Anyone who truly knows me (well anyone who can claim to know me at all) knows that I love Disney. I have three black circles imprinted on my body to prove it. So I find it frustrating when people blame Disney movies for girls not having a realistic view of life. Yes, most of them are unrealistic, and yes, some of them portray the main character as someone who waits around for her prince to come, but there are also some wonderful life lessons that can be found within their story lines.
I have many issues with those who complain about the plots of these movies. #1- They are MOVIES! They are not meant to be realistic. Is Sesame Street based completely on fact? Nope. Yet no one complains about the lessons that their kiddos learn while watching it. #2- You can't expect young ones to learn anything from any movie without some parental discussion. It is up to the parents to make anything a teachable moment. #3- What is wrong with children developing a sense of magic, excitement, and hope. We live in a scary world. I for one, am completely comfortable with my boys thinking that these things could happen as long as they can.
If you are a parent who wants their children to see a lesson in everything that they watch, then I have compiled a list of life lessons and discussion points that correspond to some of the most popular of Disney flix (even the ones where the leading lady is not so ambitious).
#1- Beauty and the Beast: In the opening scenes of this movie, Belle is considered an outcast in her town because she is "odd" for wanting to read and isn't interested in Gaston (the catch of the town). The lesson: There are so many! Education is important, think for yourself, never play dumb for the benefit of others, and be who you are.
#2- Aladdin: The title character spends the whole movie trying to be someone he's not to impress a girl, who ends up caring for him just the same in the end. The lesson: Once again, be yourself, people will love you for you, not what you can do for them. Also, there is no easy way out, life is hard whether you are rich and powerful, or poor and hardworking.
#3- The Little Mermaid: Ariel believes that she would fit in better as a human, but everyone else believes humans are horrible creatures and that she is naive and needs protecting. The lesson: Don't judge others by what you think you know about them. Get to know them! Also, sometimes you just have to do what you know is best for you. Stop listening to the opinions of others and take the leap!
#4- Tangled: The main character knows that something about her life story isn't right, so she escapes her home (more like a prison), and sets out on an adventure to find out where she really came from. The lesson: Never let anything get in the way of finding out the truth.
#5- Lady and the Tramp: A story about two dogs who fall in love, but are from opposite sides of the tracks (literally). The lesson: Don't judge people based on where they come from, base your opinions on their actions and how they treat you.
#6- Mulan (One of my all-time favorites): The title character spends her whole life being told to be a cookie cutter Chinese girl. She shouldn't speak unless spoken to, she should marry a "fine man", and bring her family honor by fitting into the female mold. Mulan doesn't listen, and ends up sparing her father from fighting/dying in battle, and saves China. The lesson: Girls can do anything! This is a total girl power flick! Be who you are, and be proud of that person.
#8- Robin Hood: A classic story! Robin Hood steals from the rich to give to the poor. Now, I'm not going to tell children stealing is okay, but I thought of this one in terms of bullying. The lesson: standing up for others is important, even when there are consequences for you. At least in our school district, there is just as much focus on the importance of not being a bystander to bullying as there is to not being a bully. It's important for children to know that standing up for someone might be an uncomfortable thing to do, but it's also the right thing to do!
#9- Cinderella: This is yet another story where the title character dreams of being a princess with a handsome prince by her side. Through magic and a great pair of shoes, she gets it. The lesson: (once again, there are a few) #1- Don't let where you begin life, dictate where you will end up. #2- Stand up for yourself, when others push you around. #3- Mean people get what's coming to them. #4- Working hard and being driven are wonderful qualities to possess.
#10- The Jungle Book: This one is all about the song! The bare necessitates are all you need! Friendship, food, shelter, and love are all you need. Material possessions are not important, your experiences and the memories you make with the people that you love are what's going to make your life a good one!
The overall lesson of this post: Look for the lesson in everything!
*Watch out for more Disney lessons! Coming soon: a list for boys and another for girls!!*