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What Disney's 'Descendants' Can Teach Kids About Ending the Cycle of Hate

By Jodi Smith | Think Pieces | August 3, 2015 |

By Jodi Smith | Think Pieces | August 3, 2015 |

Disney Channel Original Movie Descendants premiered July 31st to 6.6 million viewers. The tale revolving around the children of Disney’s most infamous villains and most beloved royalty meeting to put the past behind them was directed by Kenny Ortega (Hocus Pocus, High School Musical) and written by Josann McGibbon (Three Men and A Little Lady, Runaway Bride) and Sara Parriott (Runaway Bride, Desperate Housewives.

I got to sit through this singing, dancing, predictable flick while my ten-year-old watched it gleefully. Once it was done, I thought that there was a lesson to be learned from the over-the-top good vs evil spiel. You know, other than good triumphs over evil. I began thinking about the idiots flying Confederate flags and squealing about heritage. I thought about those that take a toddler, stick a hateful sign in their chubby hands, and then protest soldier funerals. Then I got this odd feeling in the pit of my stomach…hope? I hoped that kids stuck with meeting the expectations of their hate-mongering parents could see themselves in the protagonists of this movie. I hoped that they could see past the trite love stories and songs and see that there is a different way to be. I hoped they could choose their own path.

Sometimes I’m such a goddamned optimist that I want to punch myself, so I understand if you’re rolling your eyes right now. But think about those 6.6 million viewers and the 1.4 million viewers who tuned in to watch on the Disney Channel app. It’s possible that some of those kids saw their own relationship with their parents in the simplistic relationships of the Villains and their kids.

Evie (Sofia Carson), daughter of Snow White’s Evil Queen, is taught that in order to seek revenge she must pretend to be dim and keep herself pretty to catch a prince. Once Evie gets that prince, she has to make sure the castle has room for a conniving mother-in-law. Jay (Booboo Stewart), son of Jafar, is taught to steal from others to get what he wants while always looking for the elusive magic lamp his father thirsts to regain. Mal (Dove Cameron), daughter of Maleficent, is pushed to be a leader and prolific in magic that causes the most harm. Carlos (Cameron Bryce), son of Cruella DeVille, is … taught to fear dogs? I don’t really get what they were trying to do with that pair, truthfully. Maybe some kids of a dentist that murdered a lion could learn from that relationship.

The point is, the Villains never see their children as anything more than tools for the propagation of their own hatred and revenge. There is no encouraged growth or learning outside of the vengeful goals of the parents. There is only a molding into the hate-fueled, revenge-minded, clone of their parents. There is only a push to carry on the legacy of causing pain and strife. The children are given orders to mistrust the Disney Royalty kids and manipulate them as needed to carry out the machinations of their parents. Isn’t that what people do in the real world with their kids? Isn’t that how you get an entire family in black face for Halloween, making fun of a woman beaten unconscious by her football player husband? Isn’t that how you get adults beating young black children at a pool? Isn’t that how the “Church” That Shall Not Be Named Here is able to continue?

So the lesson of Descendants is to choose love instead of hate. It is to become the person that puts the most good out into the world, even if that means turning your back on the so-called values of your upbringing. It is to give everyone a chance to be more than a stereotype. Those are definitely lessons worth learning, even if they are dressed in song and dance numbers and simplistic dialogue.

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Jodi Smith is a Senior Reporter, Film & Television at Pajiba. You can email her or follow her on Twitter.