On Disney, Daughters, and Dads
What is most sophisticated and wonderful about each of these women is that none of them are effective at the expense of her femininity. Disney’s women have come of age. They are strong, smart, even sexy. The change is unmistakable. These women of action, unlike their predecessors, are out of the house, (or the sea), confident and courageous.
Then there are the fathers. In most of the old movies, there is a single female parent. In all three new movies, there is a single male parent. Interesting switch. Has the depiction of fathers as primary caretakers improved to the same degree as the view of young women? One could argue that at least they exist! However, in each of the movies mentioned, the father is a tyrant, a buffoon, or both.
But not in all cases, apparently:
There are, of course, capable fathers among Disney’s characters. Geppetto, Pinnochio’s father, is caring and courageous. In The Jungle Book, Bagheera and Baloo team up to take care of Mowgli and see him safely back to the man’s village; while one lacks a sense of humor and the other lacks a sense of responsibility, combined they make a pretty good paternal pair. My favorite father is Pongo of One Hundred and One Dalmatians. The newest Disney dad, The Lion King’s Mufasa, is a fine feline father, at once powerful and playful, stern and sensitive. These latter two movies are among the few Disney families with both a mother and father.
There is an important difference between these positively portrayed papas and the faltering fathers of Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine. These dads care for sons. Pinnochio, Mowgli, the Dalmatian pups, and Simba are all boys. The message seems to be that when caring for boys, a father is competent and even heroic, but when caring for girls, a father is bungling and brainless.