When my daughter was a baby, I had lots of opinions about the things I was going to allow her to watch, play with, and be exposed to. I was insistent that she not be in any branded clothing items like Minnie Mouse, Disney characters, or anything licensed/franchised. Of course she wasn’t going to have Little Mermaid blanket or an overly princess-y or pink color palette (I referred to this as my “rejection of princess culture“). And Disney? No. For lots of reasons. No.
I was firm.
I was sure.
I was naive.
As my girl has gotten older, I have begun to realize that she has her own ideas about the things that she wants and likes and while most of the time, it’s okay, there are some choices she has made that make me cringe. Sometimes she chooses “branded” things and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s the “disney/princess/gender stereotypical” stuff, and sometimes it’s baseball and mud. What I have begun to notice is that she is choosing things of her own volition and interest, even with limited exposure to some of them. She is becoming a well rounded human, all on her own.
About two years ago, I started to shift uncomfortably in my metaphorical “seat” as I realized that a lot of the philosophies I had before were based more in fear and uncertainty and were less about my daughter’s development…and more about my own need for control. I’ve started to relax because watching her budding interests, style, and unique voice emerge is a whole lot more fun that hovering around those things anxiously.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still have some pretty serious beef with Disney on a couple of issues. There are certain movies and themes to which we’ve said no consistently and will continue to, but it’s definitely more “case by case” than ever before as we evaluate each program or movie for its own merits/lack thereof. I feel a little sheepish about my attitude in my daughter’s early years and I think I owe Disney an apology. Because lately Disney, you’ve been nailing it. Two movies in particular have impacted my daughter in tangible and positive ways.
“…I wanna try everything, I wanna try even though I could fail.”
I am pretty sure that the tenacity of that little protagonist bunny Officer Hopps is what inspired my daughter to work tirelessly at mastering the monkey bars last year even though she fell a lot before she got it. For six weeks, she worked and tried and tried again. And when she was humming the theme song while working on a difficult building project, I could have sworn she was giving herself a little internal musical pep talk. Whenever she watches this movie, she springs up during the “Try Everything” song to dance with abandon and glee. After one of these such moments, she looked over at me with eyes shining and said, “I wanna try everything too, mama!” So thank you, Disney, for giving my girl permission to try even though she could fail. I’m grateful she’s learning this lesson now as a little girl, because I still don’t practice it or understand it well as a big girl, and I know it will be different for her.
No only this, but the whole movie is incredibly relevant to what is happening in our times and was definitely something that made me think more deeply about the world we are creating, working on and leaving to our children.
“…and the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. It’s like the tide, always falling and rising.”
I need you to know something right now. This movie…is my JAM. It took about 80 listens to the soundtrack before I could make it through “How Far I’ll Go” without crying. My friends are sick of me talking about it. They don’t really want to hear any more about how pro-woman, powerful, and representative this project is to everything I believe and about life and our community of women. Why do I love it so? A strong female protagonist:
-listens to the call inside of her and stays the course in the face of peril
-has a mission other than falling in love with some prince
-lives a life of self-donation and purpose
-has incredible adventures including righting wrongs, and restoring the heart of feminine creative power
-speaks truth in the face of intimidating gods and monsters
-pushes past her own insecurities, failures, fears, and the opinions of others
My little girl loves this movie as much as I do, but probably for different reasons. Regardless, when we sing Moana’s songs together, it’s serious. We don’t play around. We hit EVERY note. We ARE Moana. We are strong and powerful women and mighty warriors of restoration and rebuilding. The drama is strong here.
I think now is a good time to say: Disney, I’m sorry I was mean to you. You’ve been listening to parents concerns and lately, you’ve been putting out some pretty awesome, quality stuff. I’m paying attention and I’m grateful. Now, if you starting churning out junky, saccharine mediocrity, I’ll break up with you. But for now, we cool.
Ps. My daughter’s favorite blanket is a pink and purple Frozen one.