The Disney company has been, throughout the years, a parental figure of sorts to many children- growing up, the songs, characters, and the life lessons were pivotal in molding our perception of the world, and the fantasy that existed between the fabric of reality. While we cherish the wisdom that Disney has created through its entertainment, there are some questionable scenes and plots that may give us the wrong idea about reality, and the way that certain situations should be handled. We may enjoy Disney for its entertainment, but under the surface, Disney sometimes deals with and manipulates touchy subjects that can be negatively interpreted because we are generally unaware of its connotations.
Beauty and the Beast, for instance, is a perfect example of Disney's misuse of a serious situation, and the potential consequences for misinterpreting their message. In Mickey Mouse Monopoly, a movie about the controversial nature of Disney and it's control over entertainment and media, the narrator criticizes Beauty and the Beasts as a reinforcement agent for domestic abuse, and suggests that the message justifies abuse as a means of achieving goals. In the movie, the Beast aggressively locks Bell in a room, exclaiming that she will be locked in there without food or water until she complies with his demands. She is scared, crying at the aggressive and demanding nature of Beast, but that does not stop him from subjecting her to his dominance. Although the Beast clearly shows signs of violence and abuse (starvation is certainly a form of abuse), Bell seems to look past his deep seeded violence and insecurity, and recognizes the pure beauty and essence that encompasses his being. She begins to fall in love with the Beast, and realizes that the relationship that they once had no longer exists, as she is able to discover the true nature of his character.
While this sounds good and dandy, this relationship clearly parallels the relationship that victims of abuse face with their abusers. In many situations, victims of domestic abuse justify the abuse that they receive from their abusers by blaming themselves for the abuse or taking blame away from their abuser by blaming the abuse on a character flaw that their abuser possesses. In this case, Bell is absolving her abuser of blame by viewing the abuse as an anomaly in his character, and that she should look past the incident because it was meaningless. It more cases than not, this situation is very real, and occurs frequently between abusers and victims, and creates a dialogue that justifies this behavior. In "Mickey Mouse Monopoly", the narrators interview children who have dealt with abuse in their life after watching Beauty and the Beast, and their responses disturbingly suggest that the Beasts behavior should be forgiven because there is Beauty behind his aggression. This kind of response proves that movies are capable of socializing children, and can negatively impact the way that we understand gender relationships. Today, domestic abuse is one of the most prevalent issues facing married women and children, and not surprisingly men are responsible for most of the domestic abuse that is reported in the United States. If we are to address issues of domestic abuse, it is important to recognize that the way we portray abuse in the media can have an impact on the way that we translate domestic abuse in the real world.
I am not suggesting that Disney supports domestic abuse, but that this an example of how the fantasy world we so often cherish can accidentally portray certain situations in the wrong light. It may be easy to dismiss this critique- "I watched Beauty and the Beast, and I don't abuse people"- but I encourage you to think about the impact that this could have on other people, and how it can be translated as a story of abuse and aggression. While we not be obviously affected by the story, we are not always in control of our subconscious and prejudices, and the way that we view abuse may be altered by the perception we were provided at a young age.
I am sure this is controversial, so feedback and criticism are always welcome!