The kids were playing so nicely. No one was using the other as a balance beam, no one was arguing over the “not broken” pretzel. The baby, nursing contentedly, clung to the soft fabric of my shirt with one of her chubby hands. She graced me with a mid-suckle grin before succumbing to sleep. As I was taking a mental snapshot of the sweet moment, my 3-year-old daughter’s voice floated in from the playroom:
“You can be the Daddy and I’ll be the baby because the Mommy died.”
What now? The Mommy died?!
Imaginary play is my girl’s favorite thing in life. Normally she is a princess bossing around her minions, but sometimes she’s in the kitchen doling out hearty meals like an Italian grandmother. Other times, she’s creating her own classroom where the students learn about things that are pink. But this pretend world, where the mother has died, this was new.
I’ve seen more Disney movies than I have kids, but I’ve only recently begun watching them with my kids. My three and five-year-olds finally have attention spans longer than a gnat’s, so full-length films as opposed to 20 minutes of that mind-numbing Caillou are still pretty new for us. Still, I can’t believe I didn’t notice it prior to my kid killing me off.
It being Disney’s tendency to portray three types of mothers in their movies: none, mean, or dead. At first, I thought ol’ Walt must have had whatever the opposite of the Oedipus Complex is. The Tony Soprano Syndrome? I’m not exactly sure what transpired between Mr. Walt Disney and his own mother, but if Google tells the truth, yikes. His mother died tragically; as a result, he done killed off all the Mamas in his movies! If the maternal figure’s fatally wounded body doesn’t perish in a horrific forest fire as does Bambi’s, her ship capsizes on the turbulent sea by way of a violent storm like Elsa and Anna’s.
What. The. Eff.
Why kill all the Mommies, Mr. Disney? Okay, in all fairness, not every movie features a mother’s ultimate demise; the mother in Brave is there as a bear, and the Mama in Toy Story seems nice enough except for the whole selling her son’s favorite toys thing.
A parent’s death, usually a mother, isn’t always an integral part of the movie plot; some were knockin’ on Heaven’s door long before the movie started, like Cinderella’s. But look at the mess of a stepmother Disney gave her! Let’s be frank here; she’s a real bitch. Not exactly a woman I would want my daughters to emulate. Another character whose mother is long gone and never part of the movie is Pocahontas. This chick falls for the white man who wants to, as Jimi Hendrix says, plow and dig her earth. Had her Mama been around, ain’t no way Poca would have run off with Smitty.
Then there’s Snow White. She has a strange proclivity for little men. She shacks up with dwarfs, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but seven of them? I’m sorry, that’s just greedy. Tell me why she needs seven!
Back to the point: where is Snow White’s mom? Is she that evil witch with the poison apple? Maybe someone should report Cinderella and Snow White’s stepmothers to CYS; they’re clearly not taking their role as parent very seriously. These mother figures certainly don’t paint step parents in a very favorable light.
Two of my favorite Disney princesses, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Jasmine from Aladdin, are also motherless. I think it’s great that bookworm Belle has a close relationship with her father; as a Daddy’s Girl myself, I can appreciate that much. And I do love how outspoken Jasmine is; she can also rock the hell out of a statement necklace and a pair of palazzo pants. But would it have been so hard to make the mothers of these intelligent, confident gals a part of the script? If I’m being honest, Belle’s dad, while endearing, is a bumbling idiot, and Jasmine’s father, sick of her freeloading, is trying to marry her off to the first available royal penis. Neither of these girls would have had to rely on a man, or a Beast as it were, to “save” them had their mothers been around to explain that men leave their dirty socks on kitchen counters and aren’t the answer to a woman in dire straits.
Fend for yourselves, ladies. Do you.
And don’t even get me started on Finding Nemo. I still have to fast forward the beginning where Nemo’s mother and ALL OF HIS SIBLINGS are viciously attacked and murdered right in front of him and his father. No wonder Nemo’s dad is all messed up and the epitome of a helicopter parent; he’s probably popping Xanax under da’ sea with Ariel who, surprise, surprise! is also sans mama.
I know Disney isn’t the brain child behind most of the stories he put on the big screen, so I’ll cut him some slack. BUT had he taken the creativity liberty of including a few positive maternal role models, it would’ve been a step in the right direction to change the stereotypical perception of women being needy and reliant and helpless, lest a man come sweep us off our feet and save the day. Mr. Disney had a chance to show our daughters, at a very young and impressionable age, that both parent and princess deserve respect. Or at the very least, he could’ve saved my imaginary ass from being offed by my toddler.