cultural censorship: costumegate

November 2017

Disney character Costumegate, most recently Moana-centered, has the media and social outlets on fire. I see the proposed restrictions as appropriation accusation that leans far towards censorship imposition and believe children should be able to dress up as they and their parents/caregivers see fit.

For one, the Disney-fication of characters leaves all those princes, princesses et al leagues and epochs away from their originating source material. These caricatures of characters have been wholly melting potted, western world appropriated, and further, Americanized over the decades by the business phenomenon globally known, loved and supported as Disney. Many would argue (long standing debates on this exist) these characters as wholly commercialized, superficial archetypes with no integrity at all. I think both princess-pro and princess-con factions could agree that these Disney characters are products, technicolored, kid-oriented reduxes and reductions of age-old figures gleaned from history, folktales and mythologies, stylized and homogenized to a point where they should be considered as eligible for universal wear by anyone or anything (…and why not include the pet costume industry?).

Second, what’s missing in all this hoopla is the fact that kids dress up “to be” their given character. In kid-speak, they “love” their characters. Children honor and show admiration for their chosen characters by dressing up as them, by pretending to be them, in completeness or through specific attributes with which they identify, thanks to the organic assimilation that is play. Kids are different from adults when it comes to costuming: they are not poking fun at the characters they wear/become. Indeed, kids are exploring, testing and extending themselves and their worlds as they channel their characters. They are learning and empowering themselves, and through play, connecting with other children through the infinite realm of make-believe.

I am not stating anything new or radical or complex. We were all once children and most of us interact with children on a daily basis and know how important play is to children. It seems that quick clicking advocates could give pause and be helped off their mighty virtual steeds, for, however well intended, their protests only create more distracting, adult-world buzz. We just might net similar – and perhaps even better – results with our children when the negative imprinting of “NO” is not used to slam shut the first little doors or windows to any child’s greater awareness. Children’s young minds and mindsets cannot yet process the nuances and complexities of historical societal beholdeness, burden or blame, and should not be held accountable by virtue of their imagination-tapping existence alone.