Tag Archives: Disney

Disney, Twilight and Bollywood: Reinforcing the Purity Myth or Fantasy of Safe Sexual Exploration for Young Girls (and Their Mothers)?

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

The other day, I was surfing aimlessly online and happened upon Jessica Valenti’s most recent book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Ms. Valenti is the founder and Executive Editor of Feministing.com.

Here is the first paragraph:

There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality–and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls ‘going wild’ aren’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity–the idea that such a thing even exists–is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active.

And then this:

More than 1,400 purity balls, where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers at a promlike event, were held in 2006 (the balls are federally funded) [Emphasis mine]. Facebook is peppered with purity groups that exist to support girls trying to ‘save it.’…So while young girls are subject to overt sexual messages every day, they’re simultaneously being taught — by the people who are supposed to care for their personal and moral development, no less–that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain “pure.”

I thought about these quotes for days after reading them. For one, the fact that purity balls are federally funded, if indeed they are, blew me away (so that–and new sports stadiums–is where all the education and health care money is!). Valenti’s premise kind of made sense when I thought about Bollywood films and the “no kissing” rule — how some of the most successful Bollywood romances are all about sexual longing and tension within the context of safe, non-sexual relationships. And how the concept of safeguarded virginity seems to be a giant moral marker for young girls around the globe. I can’t remember how often I saw a Bollywood film about the men in a family viciously guarding a young woman’s virginity because the honour and reputation of the entire family rested on the moral purity of that young woman. And if, as in some films, she happened to be raped, the only honourable thing left was for her to take her own life.

I compared this to a DVD I recently succumbed to watching–despite my best intentions. I had tried twice to push through the novel, but did not get past the first 30 pages each time. I know that Twilight has been examined and analyzed on this site and others in terms of its racial content, but that was not the reason I was so disturbed by the film. I was prepared for the racial issues since I read various blog entries on that particular topic. What I was not prepared for was how thoroughly the film capitalized on young female sexuality and the concept of innocence, or as Ms. Valenti might refer to it, purity. Continue reading

The Princess and the Frog and the Critical Gaze [Essay]

by Guest Contributor Shannon Prince

Two years ago while I was studying abroad in Paris, my younger sister called me from the U.S. giggling that she had delicious news to share with me. She announced breathlessly that Disney was creating its first black princess movie. Despite the fact that I was a sophomore in college and my sister was a senior in upper school, we all but swooned.

Oh, I had my reservations – as someone who is African American, Native American, Asian American, and English American, it seemed that Disney had misrepresented the better part of my various heritages. I’m not even talking about the crow named “Jim Crow” in Dumbo or Peter Pan explaining that sexual attraction “makes the red man red” – I’m talking about superficially pro-multicultural films such as Pocahontas whose moral seemed to be that the indigenous warriors who fight in defense of sovereignty are just as wrong as imperialists fighting wars of conquest and Mulan which taught the valuable lesson that Chinese people are cool, if misogynistic, but the Huns are a mass of gray-skinned, barely human, rampaging savages. (The Huns were even seemingly identical in many frames, lending credence to the stereotype that the individual members of some Asian ethnic groups cannot be told apart.)

Given Disney’s history, it’s no surprise that criticism of The Princess and the Frog began early. Some elements of this criticism I found more valid than others. At first I saw no problem with protagonist Tiana’s original name “Maddy,” although some people said it sounded too similar to “mammy.” However, once I learned that “Maddy” was a maid, the phonetic similarity between her name and the slave title did seem as though it could be unwieldy. A voice actor’s tongue wouldn’t have to slip very much to say “mammy” while ordering Maddy to do a chore, and in such a context, the name “Maddy” seemed both deliberately inappropriately evocative and easy for the audience to mishear. On any account “Maddy” struck me as decidedly less whimsical and resonant than “Ariel,” which is of Shakespearian provenance, and “Jasmine” which is a treasured flower in the Middle East, but I’m not quite willing to label as Disney racism what might just be my own cynicism. (Disney did not have to name its other six princesses as they had names already from their original fairy tales i.e. Cinderella or from history i.e. “Pocahontas” was the real nickname of Matoaka.) Continue reading