• Cameron Mazzeo MSW, LCSW

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The Unintended Effects of Disney on Values and Morals

My very first favorite movie was Disney's (Original) Beauty and the Beast. I was drawn instantly to Belle's character. Even to this day I am very attracted to smart and fiercely independent women. But there was something about Beauty and the Beast that never sat right with me. No, it wasn't the terrible undertone lesson for women to embrace their "Savior Complex", or the clear depiction of Stockholm Syndrome, or even the hints possible bestiality. Something about this movie changed the way I saw and thought about the world.

Flash forward a many years into the future, much has changed, including my favorite movie, but Beauty and the Beast remain a cherish story for me. I even loved the live-action remake, despite the freak out it caused. Man, were critics always this crazy nit-picky about everything? Also, Emma Watson definitely fulfills that smart and fiercely independent woman fantasy I was mentioning earlier- roar! I digress. I'm singing, poorly I might add, to the live action Beauty and the Beast's downloaded soundtrack. Then "The Mob Song" plays. I become suddenly very upset remembering the scene in both the Disney and live-action versions, and couldn't hold back my tears. Like a rush, it suddenly hits me, this is when I really stopped liking groups of people.

Now I don't mean I have a social phobia, I'm actually very personable. What I mean is, I fear that mob mentality. What I'm talking about is the theory of "groupthink". So what is groupthink? Groupthink is essentially a theory that group cohesion, though is often sought, ultimate results in faulty group decision making. In layman's terms, the more "tight" a large group of people are the more likely the group will make rash and poor decisions that would not have occurred based on the individuals. It is only a theory, but I feel like there are several examples in history that can show the damage of groupthink. Nazis are a clear example.

In 1932 an estimated 1/3 of Germany approved of Nazi ideals (meaning at 33% of individuals in Germany voted for the Nazi party in their election). So we can surmise the other 2/3 did not agree the what the Nazi Party was offering in terms of solution. However, when Nazi party lead the country to war and determined that anyone they deemed non-German (primarily Jews) should be subjected to torture and death- most (not all) of the 2/3 didn't kick up a fuss. Some were likely scared and didn't want to draw attention to themselves, others may have gotten swept up in the patriotism the Nazi Party oozed early on, many likely put their heads down and turned a blind eye to what their peers were doing. No one whats to step up to. No one wants to risk their membership or their safety, even if they don't agree with what is happening, or worse they start to agree because its their friends and family.

While I did not know the groupthink theory in my youth, and I am certainly not an expert in it today, through the mob scene in Beauty in the Beast I instantly recognized that being part of the larger group was never going to be for me. I raged against a social group "norms" early in my youth. I idolized Belle, because even though the townsfolk talked crap about her being an outsider and significantly out-numbered her, she did not sit idly by. She spoke the truth, even though it was scary, even though it ultimately had her and her father locked up, because that was what was right.

Growing up I thought the best way to be that outsider was to hate popular trends. When something was popular I typically thought it was terrible, and I verbalized loudly. Over the years this has chilled out quite a bit. Turns out I enjoy some popular trends like Harry Potter and Star Wars. But the underlining fear of groupthink still exists, even more so now given the state of the country. Now my efforts to combat the larger group norm, and ultimately the false narrative it creates, is more subtle, I encourage outliers to make themselves seen. I let those who's lives don't fit the "American Standard" know that they are also valued and supported.

It led me into my social work career. Its led to my passions of public speaking and advocacy. It drove me to get my LCSW and to provide therapy where I can celebrate other people's uniqueness. It ultimately led me to open my practice, meant to honor those that don't quite fit in. It drove me to create this blog.

And to think, this could have all been different if only Gaston just could have taken no for an answer...

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