Cartoonist and cartoon historian, Koriander seeks to preserve the magic of animation.
The Disposable Women of Disney
When a father dies in a Disney film, we have to be reminded of it every 10 minutes. Look at poor Simba. His life is garbage now because Mufasa picked the wrong rock to climb. Poor Tiana! Her life is one endless struggle because her father died off-camera fighting for our country. Mourn for Cinderella, because now she lives the life of a slave because her father didn't swipe left on Lady Tremaine.
But if it's the mom?
Get over it.
Stop crying Bambi and man up. She knew not to go into the meadow, it was her own fault for what happened. Oh lighten up Pocahontas, here's her necklace, now get climbing. Cheer up Cinderella! Daddy didn't swipe left on Lady Tremaine, and I hear she has daughters your age!
And when they aren't erasing the mother from the narrative, what are they doing? Well, let's take a look at the three types of moms in these films.
The Silenced Woman
Let's start with the dead ones, beginning with Bambi's disposable matriarch. She did not only die shockingly, she didn't even get to have the dignity of a name. In all forms of media, her only name is "Bambi's mother." While Bambi's father at least has a title, The Great Prince of the Forest, she doesn't even get to be known as "princess" or even "duchess" of the forest; she's just there to fill a minor plot detail.
But hey, at least she did have a presence, albeit a minor one. We get to see her nurture Bambi and ultimately sacrifice herself. But many aren't this lucky.
Characters like Jasmine, Aladdin, Belle, Beast, Max, Snow White, and Cinderella don't have on-screen mothers. We know Snow White, Aladdin, and Cinderella lost theirs, but what about the rest?
Why can't these be children of divorce? Wouldn't it be a more child-friendly film if these were all children of divorce instead of the usual? More than half of all children watching these films are either children of divorce or children whose parents never married. Where is the representation for these children?
The Adult Child
If she's the step-mom or impostor mom, she's definitely evil. If she's Queen Elinor, she's not a villain, but no help either.
Bossy, argumentative, rude, narcissistic, controlling, conniving, and not afraid to abuse the rules of magic, these moms are the worst.
While we don't see Elinor getting as destructive as say Mother Gothel, who kidnapped and mentally tortured Rapunzel, (and was a deadbeat mom to her real daughter in the sequel Tangled TV show) or as insane as Queen Grimhilde in Snow White, (I bet you didn't know that really is her name) we do see Elinor picking fights with Merida and just being ungrateful. After all, her 16-year-old wants to grow up first before getting into dating. Isn't that a good thing?
What's really damaging about this archetype is its prevalence. While it is sadly true that some women do abuse their children and husbands, this is usually the only type of living Disney mom anyone thinks of. Why is this a bad thing? Simple. Because with this predominant attitude towards older women, you have had generation after generation of boys growing up into men who absolutely believe that this is what all women become. You now have men who believe that a woman is only worth anything while she is young and cute. As soon as she exits her 20s or starts the change of life, the princess becomes the evil queen.
Passive, Not Really Aggressive
And then there's the mostly silent moms who barely get any lines, but whose trading cards insist that they are "fair, strong, and supportive" moms.
Sina, for example, shares the same feeling with her pro wrestling counterpart John Cena, because you can't see her in most of Moana.
Sarabi does slightly better, questioning Scar before getting slapped, but nothing she does seems to alter or better the story at all. She's thrown in as an afterthought.
Eudora gets similar treatment despite being voiced and promoted by Oprah Winfrey while Queen Leah makes a beautiful tchotchke in the corner. We are all happy they stay alive, but is this the image of a strong woman your child should think of? Someone who is just silent and stays out of the way?
The Primordial Mother
And then there's that time Walt Disney killed his own mother—by accident. In 1938 after the success of Snow White, Walt bought and built a new home for his aging parents. His mother kept complaining about a gas smell, which Walt didn't take too seriously, but he still had someone come out and look at it.
Well, it's a shame he picked the wrong handyman and that he himself had designed the furnace, because it went up in all its glory, taking out his mom and severely injuring his father, a great shame he never lived down. To cope with the pain, he lived vicariously through Bambi in taking out his mom explosively, but it set a dangerous precedence still being felt as recently as Frozen 2, which gave probably the best afterlife send-off for a Disney parent since Mufasa.
But maybe we should take Disney's mother's life as a cue to demand better seen, stronger mother figures in media, especially children's media.
Flora Call Disney raised five children during a day and age in which children seldom lived long enough to see their first birthdays. She was a grammar school teacher who successfully raised her children into adulthood while moving from one unfamiliar location to another. She was a descendant of German immigrants and likely had to deal with prejudice surrounding that heritage after WW1 and again at the end of her life as WW2 was starting up. This was a strong woman, but just like Bambi's mother, her only legacy seems to be the explosive way she left this world with no emphasis on what she contributed.
Flora Call Disney should be the poster child for a campaign demanding better portrayals of moms in Disney cartoons. Our children should see that a mom is many things, but continuously disposable shouldn't be that image any longer.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Koriander Bullard
Koriander Bullard (author) from Michigan City on January 31, 2021:
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 31, 2021: