This entry does not actually refer to the original movie The Parent Trap nor the remake (although the original is silly fun). I’m referring to some of the terrible parenting choices made in Disney’s family pictures. Now, many of the animated movies because they are based on fairy tales are full of questionable lessons – heroines must be beautiful above all else, heroines fall in love with the first guy they meet, and the heroes can treat the heroines pretty badly as long as true love prevails. But beyond that, the parents in these movies also make some pretty awful decisions too. I’m not talking about step-parents because they are always obviously evil.
So here is a list, in ascending order of awfulness, of some of the worst parents Disney has ever put to film. I’m limiting this to animated movies that are strictly Disney (not, say, Pixar or Studio Ghibli) and strictly theater releases (not the straight-to-DVD sequels).
1) Sleeping Beauty – King Stefan and the unnamed Queen. Frankly, their parenting infraction is kind of minor, although it sets the whole plot in motion. They live next to an evil fairy, and instead of trying to be inclusive and respectful of said evil fairy, they deliberately snub her by not inviting her to their daughter’s birthday party. Now, that’s not to say that inviting Maleficent may have turned out any better, but there was a good chance (I think) she would have shunned the celebration anyway and lamented how idiots were going to run the kingdom next door. And to be fair to the royal parents, they did try to protect their daughter as much as they could (they didn’t know the three fairies were idiots), although the timing of her return was kind of suspect.
2) Cinderella – I know, I just said that step-parents don’t count because in fairy tales they are always evil. I’m talking about the King, Prince Charming’s father. This guy is so desperate for grandchildren that he goes to some pretty extreme lengths to hook up his son. That isn’t really what makes him a bad parent since arranged marriages are a royal tradition. But he’s not even looking for a princess. He just invites every eligible (read: child-bearing age) woman in the kingdom to parade herself in front of the prince in the hopes he’ll pick one. Anyone will do; when the slipper is left and the Duke makes the good point that the shoe could fit a lot of women, the King’s reply is basically, “So what?” And then he threatens to kill the Duke if he doesn’t come back with a baby-vessel for his son. With a father like that, I see why Prince Charming was so disinterested in doing his royal duties. Sheesh.
3) Snow White – no, no, not the evil Queen (again, step-parents are always evil). I mean Snow White’s actual father. No where in the movie is it stated that he is dead, although that seems like a safe assumption. But with no evidence to the contrary, the presumably alive king is a terrible father. He lets his new wife turn his daughter, the princess, into a scullery maid at the age of eight. After so many years, he hasn’t done anything about this situation and seems to take no interest in his daughter’s life. His neglect is so complete that when the evil Queen plots to murder his daughter, he doesn’t even know about it. Or worse, he doesn’t care. Really, the only excuse he has for this total neglect is if the evil Queen has done some powerful magic on him. That’s not unlikely, of course, but that is never outright stated.
4) The Little Mermaid – Ariel is a spoiled brat, but King Triton is not a good father. Ariel has seven or eight older sisters and yet he acts like he has never dealt with a teenage girl before. This indicates that he’s been completely uninvolved in his daughters’ lives and let someone else deal with raising them. This likely was the late queen since there’s no nanny in sight (unless you count Sebastian). So until the queen died, Triton ignored his daughters, and frankly I can’t believe Ariel is the only one who was rebellious. She breaks the rules and interacts with humans. Instead of Triton trying to explain to her the reason for his rules and maybe trying to demonstrate the danger of humans, he just freaks out and destroys her collection of junk. This, of course, drives her further into rebellion and leads her to seek out the Sea Witch. This goes as well as you think.
In the end, after the Sea Witch is killed, Triton turns Ariel into a human so she can marry the prince. This seems nice except that Ariel has only known Eric for three days and during most of that time she couldn’t even talk. Instead of actually dealing with his daughter and her infatuation he takes the easy way out and gives her what she thinks she wants and lets her marry a guy she doesn’t know to be part of a world she doesn’t begin to understand. Yeah, good job there, your Majesty, because a sixteen-year old girl (especially this one) is known for good decision-making.
5) Frozen –the worst of the worst have got to be the parents in Frozen. Elsa is apparently an elemental ice sorceress and even though the wise not-Smurfs tell the parents that fear is Elsa’s enemy, the parents immediately do everything to increase her fear of her powers and herself:
a) They separate her from Anna (her sister and best friend)
b) They lock her in a room of the palace,
c) They dismiss all but a skeleton crew of servants so almost no other people are ever around
d) They never let their daughters leave the castle
e) They tell Elsa the only way to deal with her powers is never ever feel anything.
Not only that, but their actions punish Anna as well. Anna loses her sister and best friend and is nearly as isolated as Elsa because she can’t leave the castle either. She has no one to talk to and no one ever tells her why Elsa’s locked up alone.
While there is little reason to isolate Elsa, there is no reason at all to isolate Anna. She could go to boarding school or something instead of talking to paintings. Elsa’s freak-out that forms the main plot of the movie can be blamed directly on the bad decisions her parents made.
So there you go. For “family pictures” there are a lot of bad messages being propagated.