So why did I start this blog you ask?

I started this project for my American Mass & Popular Cultures class wanting to talk about the differences between the classic Grimms Brothers fairy tales and the Disney movie adaptations of them. My original goal was to try to sway people into reading the classic literature versions. After reading the original Grimms Brothers fairy tales and doing some research into the origins of some of them, I’m not sure that I would want parents to introduce their children to the classics or the Disney version. One thing that Grimms and Disney definitely have in common is sexism towards women. The purpose of this blog is mainly to point out the differences, similarities, and social issues in the Grimms Brothers versions and the Disney versions.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Differences Between Grimms and Disney (a few examples)

The Little Mermaid
  • In the original version, the Little Mermaid feels an indescribable amount of pain every time she takes a step - due to a curse the witch put on her.
  • The Little Mermaid has a mother in the original - her mother is dead in the Disney version.
  • The Captain that the mermaid falls in love with marries another woman (whom he had been in love with in the first place) - in the Disney version the Little Mermaid gets the prince!
  • The Little Mermaid's sisters offer her a knife to kill the prince so she can return to the see in the original.
  • The Little Mermaid dies at the end (turns into sea foam) - she kinds of commits suicide - because she cannot bare to see the prince with someone else.
Snow White
  • In the original - the Queen requests the lungs and liver (as well as the heart)  of Snow White to eat for dinner that night.
  • In the original - Snow White is not awakened by a kiss from the prince (like the Disney version) - she is awakened when she is jostled by the horse on which her coffin is being carried by the prince.
  • In the original - the step-sisters of Cinderella try to cut off different parts of their feet to make them fit into the glass slippers.
  • The Prince is alerted of the step-sisters by two carrier pigeons who then peck out the step-sisters eyes.  The step-sisters live as blind beggars for the rest of their lives.
Sleeping Beauty
  • Woman is put to sleep because of a prophecy (not a curse) in the original.
  • In the real original (not Brothers Grimm version) - Sleeping Beauty is raped by the King (her father) and is awakened when her child sucks the piece of flax that was keeping her asleep out of her finger.

Sexism in Grimm’s & Disney

     One thing that Grimm’s and Disney definitely have in common is sexism. Disney’s acts of sexism are definitely not as violent as Grimm’s, but Disney’s sexism is prevalent throughout all of their movies. Most of the female leading characters are supposed to be in their mid to late teens. However, they are dressed very racy. The sexism in Grimm’s is much more violent – and I have to say that reading the Grimm’s version and doing research into the origins have kind of ruined fairy tales for me. Then again, it doesn’t seem like they were really meant for children in the first place.

     The violent tendencies in Grimm’s are completely unnecessary to the stories. The story of Sleeping Beauty involves the King (her father) raping her while she’s asleep. She awakes when one of the children that she has had while asleep sucks the piece of flax out of her finger that was keeping her asleep. In The Frog Prince, there is an extreme amount of sexism displayed towards the Kings daughter. For example, anytime the princess wants to tell the frog prince no, he threatens to tell her father because the King will make her do it. So the princess gives in to what the frog prince asks of her (even sleeping in her bed), and marries him even though she doesn’t want to. I can understand that Grimm’s has a lot of sexism in their stories because they’re so outdated, but I cannot fathom why the raping is included in that story. I wouldn’t expect such blatant sexism in Disney because some of the movies are more modern, but alas, there it is, right in your face!

     Disney’s sexism involves dressing their young female characters in tight-fitting and small clothes. For example – Ariel in the Little Mermaid is only supposed to be sixteen years old. Yet she is wearing a sea shell bra thing that barley covers her breasts – and even produces cleavage! She even gets married at the end (a sixteen year old!) to a twenty something year old captain. Even if the characters seem to be covered more (i.e. Snow White), they still seem to draw some cleavage in there. The male characters in Disney's films are big, burly, scary men.  There are countless times that Gaston corners Belle when trying to win her over.  The men also seem to be shallow.  Take Disney's The Emperor's New Groove - in the beginning, the emperor goes down a line of women and tells them each and everything that is wrong with them.  It made me sick to my stomach to see.

     Disney has an effect on little boys as well.  This is a subject that I didn't even think of - I guess because I have little sisters, and mostly focus on what these movies are saying to them.  Never once did I think about what Disney teaches little boys.  It seems that Disney teaches little boys that women are objects of pleasure (you can use Gaston again here as an example).  There is also a common theme of the main male character having to fight for their woman.  This somehow makes them more of a man.  Another thing that Disney seems to teach boys is that kindness doesn't win you anything.  Almost always, the man that is the "hero" that rescues the "heroine" ends up physically fighting for the woman - and almost always the other person ends up dying.  It seems so ridiculous.

     The sexism in both Disney and Grimm’s would make me steer clear of either version. There is way too much sexism in Grimm’s, but at the same time I wouldn’t want my child to think that it was okay for young women to dress in belly shirts and tight clothes. I also wouldn’t want my child thinking that marriage would produce a “happily-ever-after” type lifestyle. At this point I’m running out of good things to say about either version!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Disney and the “Heroine”

Disney’s versions of classic fairy tales have a character trait that definitely stands out in each of the lead female characters. Each female character is mainly introduced as a “heroine”, or at least a very independent woman. Then, somehow every time throughout the story they become in need of rescue from some burly man. Almost always in the end the characters get married.

Take Belle from Beauty and the Beast. When we meet Belle, she is introduced to us as a very intelligent young woman who loves to read. She is even disgusted at the idea of Gaston (one of the leading male characters) wanting to marry her. She acts like she doesn’t want to be married and wants to explore the world. But what kind of books does she read? Trashy romance novels! Then she is captured and locked up by the Beast. Although she struggles and stands ground when it comes to being a strong woman at first, she eventually gives in and feels sorry for the Beast because of his past. His past, might I remind you, was that he was placed under a curse for being full of himself and turning a poor beggar woman away. Really? That’s what we should teach our children? Even if someone is abusive towards you, as long as you work really hard to make them sophisticated, and not a jerk in general, then it’s okay to stay with them after all that they did. In the end, Belle and the Beast live happily ever after (after he’s turned into a handsome prince). I thought Belle wanted to see the world.

The one thing that really bugs me about Disney is how they teach little girls to be. They mention being an independent woman in the beginning of each story, and time after time the characters get married in the end and live happily ever after because of that. It really turns me off to the idea of letting my little sisters watch Disney movies.