From There to Here: The Disrespect of Disney

by Amy L. Hatch

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the now-notorious essay in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.”

Chua asserts that her hard-line parenting style is just the antidote the West needs, even when her own husband objects.

I’m not going to critique Chua’s point of view — which we’ll all be able to read about in her just-released book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” — because better thinkers than I have already tackled that.

The Magic Kingdom has a snarky underside. Credit: dawnzy58, Flickr

The Magic Kingdom has a snarky underside. Credit: dawnzy58, Flickr

In fact, one of the responses to Chua’s excerpt is what inspired me today. Lisa Belkin of The New York Times’ “Motherlode” blog posits that Chau’s publisher is “…banking on her message finding wide resonance among American moms worn out from trying to do everything right for kids who mimic Disney Channel-style disrespect for parents, spend hours a day on Facebook, pick at their lovingly prepared food and generally won’t get with the program.”

While I don’t necessarily agree that modern mothers are searching for the magic forumla for dealing with their media-saturated brats, I do agree with this: “Kids who mimic Disney Channel-style disrespect for parents.”

Can I get an amen?

There was a brief period when Emmie was allowed to watch some of the tweener shows that pass for programming on the Disney Channel.

Shortly thereafter, she started indulging in an awful lot of sassy back-talk.

Even a simple request to pick up her shoes was met with the toss of her head, a palm in the air, and “I’m outta here!”

And so on, and so forth.

Finally, one afternoon, she threatened to kick someone in the head. I don’t remember who received the threat or what it was in relation to, but I do remember the reckoning that took place.

We demanded to know where she heard such a thing, and, finally, she wailed, “I saw it on ‘Good Luck Charlie!‘ It was funny!”

Memo to the writers over at Disney: It’s never funny for a child to threaten to kick anyone in the head.

Period, the end.

I know this makes me come off like a goody two-shoes, like a helicopter parent who monitors every minute of media consumed by her precious blank slate — and I know that my sister is somewhere in Rochester, N.Y., rolling her baby-blue eyes back into her head.

But the fact of the matter is that those shows are written to entertain adults — adults who understand the difference between a cheeky joke and full-on disrespect.

My 6-year-old — and, I imagine, most 6-year-olds — isn’t capable of making that fine distinction. I’d much rather my kid watch the cartoon violence of “Tom and Jerry” than learn to use her words as a weapon.

Since the “Good Luck Charlie” incident, we have a strict ban on any non-animated Disney TV show.

It’s not a popular stance — especially with Emmie — but it’s one of the few aspects of parenting that we can actually control.

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  1. I had to make a restriction with Power Rangers, Iron Man and any other super hero show with my son. He would get violent anytime he watched the shows. We haven’t had that problem with Disney…yet

  2. Our son (now 7) was able to sneak in some Disney time when he stayed at a friend’s house this summer. He very sweetly asked if he’d be allowed to watch The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, so I sat down to watch it with him and… no. I told him that I didn’t think it was a good show and listed the reasons it bothered me. We then sat down and researched better shows… he’d been stuck watching Curious George and other “babyish” (his words) shows with his siblings. So we found some new ones that seem more up his alley, Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman being his far and away favorite.

    Thanks for posting this. I thought I was pretty alone in my stance.

  3. My kids learned far more about the world than I wanted them to from the Suite Life…

  4. A few years ago we were at a hotel and about the only thing to watch was Disney Channel. Fortunately, my daughter knew that what she was watching was not something we advocate. She turned the tv off and when I asked her why she said that the kids were being mean and rude and it made her feel sad. She was probably about 5.5 yrs old.

    It makes her a bit unpopular among some of her same-aged peers b/c she does not know any of the characters they talk about. But I think that’s OK.

    Helicopter parenting? I don’t think so. If it is, then I’m Marine One!

  5. Good post. There are certain TV channels I have felt completely comfortable having my daughter watch, but they’re aimed at preschoolers and she’s mostly outgrown them. It’s getting more challenging to find shows she likes that I think are appropriate. Fortunately she hasn’t yet discovered most of the shows aimed at tweens.

  6. Jeff Dougan says:

    My son, now 5 and change, also feels like he’s outgrowing some of the preschool shows (Curious George, Super Why!), but isn’t old enough to responsibly handle the live-action Disney fair. He’s finding some interest in the afternoon PBS Kids Go! block (with WordGirl and the new show Wild Kratts, which I think is by the Zoboomafo guys, being current favorites). We’ve done some screening of Phineas & Ferb together, and don’t find it objectionable, but the use of running gags means you need to watch several episodes to understand why something is supposed to be funny.