[Spoiler Alert: I don’t give too much away, but I am commenting on changes to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride and one thing that happens in the Ralph Breaks the Internet movie. Just giving you all a head’s up.]
“That’s new,” I told the Mama, what I lovingly call my wife.
“I know,” she said. “And the brides for sale are gone. It’s like a market for selling other goods and food now.”
And so, there we were on our annual holiday Disneyland trip, one we’ve been doing since our girls were little, and the #MeToo movement finally hit the Disney-fied raping and pillaging of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The original version of Pirates had opened at Disneyland in Anaheim in 1967, and it was the last attraction that Walt Disney oversaw, but he died three months before it opened.
Good for Disney today, though. While the ride originally was a dark-lit but light-hearted caricature of a “pirate’s life” that we know historically was full of harassment, rape, slavery and violence towards women (and other men) in real life, there’s nothing wrong with updating it with a strong female character and editing out the selling of women. Mind you, there was still only one strong female character in the ride that we noticed. Otherwise, it’s still the same classic Disneyland ride I remember growing up (except with the addition of Jack Sparrow and the successful Pirates movie franchise).
Disney seems to keep moving forward with progressive norms, like Ralph Breaks the Internet in 2018 with all the Disney princesses helping to rescue a “big strong man who needs saving.” A funny and refreshing twist indeed.
That doesn’t mean Disney hasn’t had its own share of real-life discrimination and harassment problems, with the latest one being a middle-aged male former labor analyst at Disney Cruise Line claiming his younger female manager created a hostile work environment by bullying him about his age and more. Plus, this past year, there was the Pixar titan John Lasseter on leave from the Walt Disney Company following complaints about unwanted workplace hugging. And then there was actress Kristen Bell publicly expressing concern about “Snow White” and the prince who kissed her without consent.
Which was exactly what I was thinking about as we rode the Snow White ride at Disneyland. It’s really quite creepy and scary, especially for little kids. And yet, when we got to the end of the ride, it went from the Seven Dwarves trying to save Snow White from the evil queen disguised as an old woman giving out poison apples in a dark forest, to heading out the final door into the real light with “They Lived Happily Ever After” painted on the last wall. Where did the nonconsensual prince kiss go?
I don’t know. Anyway, what I’m more excited about is the blurring of gender types from such a media and entertainment powerhouse like Disney. The massive influence they have on our children (and us) is unprecedented and has been for decades, so injecting strong female characters into the greater Disney animation canon has been refreshing for those of us raising strong females with healthy self-identities, especially since The Little Mermaid. I know that it can be argued these characters’ male counterparts still have had the hero-story edge, but that’s been slowly changing.
For the past two years, Bryce has wanted to go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Disneyland, a place where, for a price (always for a price at the Magic Kingdom), kids can be turned into elegant princesses and shining knights. Beatrice wanted to do it too, so this year we conceded and made reservations.
Beatrice had no interest in dressing like a princess; she wanted to be a knight. Bryce has been our traditional princess to date, always dressing like one and enjoying all the related princess accoutrements. We assumed that’s what she wanted. But the day before her appointment, she said she wanted to be a knight.
Usually we encourage the girls to be whatever they want to be. Beatrice identifies as a girl but tends to skew boyish by her own choice, and so it’s no surprise that strangers have called her our “boy” over in the past. Until Bryce got a pixie haircut, cutting her hair really short, that never happened with her. But since the haircut, it has, although both girls seem to roll with it without being offended. This is good and we want them to be comfortable with who they are and how they look, no matter how non-gender specific.
By the way, for those parents who want their girls to dress like princesses and their boys to dress like knights, fantastic. More power to them and no judgement here, as long as their children are not being forced into a stereotypical gender role that they’re not comfortable with, because their parents aren’t comfortable with them being something other than a princess (for a girl) or a knight (for a boy).
We gave Bryce the choice either way the day before her Disney transformation, although now I feel bad as we kept reminding her how much she loved being a princess and how she’s always wanted to get the princess treatment. In the end she chose princess, and she was quite happy with it, which we knew she would be, but we would’ve been fine with two knights.
Yes, things are slowly changing, the sands of patriarchy draining one grain at a time from the happiest place on earth’s golden hourglass. Amen.