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4 Lies Disney Taught Us When We Were Kids

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Poppy is the author of "A Bard's Lament" and the Black Diamond series. She lives in Enoshima with her husband and young son.

Disney has been a huge part of the lives of many children and adults since their first animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released in 1937. Most people have seen at least one Disney movie, and many people in first-world countries who are around today watched a lot of them as a child. Therefore, Disney has not only been part of our entertainment but our education in real life.

As an adult, it's easy to distinguish between real life and fiction. Most children can understand that magic, flying to Neverland, magic hair that heals, and pumpkins becoming carriages are not real, but what about the more subtle messages Disney is sending to its viewers?

Disney has affected the current generation more than you may think. Here are four lies Disney told us about real life.

1. If You Want Something Badly Enough, You'll Get It

...Even if that means putting no effort in whatsoever. Wish your hardest, want it with all your heart, and eventually, you will be rewarded with it. How many times do you hear people say "I've wanted that for so long" and even "I've dreamed about this my whole life"? Perhaps Disney isn't entirely to blame, but it's certainly fuelled the idea that you don't actually have to work for what you want.

Some Disney characters who have implied this belief include:

  • Cinderella: "If you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true."
  • Pinocchio: "When you wish (upon a star)... anything your heart desires will come to you."
  • Snow White: "I'm wishing for the one I love to find me today. I'm hoping and I'm dreaming of the nice things he'll say."

Is it any wonder that we feel frustrated when things don't go our way? We deserve it, right? We wanted it badly enough, didn't we? In the Disney world, you don't have to actually try to get things done. Just wish for the result. If it doesn't work, you're not wishing hard enough.

2. Physical Appearance Is the Most Important Thing in the World

You always knew who the good characters were in Disney because they were petite, pretty, and had beautiful singing voices. Physical beauty positively correlates with pureness, kindness, and trustworthiness, according to Disney. If you're ugly, there's just no hope for you. Is it any wonder that people, especially young girls, are so obsessed with the way they look?

Here are a few Disney characters that seem to reflect the belief that outer beauty reflects personality.

  • Aurora (Sleeping Beauty): when Aurora is born, the three fairies come to give her gifts. The gifts are, in order, beauty, a nice singing voice, and a cure for the curse a witch casts on her. If I was the queen, I would have been pretty mad. What about intelligence? A sense of humour? The ability to divide by zero? But no—beauty was the most important thing three little fairies could come up with.
  • Snow White: Disney's first movie stars again; this time, the prince was so heartbroken by Snow White's good looks that he kissed her, breaking the deadly spell and bringing her back to life. What if she'd been a fat hag? No way the prince would have given her a second glance.
  • Pocahontas: remember when John Smith couldn't bring himself to shoot Pocahontas, a native American and apparently an enemy? Not because he was full of compassion for a young woman, but because she was so stunningly beautiful.

It can be argued that there are three characters who don't fit this stereotype: Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who is kind and sweet but physically ugly; Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, who is handsome but evil; and the queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, who is beautiful but evil. However, all of these characters' looks were relevant to the storyline, and not an attempt to break the habit of reflecting physical beauty with personality.

3. Love at First Sight Is a Real Thing

First setting eyes on the flowing hair, shining eyes, and flawless skin makes you turn head over heels in love. Once you feel this way, there is no going back, and things like personality, habits, and secrets are no problem at all.

There are many Disney characters who encourage this type of thought track. A few examples include:

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  • Ariel (The Little Mermaid): "He's very handsome, isn't he?" After spying on Prince Eric from his ship and saving him when he nearly drowns, Ariel defiantly tells her father that she is in love with the human prince. They've barely said two words to each other.
  • Cinderella: After saying hello to the prince and dancing with him into the night, Cinderella thinks to herself, "So this is love." She literally falls for the first bloke she's met since her dad died.
  • Aladdin: It's not only the women who fall in love at first sight. When Aladdin is asked to describe why he loves Jasmine so much, he describes three things about her: "She's got these eyes, and this hair... wow, and her smile!" All physical. Nothing to do with the great conversation she had or the way she bravely stood up to the guards arresting him. He fell in love at first sight from the top of a crowded marketplace.
  • Pongo (101 Dalmatians): Even animals aren't safe from it. Pongo, the male dalmatian, is determined to find a partner for his master, Roger, and spies out of the window for dog walkers. After seeing a few that aren't his type, he becomes very excited at seeing "the most beautiful creature on four legs" (Perdita), and the "lovely" Anita, who Pongo and Roger, respectively, ultimately end up with.

4. Once You Get Married, You Live Happily Ever After

Getting the person to marry you is the hard part. Once you're married, however, you live happily ever after with no problems at all. How many Disney couples kissed at the end of the movie and, or so we were taught, were happy for the rest of their lives?

I'm not saying we need a Disney movie with realistic marital problems, but a lot of children grew up thinking that marriage was the easy reward you got after the trials of getting your man or woman.

Here are some Disney movies where people lived happily ever after in a blissful and perfect marriage.

  • Snow White and the handsome prince (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
  • Aurora and Prince Philip (Sleeping Beauty)
  • Ariel and Prince Eric (The Little Mermaid)
  • Simba and Nala (The Lion King)
  • Cinderella and the handsome prince (Cinderella)
  • Lady and the Tramp (Lady and the Tramp)
  • Rapunzel and Eugene (Tangled)

We must be fair to Disney, however, that in recent years, they've tried to tone down the above "life lessons" and replace them with more realistic versions. Take, for example, what Queen Elsa says in Frozen: "Anna, you can't marry someone you just met."

Other characters, too, take time to fall in love rather than just deciding they love someone when they first see them. Rapunzel and Eugene (Tangled) only get married after "years and years of asking," for example.

We can't change what the Disney animators and scriptwriters of decades ago put in their movies, and it seems that the billion-dollar company is moving with the times. Hopefully, the children of today can look fondly back at Disney films with more realistic life lessons.

© 2017 Poppy


Lisha C on June 23, 2020:

This really looks at the movies from a totally different perspective.

But as you said, seems like things have recently started changing for the better.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on June 23, 2020:

Thank you so much for your kind comment, Juliet.

Juliet on June 22, 2020:

Excellent article. I agree 100 percent. A lot of it is lies embeded and disguised.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 13, 2019:

Thanks, yeeter :D

yeeter on December 13, 2019:

wow i never new that thats realy cool thank you

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on June 13, 2017:

It's scary isn't it! Thank you so much for commenting :)

nipster on June 13, 2017:

It isn't just their cartoons. Everything they put out is deceptive. But that's all I'll say about it. Great article. I was hooked from start to finish.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on June 06, 2017:

Thank you so much for reading, Pam!

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on June 06, 2017:

To be honest, when I was a teen I'd often "fall in love" very easily... not sure if this was Disney's influence or if teenagers are always like that. How about you?

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on June 06, 2017:

"I did enough of that when I lived with my sisters! I've filled it enough to last a lifetime!"

Ronna Pennington from Arkansas on June 05, 2017:

Love it! Wouldn't it be great to see Cinderella and her prince arguing about whose turn it is to load the dishwasher?

Sefina Hawke on June 05, 2017:

I watched a lot of Disney growing up and I never really saw any of these things as a kid, but as an adult looking back I can see your point. Do you think kids really pick up on these ideas or do you think they just enjoy the movie?

Pam Morris from Atlanta Georgia on June 05, 2017:

Awesome and interesting article. I grew up watching and loving many Disney movies, but never thought about it from the view you pointed out and I must say I agree totally with you.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on June 03, 2017:

Thing is, it's very difficult to just tell your kids they can't watch something that has such a big influence over entertainment. The best we can do is to educate them well.

RTalloni on June 02, 2017:

Good to see some thought being put into the lesson-filled entertainment of these movies. It's too bad parents do not step back and take a smart look at what they teach little minds to think about and how it frames their futures. The industry knows exactly what they are doing.

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