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Disney Parents - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Disney Parents
 This article explores dead or absent parents in storytelling.

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fayanora From: fayanora Date: December 2nd, 2011 09:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Disney: "Life is short and hard, and your parents are going to die. Get used to the idea.
"But hey, maybe you can inherit a fortune or find some magical thing to make life suck less."
laylalawlor From: laylalawlor Date: December 2nd, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, you know, none of the reasons they list in that article are what I had always assumed was the #1 reason (and the reason why dead or absent parents tend to turn up in my own writing as well) -- because when your character is young or inexperienced, removing their support structure just makes good narrative sense! It's ten times as hard to come up with a scenario in which a young person has a lot of agency and solves their own problems if their parents are still around to help them. Not that you can't do it -- actually, I love books and movies that break the norms and do something different, as well as just enjoying seeing families interact. But you have to work a lot harder to keep your character from being eclipsed by their parents when it comes to solving the main narrative problems in the story.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 3rd, 2011 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)


Some good options for dealing with live, sane parents:

* Heroic offspring has different skills suited to current adventure, parental skills being inapplicable.

* Parents and offspring are separated by distance (for example, offspring is at school).

* Parents are busy dealing with an Even Bigger Crisis.

* Parents are retired from heroics, thankyouverymuch. Your turn, kid.

* Parents are injured, captured, etc. near the beginning of the adventure thus adding story tension along the tight family bond.

* Family goes adventuring together. Parenthood does NOT have to be the end of the line, nor do all parents overshadow their children. (I love "The Incredibles.")

The sign you've done a great job as a parent? If aliens are trying to take over the Earth, or a gate between dimensions has opened, your kid would TELL YOU and want you in on the adventure ... rather than, say, attempting to distract you while there is a giant robot on the lawn.
drewkitty From: drewkitty Date: December 3rd, 2011 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting article. I have been accused of living my life on a difficulty level which is two or more levels too high -- one way in which this happened was abusive parents who divorced and remarried to abusive people. No, not two abusive parents, YOU get FOUR. Can I trade in one or more for deceased but loved and missed? I thought not.

Absent / dead parents cause a lot less controversy than actively unhelpful or abusive ones. Disney prefers to avoid controversy and to reinforce existing authority roles. An absent or dead authority points up 1) how useful they are when they are present and alive and 2) how difficult it can be for the character without them.

I loved how the Peanuts video cartoons represented adults offstage by playing an instrument in the cadence of a voice. "Blah blah, blah blah blah blah." "Yes, dad."

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 3rd, 2011 03:59 am (UTC) (Link)


One thing that caught my attention in Tangled was the presence of an evil mother-figure who was extremely abusive. Aside from the kidnapping and imprisonment, it was all verbal/emotional until near the end of the movie. But it is one of the most striking examples of emotional abuse rendered in film -- let alone children's movies. The woman was an absolute earwig. She's the kind of person who get into your head and makes you think YOU are the crazy one. Evil evil batshit lunatic of a villainess.
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