Wanting to live in a Miyazaki world

Via Geekdad | Wired.com:

Which is why I am grateful my geek instincts led me to be a somewhat early adopter of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli anime. I have been hooked since I first saw Spirited Away, and I have found his work to provide a needed vaccine for my girls against the creeping illness of princess-itis.

I could not agree more with this article written by Erik Wecks. As a fellow father of three daughters, I am often surprised at the amount of stereotypical gender associations and roles built into almost every Disney Princess story. This has a very noticeable affect, especially on young children.

And while the Pixar movies (what I consider to be good modern Disney movies - sorry Tangled, you suck) are fantastic movies, they have yet to have any female lead characters, although that will be changing soon. They do have awesome female supporting characters such as Jessie and EVE and Holly Shiftwell (and the female characters are actually cooler than the male characters), but they are essentially movies about male characters.

I had discovered Miyazaki when Ponyo was released in American theaters a few years ago. Since then, two Miyazaki movies have become family (and daughter) favorites: Ponyo and My Neighbor Totoro. Ponyo's main character is a girl (magical-fish-girl-thing), the My Neighbor Totoro is about two young sisters. But beyond that obvious appeal to my daughters, the movies are just "different" than conventional Disney movies:

  • There are caring parents with close relationships to children, as opposed to King Triton or the evil Stepmother.
  • There are no symbolically evil characters (Ursula, Maleficent, Cruella DeVille) out to scare, hurt, kill maim young women/baby animals out of cruelness/jealousy
  • There are strong community relationships (no living isolated in a tower, no hiding in the woods)

I guess when it comes down to it, I would rather live in the worlds imagined by Miyazaki (family-oriented, friendly magical creatures, happiness), than in many of the worlds imagined by Disney (hateful and jealous relatives, living in isolation, black/white decision frameworks).

Not to say I am against Disney movies. I love the classics. I think as a parent that Disney "Princess-itis" needs to be balanced with a healthy dose of Miyazaki family and happiness.

Miyazaki movies on DVD at Amazon: