I was a Disney child, raised on it all. I fell hook, line, and sinker for “The Little Mermaid,” “Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and even “Toy Story.” When Pixar started making movies, I was even more enthralled.
I even watched all the Disney shows. Many people don’t remember their show in the evening called “Avonlea,” but I do. It caused me to read all the Anne of Green Gables series and cultivated my love of reading.
So I’m always so excited when the next Disney movie pops up. While I’m entranced by the beauty of the gowns and music, my husband is a little more cynical about all this Disney stuff. He was also raised on the Disney movies of the ’90s, yet he’s seen a downward trend that I have just picked up on.
Disney has been trying to push that girls, or rather princesses, can do anything they set their mind to. The “Dream Big Princess” ad campaign is huge on their channels right now. They’ve gotten a huge backlash from the Left saying they don’t want girls dreaming of being princesses and longing for a prince to set them free. They don’t need a man to make them happy.
So, Disney now focuses on having girls “Dream Big.” Pretty good, right? But in their scurry to make girls feel empowered and valued, Disney has left out the other sex: boys.
On Disney, Boys Get No Love
I have only boys. We watch the Disney Channel. But they have noticed that there is no commercial for them. There is no encouragement for boys to have big goals. Boys are completely left out of the equation. There isn’t even a picture of a boy in any of their videos or ads.
In a world that is pushing gender inclusivity, this seems like a big oversight. It got me miffed and made me look at everything under a microscope. Who are the male role models in the Disney movies? Why do we have to push men to the side in order to encourage women?
Non-Disney movies participate in the same trend. In “Bad Moms” you have the unappreciated man-child, the sex symbol, and the overbearing husband who never wants his wife out of the house. Feminism has produced a hatred and overgeneralization of men. Where are all the John Wayne figures? Gone are the men who can be funny, sensitive, and yet virile and able to save the day. In their place are whiny babies, bumbling idiots, or mean, hurtful men.
Here, Let’s Run Through the Princess Movies
Let’s look at the princes from the 1990s Disney films. Start with Eric from “Little Mermaid.” He’s strong, funny, charming, a little easy to persuade (as Ursula shows), but caring and loyal. He sacrifices himself for the woman he loves. This is someone I’d want my boys to emulate.
Now, let’s look at the Beast. He’s mean, quick to lose his temper, and yet he’s lived a life that’s showed him true inner beauty. He learns how to love, and defends not just his castle but Belle from villagers set on destroying everything. He figuratively and literally turns from a Beast into an amazing, strong, caring man who yet again gives his life for those he loves. My boys would probably pretend to be the Beast, but they’d see what he chooses to be instead of what he had turned into, and hopefully that gets ingrained in them.
Now check Aladdin. He’s stinky, smelly, has lice, and steals. But it’s okay, because he’s an orphan and lives with a monkey in a hovel. While not the worst male character in this film, the stealing and overall behavior leaves much to be desired. But he tries to better himself and is intensely loyal and selfless to Jasmine, once again intent on giving up his life to save his love.
Those are the princes of the ’90s Disney movies. They’re the only male characters that you’d want your sons to want to be like. They’re the only role models from Disney worth their snuff. The other male characters are the villains or overbearing, clueless fathers who bumble around or break all the girls’ things. Even in this era, male role models leave a lot to be desired.
Compare to the Latest Disney Movies
When “Brave” came out I thought it was an instant classic. The mother-daughter dynamic was really poignant. But this movie had no strong male characters, no one for my sons to look to. There’s the bumbling dad again, who loves much and yet is easily distracted into fighting and other ambitions that usually hold precedence over his family. He doesn’t do much as king except let his wife lead while he follows.
The suitors and their fathers are pretty much equally disgusting. Then there’s the villain who became a bear because he wanted the whole kingdom for himself. The brothers are rambunctious and unruly. So, nothing there for my boys to do except say “Feast your eyes” several times. Thank you, Disney.
“Frozen” was next on my list. It enchanted me with amazing scenes and music. My son wanted to be Elsa for Halloween and watched it many, many times because of her. Yet in this film the men were just background noise. The villain, Hans, is the charming man who wants to marry Anna but only for selfish reasons and then kill her.
The other man in the story is an Aladdin look-alike, Kristoff. He’s smelly, dirty, eats food with his reindeer, and has no other friends. But unlike Aladdin, trolls love him and are his family. They want him to bathe and look nice, yet he still chooses to smell and be dirty. He’s street-smart, but still lets Anna take the lead.
When Kristoff finally realizes he loves Anna, he tries to rescue her but can’t. Opposite to the Beast, he doesn’t sacrifice himself but watches her sacrifice for her sister. In the end, he’s just comedic fodder to two charismatic princesses. While Kristoff is not a bad role model, Anna walks all over him, and I’m not sure that’s something I want for my sons. Strong women, yes, but weak men who in the end don’t do anything? No.
Now for “Moana.” As someone who lived in Hawaii for a short time, I was really interested in what Disney would do with this. The only male characters in the movie are the father and Maui. The father again, is the overbearing, controlling dad who will not let Moana get in the ocean water or go past a certain part. He wants her to stay in the safety of his wings. As an adult now, I can understand his point of view and would do the same with my children. But it’s not at all attractive to a boy, and ultimately Moana proves that her father is wrong and she knows better.
Maui, the demigod, of course is impulsive, crazy, initially mean, and thinks only of himself and how others can praise him. He slowly comes around to trying to sacrifice for humanity, but he doesn’t save the world, Moana does. His actions are just a small help to her and she could probably have done it all without him. His only contribution is to show her how to sail. Then he leaves and sometimes flies over her as she sails with her family. The males take a backseat again to this strong, female character.
Where Have All the Good Men Gone?
Disney writes no decent male characters for my sons to look up to anymore. If we want to look for male characters, we must look at inanimate objects like toys, planes, and cars. Even in the ’90s that was the case, when a lion was the lead male character.
On TV it’s more of the same. “Lion Guard” offers another impulsive boy, but at least he’s the lead character. But there’s no prince to Princess Sofia or Elena. Boys have lower, supporting roles, but no lead. One could argue that Jake from “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” is a strong, male lead character, but he’s a pirate. He steals and plays all day. And Izzy is close to being the lead in that story. It’s also an older show with rarely new episodes created.
Even the new Star Wars movies offer strong women and very few strong men. Finn is the closest we get, and he still is a coward who doesn’t save people, the girl does. Po could be an option, but he’s missing throughout most of the movie. In “Rogue One” there’s another female lead and I’d bet money that the male characters are not worth even mentioning.
I don’t know the damage this ad campaign will do to boys’ psyches. I’m saddened that Disney can’t offer anyone for boys to look up to in human form. I’m saddened that they desperately look for boy characters and can’t find a decent one among the bunch.
My nine-year-old has expressed his displeasure about this. He wants to pretend with his brothers but they must argue about who to be and my four-year-old usually becomes a girl because there are no characters they would like to be but the villain. Who wants to be the overbearing dad?
I wish Disney would see how they are treating boys. Their stories suggest boys are supposed to take a backseat to girls and let them do whatever they want. Boys’ dreams just aren’t considered as important. They don’t need to be cultivated and encouraged because they just don’t matter as much. Is this the message we want to send to our boys who will soon become men? Sit down, shut up, and listen to the women?
Women and men should be alarmed at this ongoing trend and take a stand. My boys are of value, and they need to be told they are special too. They also need to be told that they can save the day, just like the women. Disney, listen up: I’m watching you. Give my boys something tangible, something for them to emulate that’s real. Don’t push boys to the side to build up the girls. Why can’t we build and strengthen both?