The evil stepmother trope was found a few times in Walt Disney’s classic films. Over the decades, however, they were not all that common. Yet, in the age where even the most innocuous elements of a story are problematic, this character trait must be rectified.
Inside The Magic pointed us towards a petition by someone named Kelsea Laegreid on Change.org. The petition outlines the argument that Disney doesn’t provide positive role models in the form of stepmothers:
Even though it’s 2020 and families of all shapes and sizes are accepted by most, stepmothers are still portrayed as cruel, evil villains in popular culture. Stepmothers are characterized in movies and books as willfully ignoring their stepchildren in the best case or denigrating and abusing them in the worst case.
Recently, I sat down with my cuddly 5yo stepson to watch a classic Disney movie that was one of my favorites from childhood. Five minutes in, it occurred to me that I would be introducing my son to an evil stepmother character and quickly changed movies. In response to my answer as to why I changed the movie, my son replied something to the effect that “stepmothers can be mean in movies.” It broke my heart that there was no similar movie I could turn to to reinforce the message that stepmothers can also be nice and loving in movies.
Walt Disney Pictures (“Disney”) has perpetuated this stereotype in countless movies over the past 80 years – including several since 2010.
Disney is the only film studio to regularly portray the “evil stepmother”, they should be the first to promote stepmothers in a positive light. Disney movies and stories have set the tone throughout recent history by creating iconic characters that live for decades and beyond. Children are typically introduced to Disney movies at a young, impressionable age and these movies inform fundamental beliefs that can last a lifetime. Disney could help stem negative stereotypes and help support children’s understanding of blended families.
Please join me in asking Disney to produce a major animated film that we can enjoy with our (step) kids that includes a supportive stepmother role. Thank you!
There’s no problem with more stories focusing on positive stepmothers and stepfathers. The evil and cruel stepmother characters haven’t been popular for some time. So, I’m unsure why this petition tries to make it sound like a frequent, ongoing trend with Disney. Try to name more than a handful. If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments.
I’ll resort to my standard argument. Don’t tell animators, storytellers, and directors how to make their art. If you’re relying on movies to teach your kids the positives and negatives of family members, then you’re a lazy parent/step-parent. The great thing about having kids is that you can talk to them about the movie you watch with them.
[Source: Inside The Magic]
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