Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Disney and the question of Motherhood

So the other day I was randomly compilmenting people because they like it and I was going to call one girl a Disney Queen amongst princesses when all the sudden it hit me. Mother figures don't really excist in the vast majority of Disney's animated features. The two notable excpetions to this are both Bambi and Dumbo but Bambi's mother gets shot and well that's that.

It is kind of one of those stunning revalations that you would think means something. However, I am not sure what to make of it. For example because Geppeto's lack of wife was a plot point in Pinoccio which is why he had to wish for a real boy instead of just making one the old fashioned way. Similarly Lilo and Stich remove the parents from the equation by way of car accident. Go go texting while driving.

However it gets a little wierder when you get one twords things like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Where was Belle's mother? Did she die in childbirth or was she just around in the village somewhere when her dad let the beast take her? She isn't mentioned at all, not even in passing. While Belle's family life doesn't play a major role in the movie, Ariel's family life is the very thing that propels the plot fowards. Ariel seems to be mostly raised by Sebastian who plays the role of comforter and confider while her disatant and uncompromising father hands down orders from on high in regards to how Ariel needs to live her life, paticularly in how she is not supposed to interact with surface dwellers. Actually the Lion King fits in here too. Mufasa plays a major role in Simba's life and it is recognized that it is the female lions that are the great hunters and yet we see no indication of Simba's mother throughout the rest of the movie.

Oh yeah and Aladdin I mean, Aladdin himself is an orphan but what about Jasmine? Where is her mother during all of this?

The problematic thing is that the lack of a mother figure in the lives of just about all of the disney princesses is odd and while I would say that their absence is conspicuous I don't have any evidence to show that there is a reason they don't excist. Even more irritating the father figures also seem to fit a wide range of roles, from the villian in Huntchback of Notre Dame, to distant tyrant in the Little Mermaid, to caring gaurdian in the Lion King, to weak easily distracted men like in Aladin, to older rather helpless men in the form of Pinnocho, Beauty & The Beast, and Mulan.

I haven't really mentioned Pocahantas because I've only seen it once and that was a long time ago but I am pretty sure her mother wasn't around either.

I could try to formulate an argument about how daddy's girls make for better characters but that doesn't seem to work for Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. It is also problematic for both Ariel and Belle who were both more "fish out of water" characters rather than Daddies girls. It also doesn't approach the fact that this pattern carries over into stories with male protagonists such as Pinnochio, The Huntchaback of Nortre Dam, and The Lion King. The total lack of cohesive family units within Disney movies is strange, not only is it strange but the lack is an opposite to the norm that is experienced by children, ie most children have an absent father figure and the mother plays a much larger role.

Kristen Nelson who randomly happened to be passing by as I am writing this informed me that it is because Walt Disney didn't have a mother. While this now accounts for all the older movies and the proliferation of female villains of the early movies the man has been dead for many dozens of years now. The fact that this is still something that carries over into today is something that I find incredibly interesting. Oh well lunch is over and I guess the mystery has been solved which is nice.

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