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Oh wise one:

Why does Disney kill off one or both of the main character's parents? Or a parent is presumed dead/missing at the beginning of every story? Snow White's mom is dead, dad marries an evil queen/witch. Cinerella's dad, same story. Bambi's mom gets shot. Ariel's mom is never mentioned. Dumbo's dad never shows. Lilo's mom and dad biff it on a wet road while going for a drive. Nemo's mom gets eaten, along with his siblings. What's up with that? Does Disney have something about two-parent families? Do they think that having that kind of loss builds character? I just don't get it.

-- Bansheetattoo in Serra Mesa

Anybody who's been tuned in here to Radio Alice for the past 50, 60 years will know that one of my favorite pastimes is blaming everything on the Disney corporation. But I've also taken the know-it-all's oath of allegiance, which prohibits me from pointing the finger of blame if it could result in a lawsuit. So let's say that maybe, possibly, perhaps this time there's a slim, outside, remote chance that dead parents aren't a Disney original. If you believe folklorists, Disney just cashes in on the theme, which goes way, way back in history. And of course nobody's really interested in the dead adults, but they're necessary if what you want to create is a hero who's an orphan. Can't make an orphan without killing a few grownups.

Batman, Harry Potter, Spider Man, Oliver Twist, parentless all of them. Examples of stock characters that populate hero sagas. Mom and Dad aren't around to take care of our little wanderer, so he/she must face life alone. Orphans are sympathetic characters, have little or no historical baggage, and are abandoned to face mean stepmothers, mean bosses, mean criminals, all the nastiness of life, with no backup except maybe a pet. Orphan Annie didn�t get where she is today by being Daddy's Little Princess Annie. She got there by her own inner grit, pluck, spunk, and stuff like that. Some studiers of folk tales say orphans are popular characters because they tap into our own fears of abandonment. Well, mebby so. It could also be the fact that orphans (and widows) were much more common in past centuries, and their lives made more interesting drama than did kids of the pampered class. So, Disney or no Disney, orphan = hero. Folk tale tradition. The standard folkloric reward for girl orphans? Love and marriage. For boys? Power and wealth. Think about it.

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