Minimum Protection, Maximum Support

mickeyWalt Disney hates your mother, and the evidence is shockingly conclusive. Exhibit A: Bambi. Before the poor boy can celebrate his first birthday, his mother, who Walt Disney didn’t even name because he knew she wasn’t going to last long, is shot and killed.

Exhibit B: Dumbo. This big-eared elephant is delivered to Mrs. Jumbo and out of love she seeks to protect him from the jeering crowds because of those massive ears. Ultimately, she loses her cool while defending her son, and is locked away.

Exhibit C: Cinderella. Her mother is dead, obviously. So to assuage the pain of her missing mother, Cinderella’s father remarries, creating a blended family that is nothing short of dysfunctional. And while the story ends well – with glass slippers and all – she must suffer terrible humiliation at the hands of her wicked stepmother and her repulsive stepsisters.

Exhibit D: Snow White, a variation of the theme, but further proof of Walt’s war on women. Here is this naïve, beautiful teenager – “the fairest of them all” – at the mercy of who? Her wicked stepmother. Her mom is as dead as a hammer, and Snowy’s behavior proves as much.

She runs away to the woods, not a safe place first of all, and once there moves into a fraternity house with seven men, their sweet and innocent sounding names notwithstanding. Then, she takes candy from a stranger and finally she runs off with the first man who kisses her. If she had a mother providing appropriate instruction, none of this would have happened.

Mowgli. Tarzan. Lilo. Nemo. On and on I could go. If Walt Disney were alive today he would need a mental health intervention, and though he’s been dead now for half a century, his studio continues his long campaign to eradicate mothers as if the species were some horrible disease.

Some have tried to explain his films by stating that Walt Disney, who had a marvelous mother from all accounts, is trying to show that a traditional family (whatever that might mean to whoever is defining “traditional”) is not necessary for happiness. Families come in all shapes and sizes and the individual can thrive in the worst of home situations.

Going further, people like feminist Amy Richards believe that the elimination of the mother figure in so many Disney films is simply for dramatic effect. If Cinderella, Snow White, Bambi and Mowgli had loving, involved, present moms in their lives, there wouldn’t be much of a plot left would there?

So, by this logic, Walt Disney isn’t trying to push your mother off Space Mountain, but in his own way, he is providing instruction for raising resilient, adaptable, successful children. People need to struggle to become strong, and protecting our kids from all adversity is not an act of kindness. It is a crime against their futures.

Case in point, observe the parent who is over-involved in his or her child’s life. These parents have good intentions (they want to safeguard and nurture their child), but they cross all boundaries with their micromanaging and uber-protecting ways. They hover, physically and emotionally, robbing their children of the maturity to live in this world.

Hence, when parents make a child feel that he or she should never suffer pain, rejection, or be deprived of anything asked or demanded, it doesn’t create maturity, it creates monsters. So beware of those for whom everything has come easy. Beware of those who have never suffered or struggled, who have always had someone else clean up their messes. It’s hard for such people to develop any depth of character.

To succeed, yes, we need instruction and guidance, but not so much that it ruins us. The key is “minimum protection and maximum support,” to quote the late William Sloane Coffin, and I think Walt Disney understood this. He knew that when one must wrestle against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” this does more than make great movies. This makes for a great life. Do not take that away from your children.

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