The Common Good

Ten Ways The Social Justice Movement Changed How I Look at Disney Movies

I’m a child of the 90s—the true height of Disney mania. Little Mermaid. Aladdin. Lion King.

Sleeping Beauty's castle, Eurodisney, Terry Why / Getty Images
Sleeping Beauty's castle, Eurodisney, Terry Why / Getty Images

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But have you ever gone back and watched a childhood movie as an adult? And what about after tapping into social justice? Well, you missed a lot the first time around. Your little toddler brain had no idea that things could be so complex. So—the ten ways the social justice movement changed how I look at Disney movies: 

(In no particular order of severity or hilarity.)  

10. Learn the Humanity of the Poor-- Let’s learn from Aladdin and not be the snooty prince with the weirdo facial hair pattern (who, as we learn later wears the classic red heart boxers). When we push the poor aside, we deny their God-given humanity.

Aladdin, that handsome be-vested “street urchin,” sang it best:

Riffraff, street rat

I don't buy that

If only they'd look closer

Would they see a poor boy? No, siree

They'd find out

There's so much more to me                   

There's so much more to me

9. Be Thrifty Chic-- As the mice in Cinderella taught us, you don’t have to have silk chiffon to go to the ball! All you need is a group of friends who happen to be excellent tailors. Well-dressed does not mean expensive.

8.  Expertise Trumps Social Status – Ratatouille clearly tells us that even if you are the most reviled creature to your profession, if you’re the best, you’re the best. If you’re a rat among chefs, find a way to sneak in and teach those chefs a thing or two! This is a lesson I wish we could learn out here … ladies, you know what I’m talkin’ about? If not, click HERE. Can’t see the social justice issue here? We need to level the playing field and learn to find the talent in everyone—from the CEO to the recent immigrant.

7.  Big House ≠ Happy Sometimes simplest is best. Know how we know this? The Beast was miserable. He had a huge house, lots of really entertaining servants, and he was a bitter, angry, territorial mess. Not even his ENORMOUS, drool-inducing library could help him work out his feelings. Was he too bogged down by possessions? Mortgage hanging over his head? I’m not exactly sure.

Let’s watch him go crazy possessive over a flower, shall we? 

6. The Prison System is Super Unfair: Consider the totally ridiculous incarceration of Dumbo’s mom, the crowd from Toy Story’s uncertain jail terms, the dog pound that the Tramp (of Lady and the Tramp) got sent into was terrifying, and the unreasonable sentences brought down by Prince John, who “taxed the heart and soul out of the poor people of Nottingham.” If you don’t think we have a prison problem in this country, take a minute and read THIS article about prisons for profit. 

5. Rich People Who Commit Crimes Don’t Go To Jail As Often As They Should: Cruella De Vil. Done.

4. Ignore the Environment at Your Own Peril: Pocahontas taught us that trees have feelings (and attitudes).  Wall-E reminded us that trash lasts forever,  Bambi  let us know that forest fires ruin lives,  and the ocean cleanliness in Finding Nemo was obviously about a utopian society where people don’t exist or pollute (right?).  

3. A Spoonfull of Sugar May Help the Medicine Go Down … But it Makes the Weight Go UpWhen we talk about poverty in the United States and how it impacts waistlines, we also need to talk about food deserts, school nutrition, the lack of safe outdoor spaces to play in some urban environments, unfair marketing practices, and a whole host of compounding issues.

2. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys Were Really Just Living in Intentional Community :Why do you think they were so close? They sang together. They ate together. They respected each other’s sleeping patterns, too.  Also, my favorite song: “We swing from rope to rope, we have no use for soap.” That’s their song, not mine. This is also true of Oliver and his Company and maybe even the Aristocats.

1. Ariel Was the 1%: Don’t forget that her dad was a KING and she was a princess. Just because she learned lesson 2 (that purple shell bra looked locally sourced and handmade) doesn’t mean she wasn’t the 1%. Girl’s got a lot of crap. She has twenty thing-a-ma-bobs. Twenty. She’s got gadgets and gizmos a plenty (read: iPhone, iPad, iMac), whozits and whatzits galore (read: ceramic hair straightener, 74 soy candles, and she probably used 15 sprays a day of Chanel No. 5). Also, let’s be real, how much do you think that dye job cost?! That shade of red is waaay expensive to maintain. She is a weapon of massive consumption.

 Carrie Adams is Communications Manager for Sojourners.                                                                                                                                                                   

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