I’ve spent most of today working on an essay, which has meant Mini-Dragon has been self-entertaining today. By self-entertaining, I mean asking for recorder lessons, countless questions of “Mummy, what you doing? Why? Can I have…”… You get the point. By lunchtime, it became apparent that self-entertaining wasn’t happening. But at some point around that time, Mini-Dragon dug out the Tangled playset. At some point during this role-play, Flynn Ryder goes hurling off the chair, with a shocked gasp from Mini-Dragon. “Mummy, Mother Gothel just hurt Flynn!”
*Cough* Yeah, about that Disney… What’s the obsession with evil women?
Think I’m bluffing?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Disney films as much as the next… erm… OK, that’s beside the point. But, yes, I have an unhealthy love-hate obsession with Disney. I know Tangled word for word. Likewise with The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. But one thing has always niggled away at my mind. Where the Disney Princess films are concerned, we’re seeing an alarming rate of Wicked Witches being shown to our children, all of whom are somehow overpowering a young, beautiful, heterosexual princess, who needs to be saved by an equally young, beautiful, heterosexual prince. Giving us the Wicked Witch Complex.
Now, I’ll only be looking at the Disney Princess films for this blog post; again, I know the Princess franchise is not the be all and end-all of the Disney Corporation, but, Mickey Mouse aside, they’re arguably the most recognisable characters, and one of the most profitable sectors of the company; the release of the Disney Princess line saw sales in the company’s consumer products raise from $300 million in 2001, to $3 billion in 2006. That’s a ten fold increase over five years. Not bad, eh?
There are ten official Disney Princesses, spanning an impressive 80 decades. And with that 80 years of Disney Princesses, we see 80 years of villains; some of which aren’t as obvious as one may think. However, up until 1991, none of the Disney Princess films, as they’re now known, featured a male villain. We’ve also seen a development of the complexity of Disney Villains over the past 80 years; from a 2 dimensional Evil Queen in Snow White, someone that I grew up fearing, to the more complex Mother Gothel, a character who I believe was possibly the most complex of Disney Villains of all time.
But what’s most telling about this is the fact that, whilst the male villains of the nineties and noughties brought the number of male and female villains to a level playing field, we saw less of a deviation in the diversity of female villains. Whilst connections to the supernatural were not entirely absent in male villains, only one female villain was devoid of any connection to the supernatural; Lady Tremaine of Cinderella. The issue of the Wicked Witch Complex isn’t resolved by having male villains connected to the supernatural; it’s resolved by refusing to separate women from the supernatural. Whilst women are still being hounded for apparent connections to Witchcraft, is it really justified for Disney to routinely portray a large number of its women characters as such?
But there’s another problem in portraying women as being just as, if not more, dangerous than men. It’s the echoes of the misogynists who attempt to derail talks about men’s violence against women, with cries of “Women are just as dangerous”. Actually, that’s not entirely true… Women aren’t killing 2 men or 2 other women a week; men are. Continually painting women as dangerous killers detracts from the reality that the biggest threat to women lies with men; but the patriarchy would rather pit women against us. Solidarity is harder when we believe every woman is a threat, and men are our saviours. Funnily enough, hailing men as our knights in shining armour also makes it a lot harder for women to escape the patriarchy.
We need Disney, along with other creators of other children’s films, to stop portraying women as dangerous villains, and men as the heroes and protectors. All it is doing is harming our women, and as a result, our children.
I’ll be writing on The Problem With Prince Charming next week; It’s a long one…