Life According to Disney

Today I stayed home from work to take care of my boys, who have been stricken with an intestinal malady. They have regurgitated more calories in a week than most public schools consume in a month (thanks to the new federal “healthy eating” standards).

Speaking of vomit, sick days are television days. Which in our case means cartoons without end. Which I suppose is a very slight divergence, or maybe none at all, from a healthy day in our household. On today’s schedule: Aladdin. While accompanying my sons for the viewing, I made the most of the occasion and coined a new term for the requisite sappy, starry-eyed ballad that makes an appearance in every Disney movie: the “I want everything that I want” song.

A whole new world?

How about a whole new reality check, Walt!

To be fair, most cartoons teach nothing useful. But Disney has a habit of taking that uselessness, rolling it in syrup, deep-frying it in candy, and presenting it sweet and glittering on the head of a softly-neighing unicorn from the rainbow dimension. You know the drill. The hero (who is always good looking, or at the very least, awkward in the cute way) feels sorry for himself, makes a wish upon a star, sings a song about it, and then gets everything he ever wanted.

Why do we fill our kids’ heads with lies…and do it again and again? Instead of telling our little snowflakes they can be anything they want to be, why not help them discover their actual talents and begin fine-tuning them? Instead of telling them to wish upon a star, why not tell them to pray to Someone who isn’t just a giant ball of gas, so that maybe, just maybe, but not necessarily, their wish will come true. Instead of indulging sentimentalism, why not train them for those times when personal sentiments and aspirations must be set aside for a greater good? Why not teach them that love is more than fireworks, morality is more than beautiful versus ugly, spirituality is more than wishful thinking, success is more than believing in yourself, and the animals in the woods are NOTHING like the animals in Bambi.

I’m not saying life needs to be as ugly as the Cartoon Network. And I’m not saying Disney is especially egregious in the message department (at least not in their cartoons. Don’t get me started on their tween sit-coms). But when a corporation controls as much of the media as Disney does, the fact that their most memorable life lesson is to believe in yourself and “wish upon a star” should make us pause. It also should make us not in the least surprised at what maladjusted adults we’ve all turned out to be.


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