Who paid for Cinderella’s wedding?
I’ve been watching Disney’s classics with my young daughters lately; I haven’t seen these movies since I was a kid. All of them have the same basic plot; what changes are the characters that represent the different archetypes. For example, the roll played by the seven dwarfs in Snow White is taken by mice in Cinderella who later become the horses in Cinderella’s chariot.
They always present a battle between absolute good and absolute evil where there is no place for reconciliation. The only possible resolution to this conflict is the annihilation of one of the sides by the other through the use of violence. Violence is justified as the only means to bring harmony. When murder is performed by the forces of evil it is bad, but if it is done by the forces of good it is presented as a noble action which idealizes and perpetuates the idea of an eternal martial state.
These stories take place once upon a time in a prosperous kingdom ruled by a benevolent king.
Just from watching the modest village that surrounds the opulent castle where the benevolent king lives you can tell that all these kingdoms have a totalitarian regime and a socio-economic system which fosters servitude and social injustice. You can also tell that horrible acts are committed in the dungeons of these castles whenever the capricious wishes of the selfish tyrant are not fulfilled. For instance, the benevolent king of Cinderella threats with capital punishment his duke if he doesn’t get a bride to his son, the prince.
If this kind of behavior is shown by the king in trivial matters, I can’t help but to fantasize about what happens the dry years when the crops are not abundant enough to support the lifestyle of the king and his court (the exuberant parties, the banquets, the hundred rooms’ palace, the fancy clothes, the hunting trips…). If such brutality is displayed to his close acquaintances, what happens to the poor peasants in time of taxation when they can not afford it?
Women are shown as objects; their purpose in life is to marry a wealthy guy and procreate.
Beauty is equated with good and ugliness with evil which endorses an extremely shallow, unfair and dangerous reading of reality.
You could argue that I am overanalyzing; in part I am because I think is fun and in part because is the only way to endure five weekends of Disney's movies; but I would submit that they reflect the unquestioned values that support the fabric of our society. They are the ones that fuel the mutibillion-dollar wedding industry, the million cases of anorexia, our tendency to read the world in terms of absolute good and evil and finally the idea that the only way to deal with everything we don’t understand or consider good is to destroy it.
We have become smarter about fairy tales, newer movies like Shrek make fun of the naiveness of these movies from decades ago, but at the end of the day the values they reflect are the same: the violence, the Manichaeism and the "happily ever after" are still present. In a way they are more insidious because they create the illusion of criticism.
Moving images have a deep effect, specially when shown to tender minds; upon further inspection, just like the benevolent kings, they may not be as good as they seem. One thing I have learned from watching these movies is that some times beautiful apples can be poisonous.