Monday 28 July 2008

Sick of Disney

Despite my best efforts to find alternatives to television for my children (including not having one), Little Lady has developed a thing for all things female and Disney which has me worried. I know it’s not a big deal for little girls to like all things pretty, pink and princessy, but I am always concerned with what my children are learning and the values they are picking up. I like that Disney-type cartoons emphasise kindness and good behaviour in a positive way, but even this is less and less the case as even cartoons for small children become more grown-up and cynical in tone. The movie Enchanted is a case in point, where the princess’s innocence and goodness is a big part of the joke.

In a way it’s easier to police against things like nudity and violence, but the real worry for me are things like stereotypes, underlying attitudes or prejudice and the values which are presented to us. An excellent example is given here with regards to Aladdin and the stereotype displayed therein. Arabs with big noses, heavy comedy accents and swords? Check. All the goodies have an American accent and Caucasian features? Check (Aladdin is based on Tom Cruise). So what does this tell our children?

Also what does Disney tell us about women? All the heroines are beautiful. So in a child’s minds we are equating virtue firmly with physical beauty. This is the opposite of what I want to teach my daughter. J K Rowling’s quote in the Telegraph newspaper regarding slimness comes to mind:

"I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny a thousand things, before ‘thin’."

I agree with her sentiment. Virtuous, kind, good, useful, intelligent, brave, thoughtful - a thousand things that I’d like Little Lady to be before beautiful. Disney’s is a very powerful, visual medium however, so what you see is goodness is beauty and any other message is secondary.
The other thing that causes me concern is the level of hayah (modesty) in these cartoons. As it is, we are going to have a big struggle on our hands with trying to instil modesty in our children in the anything goes world we live in. It’s one thing to be strict and tell our children they can’t have boy/girlfriends, quite another to create a mindset that helps them to behave with hayah as they enter their adult lives. If they are learning at a very young age, that the purpose of life is to find a boyfriend and fall in love, where does that leave us? (with Disney, the magic is always in the kiss isn’t it?).

Of course Disney isn’t the only offender, but it most certainly seems to be the most effective one. Unfortunately, the Islamic alternatives are not always as good viewing for kids. They have the best intentions and you can see how much thought and effort has been put in, but they aren’t always entertaining, so you find that the kids don’t want to watch anymore (maybe that’s a good strategy). Any suggestions out there, especially online, would be most welcome.


  1. Anonymous28 July, 2008

    Love the picture! My daughter loves Disney as hasn't gotten to the point yet, though, that she gets obsessed. From what I see around me, it's really just a phase. We don't buy DVD's, the only time she gets to watch when we go to the library and check out a movie. That way she doesn't have the opportunity to watch it ALL the time. She has some Disney Barbies but most of the time they lay around unutilized. Having an older brother, she'll play with his action figures as well. What can I long as it doesn't get out of hand...Disney will just be a phase in her life and I am sure she has lots LOTS of other role models around her that will have a greater impact on her :-) Choose Belle, she's the intellectual character of the bunch :-) BTW, meant to ask you if you discovered the so-called Muslim/Hijabi Barbies in Pakistan?

  2. salaams
    sounds exactly the same as my daughters!
    they only get to watch the occasional clip on the net, but when they do...
    we are spending time on getting to know the sahabia RA, inshaAllah that will make a more lasting impression!

  3. Assalam-alaikam Sister Umm Nassim,
    I like the idea of borrowing the movie so it's not kept in the house. My sisters have them, so when she visits my daughter watches them, she's managed to earn all of the song in a few sittings (I like Belle too, she likes books).

    I think I might have seen the hijabi Barbies in Pakistan, I didn't pay much attention. Sister Ummihabibati has pics of some she picked up here:
    plus a further link in the comments about some hijabs she made for her daughter's Barbie's

    Assalam-alaikam Sister Ayesha,
    I like the idea of teaching them about the Sahabah. I think I just need to simplify the stories as much as possible for them. Anothr option is reading from a book called Fazail-e-Amaal (Book of Virtues) which has a lot of short stories about the women and children of the Sahabah.

  4. I feel your pain. My 6 year old niece is obsessed with Ariel, you know the Little Mermaid who wears a bikini top......

    Lets not forget scantily clad pocahantas (talk about stereotypes).....

    My husbad and I find some islamic cartoons for children on the internet (in arabic) and we were excited, until at the end, it was injected with political messages children dont need to be burdened with.

    I have no advice, sorry ukhti, if I come across anything appealing and gentle, Ill be sure to let you know.

    Assalamu alaykum

  5. Anonymous29 July, 2008

    T'is the songs that do it for them, like the little mermaid and her 'aAAaahhhh AAaaAAhhh' song and all the rest of them... they are catchy! lol

  6. Anonymous29 July, 2008

    i would say stick to theones about animals e.g. Lion King, Bambi, Nemo, kids are too small to detect things like accents and will just enjoy the animals.
    p.s. don't forget Alladin's whole new world that fash is always singing!!

  7. LOL fashionista-

    Ariel's "AhhAhhhAHhh" things is driving my family crazy, my niece sings it everywhere she goes. She really believes, that she, herself is a mermaid.

  8. Assalaamu alaikum,

    Wow, that picture of the princesses is priceless. Where on earth did you find it?

    I don't know if the princess thing is avoidable... (Which is a sad admission to make as a graduate in women's studies, but it's just SO pervasive.) Maybe the best thing to do is to make sure that there are enough good influences around, enough alternate stories that young girls are hearing, that at least they recognise that the Disney stuff is just fluff. Kids are often good (better than we give them credit for) at separating the fun indulgences from the serious stuff that actually matters. The scary part is when the parents get totally caught up in the Disney princess hysteria as well, and their kids don't get exposed to other, more meaningful stories.

  9. Asalaamu Alaikum

    Sounds like you've never heard of Adam's World. Those are awesome videos for muslim kids. Even grownups will get a kick out of them.