Disney Told My Kids to Kill Me

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 quick toothless grin before succumbing to sleep. As I was taking a mental snapshot of the relaxing moment, I heard:

“You can be the Daddy and I’ll be the baby because the Mommy died.”

What now? The Mommy died?!

Imaginary play is my three-year-old’s favorite thing in life. Normally she is a princess, but sometimes in the kitchen doling out hearty meals like an Italian grandmother, or she’s creating her own classroom where her students will learn about things that are pink. But this pretend world, where the mother has died, this was new.

Or not.

I’ve seen more Disney movies than I have kids, but I’ve only recently begun watching Disney movies with my kids. My three and four-year-olds finally have an attention span longer than a butterfly’s, so full-length films as opposed to 20 minutes of that mind-numbing Caillou are still pretty new for us. I just 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. I’m not sure what exactly transpired between Mr. Walt Disney and his own mother, but if life imitates art, yikes. Ol’ Walt must have had whatever the opposite of the Oedipus Complex is. The Tony Soprano Syndrome? 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 striving 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, 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!

Actually, don’t.

Back to the point: where is Snow White’s mom? Isn’t she that evil witch with the poison apple? Maybe Cinderella and Snow White’s stepmothers should be reported to CYS because they’re clearly not taking their role as parent very seriously. These mother figures certainly don’t paint we who bear children 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 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 dude 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.

If Disney would veer off course from the original fairy tales by allowing one positive maternal role model to pave the way for a younger generation, maybe we could change the stereotypical perception of women and prove to our daughters once and for all that both parent and princess deserve respect. Or at the very least, save my imaginary ass from being offed by my toddlers.

I overheard my 3 y/o daughter say: "Let's play pretend! You can be the Daddy and I'll be the baby because the Mommy died." And I totally blame Disney


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  1. Interesting observation. As a follow up, please write to Disney and see what reasoning they give for the obvious pattern of motherless main characters.

  2. Holy crap, you’re right! The only Disney “mom” I can think of (because my 2-1/2 yo made me watch it for the 387th time last night) is Sarabi, Simba’s mother in the Lion King… but she’s barely even in the movie more than a couple scenes.

    • There are others that “have” a mom, but she’s either such an insignificant part of the movie or she’s a bear. Ha! Okay, that’s not a 100% accurate statement either, but we can agree there’s a running theme and it’s Walt Disney’s fault that my kids are pretending I’m dead :0

  3. Parents are the ruiners of fun, and they must be destroyed. Just ask the Boxcar children and Harry Potter. Moms? Moms are the worst.

  4. It’s not just Disney, you know. Any effective children’s book or movie features either orphaned children–or children with effectively absent parents. And there’s a really good storytelling reason for this: if there was a GOOD mother in the picture… there’s be no drama. She’d just step in and kick the monster’s ass. She’s take charge. She’d protect the kids. And so it wouldn’t be a story about the children battling adversity. It would be a story about the mom being the mom… You know?

    Harry Potter, Pippi Longstocking, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, David Copperfield… Carly from iCarly! Only possible to tell the story where the kids take centre stage if you remove the parents.

    • 1. Helloooo and I’ve missed you.

      2. I love you.

      3. You’re absolutely right. I took a children’s literature course in college where we deconstructed that shit and YES. Everything you said: YES. My kiddies are so little yet that we’ve only been submersed into the world of Disney, though, so I shall blame Walt. :)

  5. A lot of these are stories that already existed before Disney made them into animated features. I wonder why authors in general find such a need to write mothers out of stories. Maybe it’s because we wouldn’t put up with the BS and would just tell it like it is and get it done. The Happily Ever After would happen about 25 minutes in when Mom solves everyone’s problems and there is no story line left.

    Come to think of it . . . maybe it’s just that they kill off the parent that would fix the problems fastest. After all, they killed Mufasa in The Lion King and he would’ve taken care of business if he knew what Scar was up to.

    If you can believe it I had a blog in 2007 . . . and bitched up a storm about Peter Pan. Check it out – http://krajcimama.blogspot.com/2007/09/blasted-peter-pan.html . . . if it does something funky, I’m sorry. I haven’t paid attention to this blog in YEARS but it’s nice to know it’s still there. :)

    • Never did like that Peter Pan! And you’re so right that the story lines existed before Disney made them into movies, but wouldn’t ya think someone at Disney would have said, “Hey, let’s not kill a mother because we’re gearing our flicks toward small children?” I mean, come on, Walt!!! Thanks for reading, J! :)

  6. Brittany Pope says:

    I noticed this a long time ago and the ONLY Disney show/movie I can think of with a positive figure for a mother is Sofia the First. Sofia’s mom married the king and becomes the stepmother two his twin children. She actually isn’t portrayed as an evil step mother like most Disney films.

  7. Disney is the main reason I’m glad I don’t have a daughter!

  8. My friends and I talk about this all the time. It’s really kind of weird and creepy. Someone from Disney really needs to step up and tell us just what the hell the meaning of all of this is!?

    • I agree! Why hasn’t one woman at that company been like, “umm…NO” and insisted one friggin’ movie feature a strong maternal figure?! Oh because she would be fired. I’m not bitter at all…

  9. Trighap says:

    When Walt Disney started making money with his earliest movies (I think it was Sleeping Beauty), he bought his parents a new house. Unfortunately, there was a carbon monoxide leak and his mother died. Apparently he felt guilty, as though he killed her personally. So, that MAY have something to do with there being no mothers.

  10. Wow! I never noticed that, but you are so right. Shame on Disney…

    • Crazy, right? Though some mean girls are Twitter are currently MF-ing me because they’re out to prove me wrong. Didn’t I write that not ALL Disney movies fit the “kill Mom” bill? Sheesh, ladies!

  11. With the traditional fairy tales, I always speculated it was because so many mothers died in childbirth. And a child – especially a girl child who back in the day was only worth what a man said she was worth – without a mother to look after her was at the mercy of the world, which included stepmothers and stepsisters, so an orphan or quasi-orphan was basically shorthand for an underdog, and everyone likes an underdog. I really hate that teen marriage is portrayed as “happily ever after” in those stories. As if.

    • Excellent point about the mothers dying during childbirth, Kathleen. I hadn’t thought of it that way! I just wish Disney had seen the value in the maternal role and changed parts of the traditional stories to suit a new generation.

  12. Hilarious and true!! Also what about Rapunzel? Didn’t her mom lock her in a tower?? WTF, Disney!?

  13. You’re awesome, and you’re right. I was just watching Tangled with my kids and thinking how lovely her mom is, but was sad that you don’t get to see her until the very end (I get that this is the point of the story, but still…). I just wanted to see a daughter hugged by her mom for a bit longer.


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