Writing at The Federalist, Allison Hull has a bone to pick with Disney: Why Does Disney Hate Boys So Much? All Their Male Characters Are Losers. There is much here that I agree with, especially the Disney Channel’s overwhelming preference for girls over boys. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if they could find a way to encourage CHILDREN to dream big, rather than just girls? (I’m sure Uncle Walt would approve.)
The argument, of course, is that boys get that message from everywhere, all the time. I kind of doubt that’s true in this day and age. The message boys get over and over today is that girls can be anything they want. Maybe this makes up for many years of the message going the other way, but I’m not sure how punishing today’s boys makes things better for girls of the past.
Still, Hull’s argument that there are no good role models to be found on the Disney Channel or in Disney movies, even recent ones, is wrong.
For example, her notion that Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates somehow doesn’t count as a strong male lead because he’s a pirate is silly. Jake is a good kid, in context. My children, who love that show, don’t really get that “pirate” means “bad guy.” In Neverland, there are good pirates and bad pirates. Jake and his friends are good ones.
Also, what about Miles from Tomorrowland? Miles is a strong male lead in a show that highlights the importance of a family working together. A good show for boys and girls.
And she gets it wrong about the Disney movies, too. Aladdin is a boy of exceptional character — he foregoes his own (stolen) meal to feed two younger, hungrier kids. He is the only one worthy of entering the cave of wonders. He finally learns to stop being afraid that he’s not good enough and do what’s right for everyone — even the genie. It’s a great story, and the fact that he starts out as a thief on the streets with “poor personal hygiene” (um, who cares?) doesn’t detract from any of that.
Likewise, Kristoff in Frozen is a good, reliable guy. He works hard and he does what’s right. He’s kind to animals and he has a good sense of humor. This is a good role model. The fact that he is a bit of a loner is a good thing. He is the very John Wayne character the author is looking for. Once again she makes a big deal about personal hygiene. I wonder if Hull lets her sons watch old westerns, or is she put off by how smelly those guys must have been?
Finally, no mention of Disney’s Tarzan. My five year-old boy loves that movie. Tarzan is brave, strong, kindhearted, smart, and he finds a way to bridge two very different worlds. I’m guessing the author disapproves based on the lack of shower facilities in the jungle.
Anyway, I think the bias Hull describes is real. But her case would be more convincing if she didn’t attempt to sweep all contrary examples under the rug.
UPDATE: I went looking for a picture of Tarzan to use and I stumbled upon this amazing story. So Anna, Elsa, and Tarzan are all siblings? That can’t be right. Tarzan is English, not Scandinavian. I don’t care who plays him!