21 February, 2005

Family Values

As a parent of four young children, my wife and I are very careful in choosing the entertainment sources for our kids. Finding an appropriate movie that best reflect our values and promote positive role models is the challenge that most parents face. With all the current controversy about same sex marriage and alternative lifestyles, parents need to be acutely aware of the next wave of influence that may be buried within "family programming".

When I first became a parent, there was the usual fare of educational programming available. The annoying purple dinosaur Barney, the supposed trans-gendered Tele-tubbies, Elmo and the Sesame Street gang, and of course, the traditional stand-by, Disney.

Disney films have been the mainstay for family entertainment for multiple generations and have been long considered "safe" for family viewing. In recent years, Disney has come under attack for phallic images in the background art or subliminal messages. (The Little Mermaid and The Lion King.)

I take exception to Disney for different reasons and this is not reserved for the current crop of offerings. I suggest that even the "classic" Disney films were shaping the philosophy and fabric of the family through fear and promoting disfunctional family units as the preferred social model. (I am not talking about any secular influence.)

The "pattern" within a great many of the Disney films contains a consistent element. The absence of a two parent family. Whether it was in the live action films or the animated stories that graced the screen. Here's what I mean.

Snow White - Father, then living with commune of dwarfs
Sleeping Beauty - Father only
Sword & The Stone - Orphan
Bambi - Mother only, then she died
Cinderella - Wicked stepmother, both birth parents dead
Old Yeller - Father not present until end,
Lion King - Father dies early in story
The Little Mermaid - Father only

Swiss Family Robinson - This one had a completely normal family unit, if being shipwrecked on a deserted island, being attacked by pirates, riding ostriches etc is normal.

I realize that Disney did not write these stories but certainly seemed to have penchant for these common themes or attributes. I am not suggesting that Disney films be avoided for these reasons. There are plenty of other areas that one could object to within the Disney formula film. This is merely one trait that I noticed the last few years and I believe the influence from these presentations have had an effect on the current culture.

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