kat said...

Did you know that just the other day when we were in Disneyland Paris, the very same topic came up. Glad you noticed too.

CrazyCath said...

You are so right! And I react the same to Bambi. It was the first movie I saw as a little girl (many moons ago!) and I remember the fire scared me and I do remember the mum gone. One of my boys was ok with it as I was and Sugar, but my youngest is very very sensitive and he immediately picked up on it and it upset him.

I think you are quite right about this theme Disney seems to have here. What about losing a father? And I think your theory about why they do it is on the right lines too - it DOES make you sympathise with the character. But that makes you wonder if their characters are so weak they need to do this?

Great post Corey. Well thought out.

Jules said...

Great post Corey! I totally agree! We haven't really watched any of the classics like Bambi, Snow White, etc for the same reasons. Poisoned apples, murder plots and evil stepmothers? And these movies are made for children? Eeek!

Lis Garrett said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets so emotionally worked up over Disney movies! You make an interesting point, Corey. ;-)

Oh and about Max & Ruby, I've often wondered where the parents are, too!

I know it's not Disney, but Little Bear has always been one of my FAVORITE series. Even though Papa Bear is often away fishing, the family is intact and very loving. And Mother Bear is a BIG part of Little Bear's life.

beachmom said...

not that you really asked, but I recently made a presentation about this very fact ... and my premise was that Disney places such a high value on mothers that they have to take away MOM so that they can create a fairy-tale ending ... because we all know that to our children, Mom makes everything right ... it is only when Mom isn't around that we need an outside source (like a fairy godmother) to make things right with the world.

Great post - thanks for that today!

Heidi said...

I've always had the same thought about the mother being absent from all the movies- I never thought about it how you presented it though. Very interesting. I always try to guide my girls towards Mulan- strong woman message along with a mother AND father...and even a grandmother! :) They don't fall for it, but I try. ;)

tommie said...

I have never thought about this, but you are so right!

K in the Mirror said...

This is very true. My mom used to complain about it when I was little.

I like Lady and the Tramp for a good showing of a nuclear family, and Robin Hood since it's not really based around a family unit. Plus those two aren't very scary. It seems like the ones with the missing parents are much more frightening.

Jennifer Powell said...

Corey, You beat me to this post! I've been wondering the same thing myself. It is very sad and I do wonder what they are thinking. I think your theory is probably true. I also have issues with Disney making at least one part of every movie scary. My daughter is very sensitive and I had all but banned all Disney movies until the last couple of months (she will be 3 in May). Thanks for sharing.

beth said...

I have wondered the same thing. I always figured the ones based on classic fairy tales were from a time when there really were lots of orphans that desperately needed the hope provided by a happy ending.

One or two nice mommies in the newer movies would be nice though!

KatieBug said...

Toy Story has a mom but no dad. It would be nice if every once in a while they made a movie with an intact Nuclear family.

Groovy Mom said...

Well, not only that but parents have a way of putting a damper on dangerous adventures. They are just too safety-minded, so in order for any real adventure to happen to a character, the parents have to be out of the picture somehow.

Childlife said...

I can't TELL you how many time's we've had the Disney "where's da mommy?" conversation!

Watch 'Lady And The Tramp' or '101 Dalmatians'... you'll feel a LITTLE better ; )

holly said...

there is something here corey. i might go hunt that man down and psycho-analyze him. well, first i'd have to get schooled up in psycho-analysis, and then i'd have to bring him back to life, which probably would scar him further, but i think it's worth it for the info.

*my* guess would have been a secret hatred of women, but then he might have churned out something a little more sinister than a cute little mouse.

so yeah. he must prize them enough to kill them. that makes sense.

Craver Vii said...

Your nice comment at David McMahon's lured me here, and I have to say that I am quite pleased with what I have seen so far! ...Good eye, sharp brain, warm heart.

I have heard similar comments about the dads too, but you make an excellent point.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Corey, I've often thought this but I never got to a theory as to why.
We haven't watched much Disney as Miss E used to get so sad or scared. Miss M is different again so she may enjoy them, but I'm like you, they make me sad and a bit teary, sigh. Let's hope the trend changes.

Julie B said...

such a great post! My daughter is currently obsessed with The little Mermaid, and I have been asked so many times about where her mommy could be. Now we talk about possible places she could have been...it keeps my daughter thinking and I love to hear her ideas :)
I never really thought about all the other movies...it is kind of odd and your theory really makes sense to me!

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

We've wondered the same thing too - although I never specifically realized how many times it's 'mothers' - I always put the Lion King on the list and it's the dad in that movie. But it would be nice if Disney could keep a full set of two parents around every so often! The only one I can think of offhand is 101 Dalmations.

My girls watch the Disney movies, but Abby especially doesn't like the 'scary' parts. They love the princess 'stuff' but I can't remember the last time they wanted to watch Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, or Sleeping Beauty. Interesting...

we are reilly said...

yeah -- I hear you! We don't watch real 'movies' at our house yet -- because of that very reason -- I haven't found any movie that I would let my child watch yet that doesn't have some scary situation (that is above her cognitive level to really understand) or portrays some part of life that I'm not ready for her to deal with (death, etc).

So, we watch PBS and rent videos from the library of her favorite PBS characters or Leap Frog stuff....

I HEAR YOU!

Anonymous said...

How about Enchanted? Again another Disney film with a mom who left and an evil stepmom who is trying to prevent her son from entering into a happy marriage. I am so done with Disney.

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