In chapter three of “The Mouse That Roared”, on page 103, it says, “Texts shape their own interpretations, but also form a mutually constitutive relationship with the political, economic, and cultural contexts in which they are read.” While I agree with this statement completely, I also feel like many of the arguments against Disney presented in this chapter are exaggerated and futile. If you go looking for subtext, you’re going to find it, even if it isn’t really there. And even if it is there, is there any way to be certain that the creators intended for that to be the received message?
The arguments regarding gender stereotyping in Disney films are nothing new. And I have to say it— feminists annoy me. A lot. The complaints stated in this chapter that Mulan, despite being portrayed as a strong, independent female, still has to have a man at the end, ignore the fact that she doesn’t seek him out. She leaves Shang behind and returns to her family. He comes to her. Similarly, the argument is brought up that Mulan achieves everything by “donning the guise of masculinity” and becoming “one of the boys”. Apparently this is bad, because she isn’t out saving China looking like a woman. Yet you have to remember—this is feudalist China. Are the same people who are criticizing “Pocahontas” for straying so far from historical truths also saying that Mulan should have strolled into the army camp in a skirt and makeup? So many of the arguments presented in this chapter (and the rest of this book), while valid at first glance, just seem like grasping at straws.
The statement that Disney’s portrayal of women enforces the idea that “a child born female can only realize a gendered incarnation of adulthood and is destined to fulfill her selfhood by becoming the appendage, if not the property, of a man” (108) leaves out the other side of the argument. I really have to ask: What is so wrong with finding happiness in a man?! The feminists who seem determined to pick apart every detail of Disney’s princess films always seem to forget: the princess choose their fate. While it’s certainly not realistic that so many of them fall in love with their princes at first sight, in the context of the film (which is fantasy, and not real life), these young women are in love, and they choose to spend the rest of their lives with a man they love, who loves them in return.
The criticisms against Disney regarding race seem both equally as far-fetched as the feminist ones, but also kind of ring true. Being a middle-class white girl, though, I don’t feel as comfortable making my own judgments. However, some of the “problems” that critics find in “Aladdin” do seem like nitpicking to me. For instance, “the use of nonsensical scrawl as a substitute for written Arabic language” seems more like laziness than racism to me. I will grant that other parts of the film, such as the lines from the opening song “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face…” is a tad racist.
Finally, it seems to me that the main problem that the authors have with Disney is the company’s use of synergy. Every time a film was praised in this chapter, the film’s disgrace was that there was still a large amount of marketing and merchandising that came along with it. I got some news for ya, Henry A. Giroux and Grace Pollock: we live in a commercialized world. This is a consumer-based society. Get over it. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: Where is the fault in making money? Disney is a business. A good business makes money. That’s all they’re doing.