Experts claim that Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' promotes domestic violence
The movies we grow up on shape our attitudes towards certain things, whether we like it or not. Yet it's hard to look back on the most beloved family classics from our youth and label them as problematic in any way. Not only do we love them, but we have a lot of great memories associated with them too.
Over time, people start to look back on movies that generations have come to love, and delve into what kind of messages they're promoting.
Back in October, Keira Knightley revealed that she keeps her daughter from watching certain children's movies such as Cinderella and The Little Mermaid due to potentially damaging things they could do to her self-worth. The same month, Kristen Bell questioned the messages sent out by Snow White.
Whether or not you agree on the above examples, I'm sure many are curious about the sort of messages that end up getting spread through Disney movies. This question was recently put to Dr. Victoria Cann, a lecturer in Humanities at the University of East Anglia.
According to her, Snow White promotes female rivalry and jealousy, and Beauty and the Beast promotes domestic violence - and that's only the tip of the iceberg. "This is the most dangerous because the Beast always feels on the verge of violence," Dr. Cann said of Beauty and the Beast's story of a young woman falling for her captor.
"What it shows is a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome, where the captive falls in love with their captor to ensure their survival. It also gives the unnerving idea that if a woman perseveres long enough, she can change an angry partner.
"At the end, the beast then turns into this blonde-haired white man for another happy ever after, giving the idea that now he’s good looking, he can’t possibly be angry or threatening."
So what about Snow White? According to Cann, this fairy tale ends up being "more about the jealousy of an older woman towards a younger one". "It sets up the idea of female rivalry and sends the idea that an older single woman can never be happy," she said, before speaking to princesses in general.
"They are portrayed as helpless characters who wait passively to be swept off their feet," she says. "These are very powerful messages that teach young girls that their value in life lies in their attractiveness, rather than their achievements."
In the rest of the interview, Cann suggests that Sleeping Beauty brings up "a question of consent" over the iconic sleeping kiss, which may "normalise men's sense of entitlement over women's bodies." In the rest of the interview, they delve into the racial dynamics of Aladdin and the aforementioned gender politics of The Little Mermaid.
“There’s no need to ban kids from seeing Disney movies, but maybe wait until they are little older to show them the older films," Cann concluded, referencing Frozen as a more positive example. "Then use them as a way to raise some questions about what they see there. The Disney films can be a great way to teach media literacy."
Not that your kids needed another reason to boot up Frozen for the 114th time...