ByDavid Fox, writer at
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David Fox

Everyone loves Disney films, right? You have to have a heart of stone not to have enjoyed at least of few of them, and the classics are favourites of children the world over even today. But in a way, that's the worrying thing - classic Disney films have terrible life lessons to teach children.

Here are 3 classic films, and 3 awful lessons:

1. The Little Mermaid

The Lesson: Give up your entire life for someone you've just met

The hero of The Little Mermaid is Ariel, a teenage mermaid bored with life under the sea who longs to live on dry land with the humans she obsesses over. After she observes from afar a ship carrying Generic Disney Prince Eric, her desire to live on land grows. Despite the warnings of her father King Triton (a cross between Poseidon and Hulk Hogan) and various anthropomorphic sea creatures, she makes a literal deal with the devil in the form of sea-witch Ursula, who gives her legs in exchange for her voice.

Despite the fact she's clearly, obviously evil, Ariel takes the deal because she's a teenager and therefore an idiot.

"I have a good feeling about this woman" - Ariel
"I have a good feeling about this woman" - Ariel

As soon as she gets on dry land she discovers that the deal wasn't quite as expected (who knew?) and she's now mute with legs she can barely use. In spite of - or perhaps because of - the fact that she's a mute imbecile with balance problems, Prince Eric decides a girlfriend who can't talk is absolutely ideal, and falls in love with her.

Ursula, out for revenge because reasons, goes after the couple but is killed by Prince Eric. As a result, Ariel keeps her legs and gets her voice back because magic. And of course, they all live happily ever after (except Ariel's father, who now has a daughter who he will never see again, because she's now a whole different species).

Why this is a terrible lesson:

This film is basically teaching its audience that it's perfectly fine to abandon your family and your entire life in order to get with a guy you have known for about 2 minutes. Can't imagine why that would be a bad choice...

2. Beauty & The Beast

The Lesson: Your abusive partner loves you really

There's actually a good lesson in Beauty and the Beast, and that's: never tell an old beggar woman to sod off, because in the Disney universe there's a better than evens chance she's an enchantress. Such a fate befell spoiled Prince Whatshisname in this film, and said enchantress turns him into a hideous beast. In order to break the curse, he must learn to love and be loved in return. Oh, and his servants all become his furniture and cutlery. They don't have to learn to love to break the curse, because fuck servants, right?

Before you say: but the Beast has a good heart! remember that the only reason the two meet is because the Beast has kidnapped Belle's father. That's a hell of an answer to the old "so, how did you two meet?" question at parties. Anyway, instead of, you know, calling the Police an informing them of the kidnap-hungry hell-beast living in the castle, Belle wins her father's freedom by offering to take her father's place. Soon enough, the Beast Stockholm Syndrome's his way into Belle's heart, despite his frequent angry outbursts and threats of violence.

Pictured: true love.
Pictured: true love.

In the end Belle tells the Beast she loves him and he transforms back into a handsome prince. Presumably he still has those anger issues though, but hey, he's good looking so it's fine!

Why this is a terrible lesson:

Girls, is your man angry, suspicious, jealous and violent? Don't worry about it! He's a good man underneath, really, and you can change him with love! If he's good looking, so much the better. Put the phone down. Don't call the police.

3. The Lion King

The Lesson: We all have an important part to play in the circle of life, except those we hate

I'm sure we all know the plot of The Lion King by now. If you don't, it's basically Hamlet with more lions and less Oedipal issues. Arguably the film's most famous dialogue is Mufasa's "circle of life" speech to his son-who-would-be-king Simba.

"You must respect all creatures," he somberly intones to his son, because great or small, they all have a part to play in the circle of life. A wonderful lesson, of course, but it is undercut by the fact that Mufasa is a massive hypocrite.

And why is that? Because of these guys:

The hyenas. Banished to live in the elephants graveyard for no reason (or certainly there's none given in the film) other than Mufasa doesn't like them. Sure, they aren't nice, but since when did that come into it? According to Mufasa, every animal has a part to play. He didn't add, "except for the hyenas, fuck those guys" but he probably should have.

It's really Mufasa's fault that they join up with evil Scar in the first place. Think about: your king banishes to a wasteland to starve just because of your species, then another lion comes along and says if you help him become King he will not only let you come back into society but you'll get to eat as well. Remember, that's literally all Scar promises them: food. And it's enough to win their loyalty. Do you really expect the starving, desperate hyenas to go "wait a second, he's called Scar and voiced by Jeremy Irons, I think he might be a bad guy"?

When you take Mufasa's uncaring treatment of the hyenas into account, Scar becomes less a Hitler analogue and more of a George Washington figure, leading his troops to rise up against an establishment that has abandoned them.

Why this is a terrible lesson:

I can't imagine why teaching that everyone matters apart from those you don't like, or that are different in some way, would be a terrible lesson...

What do you think? Have I missed any other Disney films with awful lessons to teach? Please let me know in the comments below!


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