Disney and the English Major by Eliza Schow

In all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever been among so many Disnerds. If you don’t know that term, or if you do and you simply don’t think it’s a title that apples to you, shame on you. Go watch Aladdin. I come from Kansas, a land of people that find my love for Disney amusing. To them, Disney is classified as a genre of fantastical films that give children unrealistic expectations for life. When I came to BYU, I was ecstatic to find that if one stood in a group of students and randomly started singing “LET’s get down to business”, everyone would respond with “To deFEAT… the Huns!” At last, I had found my people.

I will admit up front that my love for Disney was founded on the catchy musical numbers, the pretty princess dresses and the even prettier boys these princesses ended up with that enraptured my seven-year old psyche. Gradually, my love for Disney became based on a personal investment I felt for the characters’ well being, (and perhaps it didn’t hurt that I still wanted to dance around in a pink ball-gown with a smiling prince looking down at me while “Once Upon a Dream” played in the background). However, it wasn’t until I wrote a 1,000-word analysis on the themes of self-fulfillment, objectification of women, and self-identity in Tangled that I realized how important it was for me as an English major to appreciate the messages woven into the stories that we think we know so well.

I feel like there is a stereotype for English majors, that in our efforts to look at a side to life with “a fresh eye”, we tend to present human nature as selfish, scheming, or hypocritical, giving off the message “Life is awful because humans are awful and that’s all there is to it”. What we’re missing, or perhaps what we’ve lost, is something that Disney can give back to us. For decades, Disney films haven’t just been entertaining and uplifting humans, but enlightening and inspiring us as well. If we English majors can take a leaf out of Disney’s book and try to present human nature as both flawed and inherently good, I do believe we can do so much more for the human spirit by giving the gift of hope, something that perhaps we are the most capable of doing.


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