Just before Halloween, we returned from our annual trip to Disney World. We had a special visit this time since it was Mia’s first. Of course, she knew nothing about that or where she was and didn’t really play the part of the joyful baby in the happiest place on Earth. Mostly, she whined. She was mesmerized here and there by the figures on It’s a Small World and the dancing chimney sweepers in the Halloween parade, but during other rides and attractions, she angry-wiggled off my lap and tried to run away and join other families.
Thus, as any parent knows, we didn’t really have a “vacation” from parenting. Of course, it was more fun to discipline Mia and attempt to contain her while surrounded by magic and fairytales, but we all know that no matter where we are, if our kids are there too, then parent we must.
Parenting in Disney World got me thinking about Disney parents, and many of my thoughts were not too positive. You have your good ones. There was Mufasa with his wisdom and life lessons and Mrs. Jumbo and her unconditional love and fierce protection of her floppy-eared son. The more movies I thought of, though, the more bad parenting I remembered. There are your obvious ones. There’s Cinderella’s stepmother and the Evil Queen in Snow White, but there are others whose awful parenting is a bit more obscure. These moms and dads masquerade as good parents in their movies, but when you pay attention, they do some pretty awful stuff to their kids. I put together a list of these mothers and fathers: The Top Five Secretly Bad Parents from Disney Movies.
5. Queen Arianna and King Frederic (Rapunzel’s parents, Tangled)
Rapunzel is kidnapped in the middle of the night by Mother Gothel. The king and queen awake to see the haggard woman climbing off the balcony holding their baby daughter. We are then told that “the kingdom searched and searched,” but they could not find Rapunzel anywhere. Oh really now, kingdom? Just how hard did you search? Fast forward eighteen years, and it’s pretty obvious you did not search very well. Frederic, Arianna, did you even look for her yourselves? Because I promise God forbid one of my daughters is ever missing, I will not rest until I search every possible location myself—at least those locations only miles away from my own home! Rapunzel is in a forest that is pretty much next door to the castle for eighteen years. She’s not in a distant land or faraway country. She’s right there for heaven’s sake!
And, by the way, Flynn Rider just happens upon the tower in which she is imprisoned. Sure, it’s deep in the forest but the man just leans his hand on some ivy and voilà! There it is. Just how hard did you look, your majesties? You clearly did not rip that forest apart. Your lanterns are beautiful and all, but let’s be honest. You failed your daughter. Plain and simple.
4. The King, (Prince Charming’s father, Cinderella)
Okay, the king in Cinderella is one of my favorite Disney characters. My sisters and I regularly quote one of his lines, and I can’t watch a scene with him without laughing out loud. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a pretty bad father. His intentions aren’t terrible. He wants grandchildren, and in order to get those grandchildren, his son needs to get married. His method to get what he wants, however, is really shady. Basically, his plan is to trick his son into thinking he has fallen in love with a random woman at the ball. Love, he says, is “just a boy meeting a girl under the right conditions.” The moment the prince shows the slightest interest in one of the maidens at the ball, the king and the duke will set up all the right conditions to make the prince think he is falling in love with her: dim lights, romantic music, etc. The king even lets out an evil laugh while explaining the plan to the duke.
After the prince truly does fall in love with Cinderella and wants the duke to use the glass slipper to find her, the king wants his son to marry whichever woman fits into the slipper first, even if it’s not the one his son loves. “That’s his problem,” he says. I mean this just isn’t good parenting. If it were up to the king, his son would end up in a loveless marriage that he’s too guilty to leave because of the kids his father probably forced him to have.
3. Queen Leah & King Stefan (Aurora’s parents, Sleeping Beauty)
What’s our number one job as parents? To keep our children safe. To keep them alive, yes? Queen Leah and King Stefan are clearly well aware of Maleficent’s evil nature and powerful magic. They quiver with fear the moment she shows up at Aurora’s welcome party. Why not just invite her, people? Why in the world would you set up your daughter for Maleficent’s wrath? Invite her. Keep your distance while she snacks on some hors d’oeuvres and call it day? Keep the evil witch happy, and maybe she won’t cast a curse on your infant child.
Of course, the king and queen didn’t make this smart decision. Maleficent crashes the party feeling slighted and dooms Auroroa to a sleeping death by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel—now listen to this part—”before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday.” She leaves in a spray of green flames laughing a villain’s laugh, and the three good fairies come up with a plan to sneak Aurora away in the night and hide her, raising her for the next sixteen years without the use of magic. The king and queen now wait sixteen years to see their daughter. Sixteen years. That’s 5840 days. They wait that long and, yet, they can’t wait to see her until the day after her sixteenth birthday. They burn all the darn spinning wheels but then let her come home a few measly hours before the spell won’t even work anymore! What is the point? She comes home before the sun sets, gets seduced by Maleficent’s magic, pricks her finger, and enters the sleeping death. It was a few hours, you selfish people! Would that have really made a difference?
2. Great Prince of the Forest (Bambi’s father, Bambi)
Let’s take a minute and talk about absent fathers. Okay, not really. Let’s just talk about Bambi’s father and how he never sees him. In fact, the only time we do see them together before “the event,” Bambi doesn’t even know who he is. He tries to smile at him anyway; he tries to be friendly, but all he gets in return is a little turn of the ears and a stone face. Okay, so this may have more to do with the normal behavior of bucks in the wild and less to do with neglectful parenting, but still.
Then “the event” happens. We all remember the first time we watched Bambi’s mother die: the heartache, the tears. We’ve all been through it. We’ve all watched as the mother and son race toward the thicket to escape a hunter. We’ve heard the gun fire and then Bambi, in his tired, little voice say, “We made it, Mother” only to turn around and see that she is not there. We’ve watched as he calls “Mother! Mother!”, and his nervous eyes search for her in the thickening snow. We know what has happened. We know where Mother is. And soon Bambi knows too when he is surprised by his father standing before him. And do you know how he tells him? There is no lead up. There is no warning. “Your mother can’t be with you anymore.” That’s it. That’s all the kid gets. His mother was just shot to death mere moments after they happily ate grass together, and he finds out about it with as little emotion as possible from his cold-hearted father. Is there a hug after? A pat on the back? Nothing. “Come, my son” the great prince says as he turns and walks away. Turns and walks away! Oh, and by the way, that’s also how Bambi finds out he is the prince’s son. “Come, my son.” Three words for that huge revelation. Even Darth Vader did better than that.
1. Queen Iduna and King Agnarr (Elsa and Anna’s parents, Frozen)
These two just take the cake, especially the king. Let’s start with the beginning, shall we? How old can Elsa be? 5? 6? Is it really necessary to berate her for accidentally shooting her sister in the head with her ice powers. Okay, she should be reprimanded, yes. I’m sure her parents have told her to stop shooting ice around the house as many times as I’ve told Rosie to stop biting her pencil, but it was still an accident. An accident, for which she is clearly sorry. Cut her some slack, Dad.
We get some good parenting shoved in when the king and queen race injured Anna to the trolls to get her the help she needs for her frozen brain, but that’s pretty much it. The trolls warn Elsa that her powers can be dangerous. They tell her she must learn to control them. Her parents’ solution? Isolate her from everyone else in the world and teach her to hide who she is every second of every day. Your hands have some magical, amazing power, honey? Here, put on some gloves and cover that stuff up. Here’s an idea, Agnarr. Get your poor kid some help. You just met with dozens of trolls who clearly know about these things. It is also quite clear that there are other people in your world like Elsa since Grand Pabbie asks, “Born with the powers or cursed?” There is help out there! Get her some! The trolls said she had to learn to control it, not oppress it every day of her life until it literally explodes out of her in the middle of her coronation celebration!
Here’s another thought. Maybe you shouldn’t have left your teenage daughters alone when one has a dangerous magical power that she can’t control. Sure, you couldn’t have known your ship would sink, but did you really need to go to that wedding? Plenty of other bad things could have happened to you or to your daughters at home. Now you’re gone, and you’ve left Elsa with no one else that knows about her powers, so she can really delve into that anxiety disorder she’s developed. And Anna has to live in a castle with a recluse sister and no one to talk to except a painting of Joan of Arc. Seriously, what is wrong with you?
There you have it. Is there any Disney parent you think I missed? Or do you disagree with my take on these five? Let me know in the comments below!