Modern Disney Cartoons’ Weird Idea of “Perfect”

Being the father of a little girl I am more aware of Disney cartoons than I suspect most men my age without a daughter are. Due to this knowledge, I couldn’t help but notice that a common theme in Disney princess movies is how some woman or other tries very hard to be “perfect” but can’t be “perfect” and needs to find out how to be “loved” in spite of being “imperfect”.

I’m using the scare quotes because they keep using these words, but I don’t think they mean what they think they mean. (Princess Bride reference.)

As far as I can make out, the concept of “perfect” that they are using is, roughly, “completely convenient.” It tends to be phrased in terms of “doing what she’s supposed to” except this isn’t meant in a moral sense—it is never used to describe being a saint. Instead it seems to be something along the lines of, “never disappoints anyone.”

By contrast, as saint tends to disappoint a lot of people because the saint lives according to God’s will, not according to human wills. Of course, by the same token, the saint also doesn’t need human beings to love them. The saint can pray for people who are busy stoning the saint to death because the saint really disappointed them.

This is, incidentally, what made Frozen such a shockingly Christian movie. Elsa gives up trying to be a “good girl” and becomes the villain, then repents when she realizes that both were mistaken and the real answer is love—in the sense of agape, the generous love of God (to will the good of the other for their own sake). I’ve no idea how they accidentally did that, though. It is very much the exception to the standard Disney plot. The typical Disney movie tends to focus on some overbearing figure in a girl’s life with too many expectations of her, and after she rebels, the authority figure eventually relaxes and only presses on her expectations she can actually fulfill. Then they get along.

This is an improvement in a relationship, so it’s not wrong. It’s a little disappointing that its sights are set so low, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is roughly the counterpart fantasy to the boy into whose lap adventure and heroism falls, and then he’s regarded as a hero and people now treat him with respect. In both cases the fantasy is about life (by which I mostly mean the people around one) magically getting more convenient.

It would be nice if they could use words correctly, though. “Perfect” does not mean “useful” or “convenient.” I get why the authority figure might misuse these terms—to cover their own imperfections—but it would be far better if the heroin would repudiate this mistake rather than ask the authority figure to not reject them despite them not being maximally convenient with the words “love me even though I’m imperfect”. But Disney is not a Christian company so I can’t really expect them to make Christian movies.

It was really cool that they somehow did, that one time, though.

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