Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kill-Refurb-Marry: Animated Film Songs

I’m so excited to contribute to another Kill-Refurb-Marry – this time with songs from Disney Animated Films!  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that Disney music is a soft spot of mine.  It drives the films we all love, is great to sing along to, and can brighten up any day.  We all have our favorites and our not-so-favorites, and now I’m excited to share mine with you!

Kill: What Made the Red Man Red? – Peter Pan

As much as I would like to name “Let It Go” as the most kill-worthy song at the moment, I know that time has shown us some far uglier examples of terrible judgment in songwriting.  A definite sign of their times, films like Dumbo, Fantasia, and Song of the South had some scenes and music that are just downright racist when viewing through modern lenses.  While I can’t say that any are “worse” than any other, as no jokes made at the expense of a different race are appropriate or positive, “What Made the Red Man Red” from Peter Pan is one that just makes me cringe. 

Peter Pan is a brilliant film in terms of animation, voice acting, and some fantastic characters (Captain Hook! Tinker Bell!).  Even much of its music is catchy and lovely.  But WMTRMR (for short, because even the title is offensive) comes out of nowhere, serving no real purpose or plot point, and just makes its modern-day audiences squirm in their seats.  Basically, its sole purpose is to “explain” a few Native American stereotypes, which include why they “say ‘how’,” “say ‘ugh’,” and what "made them red,” using terrible short stories and anecdotes.  Much language and culture is mocked throughout and they even throw in a mother-in-law joke for good measure.  This song can be quickly killed off along with its woefully ignorant caricatures, and I doubt anyone would blink an eye. 

Refurb: I’ve Got A Dream – Tangled

I’m sure there are many Disney songs that could use a good refurb but the very first one that popped into my mind was “I’ve Got A Dream” from Tangled.  I know a lot of people really like this song, and on the surface it doesn’t seem so bad.  I personally disliked it from the get-go but couldn’t really put my finger on the reason.  I just found it annoying.  But after further thought and watching the movie a few more times (okay, A LOT more times) I realized why it put me off. 

At first I thought it just wasn’t my type of humor and was trying too hard to be funny.  But no, it was something more, and it had something to do with gender stereotypes – a favorite subject of mine on this blog.  These guys are ruffians and thugs and play the part.  They are smelly, violent, and like to drink.  Of course.  But then Rapunzel tugs at their heartstrings and asks the magical question: “Haven’t you ever had a dream?”

Suddenly, yes, all the “manly” dudes not only identify dreams of theirs, but proudly sing about them in front of all their friends!  And what are these dreams?  Why, none other than stereotypically feminine activities and aspirations!  Because dream = feminine, apparently.  Let me lay them all out for you: Playing concert piano, falling in love (gasp!), florist, interior design, miming, baking cupcakes, knitting, sewing, puppet shows, and ceramic unicorn collecting. 

Now I do get what they are trying to accomplish here, and that’s why it’s a refurb and not a kill.  Some would even argue that it’s actually more progressive that these men are wanting to show their feminine side.  But it’s done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that it just comes off as ironic humor, and I don’t appreciate it.  Even Flynn Rider makes a comment that the dreams are “touchy-feely,” belaboring the point.  Look how absurd!  Big hairy scary men have a soft side!  BUT not Flynn.  If Disney can find a way to fight gender stereotypes in a more genuine way then I’m all on board.

Marry: Colors of the Wind – Pocahontas

Who doesn’t love this song?  Pocahontas was not the best Disney film, by any means, but the music is some of the best.  “Colors of the Wind” is sung to John Smith by Pocahontas when his settler close-mindedness becomes too much for her to bear.  Her opening lines are confident and well-reasoned:

You think I’m an ignorant savage/And you’ve been so many places I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see, if the savage one is me/ How can there be so much that you don’t know?

Sick burn.

I must admit, I’ve thought these very words as a feminist and equal rights proponent trying to make a point to someone not ready to accept it.  "How can there be so much that you don't know?!"  After loving the song for its beautiful melody and original purpose for so many years, I realized this song speaks volumes for cultural awareness as well as increased understanding of all unprivileged populations. 

You think the only people who are people/ Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger/ You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Yep. Powerful and on point.

How high does the sycamore grow?/ If you cut it down then you’ll never know

I’ve begun to understand this line as a metaphor for people as well.  To what degree can people live up to their potential?  If we as a society keep them unequal and don’t empower them then we truly will never know how they can play their part in contributing to the world. 

Her words speak to John who doesn’t talk back or argue, just listens.  He ends up “getting it.”  We’re not all as eloquent or persuasive as Pocahontas but I think this song speaks to something in those of us who want to make a change through promoting understanding. 

Honorable Marry Mention: Spoonful of Sugar – Mary Poppins

I wrote out a whole “Marry” choice response before realizing Mary Poppins doesn’t quite count as an animated film.  But I decided to leave it in because I just love it and can’t not say something about it.  Mary Poppins is tied for my favorite Disney film (alongside my childhood obsession, The Lion King) for so many reasons.  My mom played the soundtrack record that she listened to growing for me when I was a small child.  As I grew older, my mom would play cassettes of Disney music for us whenever we were doing chores or had cleaning days.  It made the hard work so much more bearable when we could sing and dance to our favorite songs.  It was truly a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, and to this day I occasionally queue up my Disney Music Pandora station while completing housework.  The song is a reminder of childhood and my amazing mom, who believed in the playfulness and innocence of that stage of life.  It was such second nature to her and yet such a foreign concept to many families I work with.  When I have children there’s not a doubt in my mind I will carry on the tradition and do the same. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed another Psychosocial take on Kill, Refurb, Marry!  Tell me what your choices would be in the comments, and go here for links to other participating blogs.  Thanks to Mouse on the Mind and This Happy Place Blog for this fun game!  This topic is so broad I’m excited to see how everyone responds differently. 


  1. I totally love your picks! (Your kill was even my second place for kill!)

  2. @Melissa I saw that! It makes me wonder how it can be circulated while something like Song of the South is not. I loved your marry though, it is a really good song!

  3. That was my second pick for kill, too. I skip over it every time we watch Peter Pan because I can't responsibly allow my kids to hear it.

    1. @Shannon I'm happy to hear this. I think when they get older you can watch it with them and explain what's problematic about it too. I think that's one of the best ways to handle it, but I know people do it differently. It's a strange thing to deal with in a Disney film!