I took The Ladies to see "Chicken Little" last week. They of course loved it. It was, after all, standard Disney fare. Plucky Underdog hero? Check. Adorable anthropomorphized animals? Check. Catchy Songs? Check. Dead mother? Check.
What is it with Disney and Mothers? Dumbo. Bambi. Lilo. Nemo. And Chicken Little. All motherless. And that's just the short list of the A-string characters. When they're not killed outright, they're glaringly absent. (I still have flashbacks to the theatre full of sobbing preschoolers and the fateful realization of "Where's the mom???" in "Finding Nemo." I imagine my own mother feels the same way about that gunshot in Bambi.)
Is it, as some critics argue, a dark conspiracy against mothers? Evidence of Walt's own mother issues continuing to permeate the corporate culture and cultural consciousness that is Disney? A not so subtle statement that women are of no value to the family unit after their reproductive functions have been met? I'll be honest, I do sometimes worry about what my daughters are taking away from this continuous model of the disposable woman. Will they see the role of mother as superfluous?
But really, I don't believe there is a sinister agenda behind the routine elimination of the Disney mother. I believe the agenda at work here is just easy (and rather lazy) storytelling. The absent mother creates instant drama. She leaves behind an ill-equipped parental figure; she paves the way for a horrific stepmother; she kickstarts the maturation process of the hero.
Maybe Disney's willingness to take mothers out of the picture isn't a statement about Moms being disposable.Maybe by using an absent mother to heighten the drama, they are illustrating just how important Mom is in our culture.
Kimberly is a proudly lazy, solo mom by choice to Sabrina (6) and Regan (1). She lives with them in Ontario, Canada.