The skewed depictions of good versus evil in children’s movies
Disney is and has been the epitome of childhood imaginations and learning since its birth in 1923. The company consistently creates encapturing graphics and touching storylines full of princesses, fairy tales and villains to create a movie that is captivating to the audience. This audience happens to consist mostly of naive young children who through many studies have been proven to be just as affected by the portrayal of good against evil in these movies as they are by their elementary education.
Perfect Isn’t Easy
In 2010, Doris Bazzini, a psychology professor at Appalachian State University, looked to uncover the “what is beautiful is good” theory expressed in many movies and how it affected the psyche’s of children. After analyzing more than 100 popular Disney movies, the results were no surprise. Bazzini and her team found that attractive characters in the movies were almost always positively correlated with goodness, friendliness, romantic relationships and socioeconomic status.
Although the study’s conclusions are obvious, there are actually negative effects on children and their developmental learning associated with these findings. The perfect characteristics depicted in these movies can lead children to believe that is what they have to achieve to be successful in life. A second test done by the same team showed results that children prefer to associate with attractive characters over unattractive characters from Disney movies. How can this be bad? This idea instilled in children at such a young age makes them close-minded and judgemental. It’s almost as if the notion of ugliness is immoral and not accepted. These stereotypical ideas that corrupt their childhood can stick with them into adulthood.
Poor Unfortunate Souls
What could be better than being a Disney princess for an occupation? Most young girls would agree that the answer to this question is nothing. However, princesses seem to have a different affect on young girls than heroes do on the whole child population. Like heroes, princesses are associated with the characteristics of the ideal person. Unlike heroes, princesses expose girls to power and individuality at a very young age. According to Kennedy Bailey’s article “Disney Princesses Have Mixed Effects on Children” in The Digital Universe, Brigham Young University’s newspaper, young girls engrossed in these movies have shown signs of less aggression as well as a higher prosocial behavior.
But with everything that kids are exposed to today, there are also negative effects. Young girls have also shown that they are affected by body image and gender stereotypes due to the movies. Young girls feel as though they have to embody the female characters that they look up to. Additionally, Disney princesses leave many girls with the feeling that they are not the ones in power, a notion perpetuated by society where males are left to do the “hard” work. This idea leads to the lack of self confidence and individuality growing within girls.
The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind
In addition to being forever ugly, villains are often associated with racial stereotypes in Disney movies. This condition is prevalent through the 1941 movie, Dumbo. A fan favorite, the movie seems to be harmless and ends in happily ever after; however, there is an underlying, hard-to-pick-out theme of African-American racism present. First of all, the villains of the movie happen to be black crows all voiced by African-American actors. Secondly, the leader of the pack is named Jim Crow, referencing the historical Jim Crow laws illustrating segregation between blacks and whites in the United States. Thirdly, how could Disney do this? Dumbo was released at a time when racial discrimination was a much hotter issue in the United States and they included this in children’s movies. Characterizing these crows in such a way would lead children to discriminate against other races even further.
Let it Go
Ithaca father Thomas Pfaff said he believes the solution to the negative impacts on children produced by Disney is simple: don’t expose them to the movies in the first place. Ever since his children were young, he decided that the best way to keep them from being influenced by these negative connotations involved with Disney movies was to not expose them to the movies in the first place. Actually, he barely exposed them to television at all. Instead of spending time in front of the television rotting brain cells he would, “throw them outside and make them get away from the screen.” His four boys were allowed to watch some TV, but the commercials had to be muted. By avoiding these, he hoped that his children would be less influenced by the consumerism world and “not succomb to fads.”
This would be a difficult task because of children’s constant involvement with their classmates as well as the prominence of Disney movies. Perhaps a better method to this problem would be to not distance children from the movies altogether, but talk over the prevalent themes in each movie and discuss the good and bad characters. Something as simple as this could keep children from forming judgemental thoughts and even prevent judgemental actions. Or maybe there is nothing wrong, and parents need to keep investing in the ever-growing Disney market. Besides, isn’t Disney World where dreams come true?
Although these movies are proven to have negative effects on the psychology of young kids, they aren’t only a source of negativity. For years, Disney has been one of the leading contributors to children’s incredible imaginations. Similarly, movies such as Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. promote the ideals of friendship and equality. Besides, who doesn’t want to live happily ever after?
Maddison Murnane is a freshman journalism major who wants to be more than just a damsel in distress. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org