From dim-witted Dopey in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the "psycho" in Aladdin, Disney classics may be teaching children to laugh at and fear the mentally ill, according to a study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
Researchers analyzed 34 full-length animated Disney films and found that 85 percent of them denigrate mental illness by portraying cartoon characters as "crazy," "mad" and "nuts." Movies such as Beauty and the Beast, where Belle's father is hauled off in a "lunacy wagon," features some of the worst stereotypes, the study found.
Andrea Lawson, study author and social psychologist at the University of Calgary in Alberta, concedes that fairy tales lack subtlety and that children don't necessarily take them to heart. Nevertheless, she says, "it's important that parents are critical of what their kids watch." Asking children how they feel about negative stereotypes in movies and on television "allows them to develop their own critical thinking skills," she says.