Sunday, August 24, 2008

Disney and Me

When my family went to Disney World, my father didn't like it. He felt annoyed at Epcot Center and the various mock ups of cultures most of all. “It’s like the world without God, sex or vegetables,” he complained. We kids rolled our eyes and offered him some of the better fare found in the Italian section. “Relax Dad, it’s fun.”

Flash forward a few years and we took a family vacation to Vegas. “Well Dad, here they have the sex and the vegetables.” I joked. I thought he might actually say he’d prefer Disney. When I asked him to weigh the two, he never answered.

These days, I am inundated by my almost six year old’s commercials for Disney. She wants to be a princess for Halloween, selects Disney films for her afternoon TV time and sings along with the Disney CD’s in the car. I have begun to understand a bit of my father’s resistance to the magic kingdom. Ariel is anorexic, Pocahontas is a Native American Politically Correct Barbie doll, Belle is an intellectual snob who wants more than a provential life, meaning she wants to marry a rich guy. Meanwhile, Cinderella remains a helpless puppet of fate and Sleeping Beauty never gets to choose anything. Jasmine never gets to fly solo, and the only princess I ever really liked, Mulan, my kids don't watch.

I want my daughters to be strong independent and loving women when they mature, who choose spouses that encourage them to grow in creativity, intelligence and spiritual depth. I do not see these lessons in the many DVD’s that my daughter so loves. I read her stories of strong women and try to show other points of view, but the princesses in their sparkling dresses are siren like in their irresistibility to my six year olds’ bright blue eyes. She has begun asking in that sweet six year old voice, if we can go to Disneyland on vacation.

Now I am a soft touch, but even I can see the dollar signs floating away as she speaks dreamily of meeting Ariel and Mickey. We have a large family and the idea of managing my many offspring in that large amusement park causes instant migraines. I can summon any number of adult rational reasons to say “No.” but so far all I can muster is a weak-kneed “We’ll see.” I also know when I bring this up with her father, his response will be similar. The epic struggle between the very strong desire as a parent to somehow present all that is wondrous and fun and delightful to your children and at the same time not go bankrupt will erupt. Past experience would seem to indicate Disney has the edge.

Secretly I begin searching the internet for deals, maybe I will do a limited trip of a few, to squirrel away a few memories. Days are coming when I will have to worry about the CD’s and DVD’s far more than now, for the time when she becomes sixteen and sullen and wears clothes that will make me cringe far more than the dripping with pink sparkling confections she currently favors. I gulp hard at the idea of her maturing and suddenly feel far more benign about the Little Mermaid, Snow White and every other Disney Princess. Disney may not have God or vegetables, but it has a monopoly on my six year old’s imagination and heart and suddenly, that doesn’t seem so very bad.

I’ll supply the Church and carrots, and you know what I learned, “It’s a small world after all.”

P.S. My profound apologies if I’ve stuck that song in your head now as a result of reading this blog, just plug your ears and start singing the Star Spangled Banner until it goes away or you could try

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