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5 Subversive Things in Disney films

  • Jan 26, 2011
If you think it's all Hannah Montana and gosh darn at the House of the Mouse, think again...
Beauty and the Beast (1991 movie)

There are some seriously screwed up things going on here, not least that the witch in the story makes the Jigsaw killer seem reasonable.

Basically, the Prince refuses accommodation for a homeless woman - the sort of crap that happens in San Francisco all the time - and she responds by turning him into an animal and then punishes every human in the household EVEN THOUGH they weren't involved! I mean, that like my wife not answering the front door and whoever's there turns me into a tea-cup.

Beauty & The Beast is really a story about mothers. Was Belle's mother a murderer, serial adulterer or crack-whore? We'll never know because she's completely absent. Chip's mother on the other hand, voiced inexplicably with a British accent by Angela Lansbury, is over-bearing and wants to stop the little cup from growing up. Presumably the witch was a mother too, and we know how that turned out - rather than spending the evenings playing Wii with her offspring, she's touring the neighborhood and turning people into wardrobes and candlesticks.

Next we have the not-so-subtle bestiality component that says it's ok to make out with your pets. Belle actively rejects the stereo-typed perfect guy and instead chooses to get it on with a rug with big teeth. He is tall though, which must have been high on her list.

Princess Jasmine, the hottest cartoon character since Jessica Rabbit, is a proxy for today's teenager: it's like, you know, everyone's totally not understanding me. She's motherless too and her father is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. The message is quite simple: run away from home with some hot bad-boy with a monkey.

The genie in Aladdin represents flirtation with drug abuse - you can wish for anything, but eventually you lose control of the addiction. Rather than sending an anti-drug message to kids, Disney's really saying that if you do some blow you get to hang out with Robin Williams. What a great role model.
See the full review, "A Chilling Insight into Mental Illness".
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In between themes of totalitarianism and lax immigration laws, Disney brings us a tale about lust. Unbridled lust that drives a man to burn an entire damned city to get a little action. Not since Emperor Nero leveled Rome to build his palace have we had the planning of a large scale man-made disaster for such a bad reason.

As for Quasimodo, the message here is simple: don't trust your parents, kids. Just as Frollo imprisons the Q while presenting himself as a paternal guardian, your own folks are really creating a mental jail cell and attempting to control you. Break free, even if that means murdering them, basically. 

As Philip Larkin stated in his poem "This Be The Verse":

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

Toy Story (1995)

Yeah, I know it's Pixar but since they're in bed with Disney (which is kind of kinky in itself), it still counts in my book.

Toy Story is actually a remarkably sinister film because it's about the entire concept of reality from the perspective of small children. And we're not talking Christopher Nolan dream-within-a-dream-shit here - we talking about the idea that things are happening when you're not around, and it's all a big secret.

What are your parents doing when they put you to sleep early? Are they really watching TV or launching a mission to find the treasure of the Sierra Madre? Just as the toys cease to operate as soon as a human shows up, is there really activity in the room when you close your eyes? Is any of this real?

Deep. And scary too. If you think The Exorcist was disturbing, the average box of toys makes Reagan's possession look like night at the bowling alley. Here's the "other version" that was a Pixar short:

Ratatouille is confirmation of something every kid has always suspected: everyone around you is a fucking idiot.

Let's look at Remy, who's named after the brandy - he's a rat, figuratively and literally sitting in the gutter but looking at the stars. Remy's friends and family don't share his stunning insights into food and wine and he gets all emo about it. Nobody understands me and I'm smarter than everyone, etc.

The subtler message is that we're not responsible for our actions. Remy drives around a human chef using his hair as levers and forces him to do things against his will. Remy's rat squad forces him into a massive food theft scene, which was a little like the heist in Heat but without machine guns. They even kidnap a health inspector without any consequences.

Remy isn't really likable: he's a passive aggressive little hairball, with a psychotic disregard for others.

What did you think of this list?

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February 14, 2011
Hilarious commentary, sir! I knew about the Aladdin thing, but the others, I just never really thought about. Did you know that there use to be a student-taught class about this type of Disney stuff at Cal? I would've loved to have audited :P
January 26, 2011
I remember reading that the original story of # 1 was extremely dark....this is a great thought-out list! Thanks, James!
January 27, 2011
Thanks - I shall try to add a few more soon!
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