Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mother Figures & Disney Movies

For this blog post, I chose to analyze Disney movies in relation to motherhood. Many of the Disney movies do not have what is considered a traditional mother, but they do contain mother roles in other forms of characters.

In the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast, there is no traditional mother, but Mrs. Teapot acts as a mother towards the Beast. She gives him advice on how to interact with Belle and how to change to become a more compassionate caring person. Keeping the members of the household in order is another one of the ways that she acts like the mother of the household.

The Little Mermaid, another Disney movie, also has a nontraditional mother figure. Sebastian, the crab, is put in charge of taking care of Ariel by her father, Triton. He is responsible for making sure that she attends the events she is supposed to and that she doesn’t get into any trouble, which is generally what mothers are thought to be accountable for. Triton also makes Sebastian liable for Ariel’s safety, much like a mother would.

This concept is also shown in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, in the Kim Wilde section. The girl is walking down the street and the Women’s Branch of the Guardians of the Revolution stop her and wants to arrest her for being improperly veiled and because she wasn’t dressed the way the thought Muslim women were supposed to dress. They can be seen as a kind of mother figure in a very nontraditional way. They are trying to protect the girl and makes sure that she behaves properly, which is what mothers do.

These different forms of popular culture show us that mother figures don’t have to be the traditional view of a mother. Mother figures can come in many forms. It doesn’t matter whether a person is male or female, they can still take care of people the way a mother is usually thought of doing.


Marjane Satrapi, “Kim Wilde,” Persepolis (2003).

18 comments:

Jessie said...

The analytical trajectory you chose to take here is interesting considering the historical trend to analyze the figures of mothers as evil in any sort of Disney-movie analysis. I think that the Sebastian point you make is an interesting one in relation to gender...but I'm not sure what the overall argument of the blog post is about mother figures and Disney movies (other than they exist).
Think about the role of the "evil step mother" in both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty...and the lack of an actual mother-role in the cast (the more I think about it) seems more common than the inclusion of a biological mother as a character in Disney's movies (Pinocchio is the first one that came to mind).
The Satrapi piece may be lacking the historical context to accurately link the "maternal" behavior with Satrapi's experiences. The women that Persepolis is stopped by in the chapter you're referring to, are government informants (the government was controlled by Islamic-fundamentalists) who were specifically women b/c of the paternalistic laws that the government had legislated--this example from Persepolis is one where you see women policing other women and the "policers" tend to oppress those that are like them readily due to the lack of other options for gaining (and a historical deprivation of) power in society.
Perhaps you need to focus on the messages that these "maternal" or "mother-like" characters send to the viewers of the films...analyze what the lack of a "biological mom character" means in relation to the messages being disseminated by the characters who are "like mothers" in the context of the film (or another text). For the most part, additional analysis would be ideal here (to keep you focused and ensure you argue a particular point).
-Jessie

Anonymous said...

You say that the mother figure can be either male or female, but why don't you just say nurturing parent figure? In my mind, the assumption that men can't have 'mother' roles is some pretty bad reverse sexism (a societal paradigm, not you in particular :)
I like your Sebastian point. I wouldn't call him a mother, though. The only real mother in a Disney film I can think of....let's, see, the Tree in pochahontas, yeah, definitely the teatop, sarabi in the lion king...

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