Damsel in Distress: An Critical Look at Mickey Mouse cartoon “The Klondike Kid”

Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIFpT6iKcPU

  In the 1932 Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Klondike Kid”, Mickey Mouse was busy entertaining the folks in a tavern playing with the piano when he saw a tired and homeless Minnie Mouse collapsing from exhaustion. He was able to get her out of the cold, and they became close friends afterwards; he was giving her some soup when Big Pete showed up uninvited and took Minnie hostage & went off to his cabin. Mickey followed them with his dog Pluto bringing movement for the sled, which led to a wild fight which was later ended with Pluto making himself a huge snowball that knocked Pete’s cabin off the cliff and smashed the latter into logs, trapping Pete underneath.

For this, feminism is employed to look at certain points of the cartoon. The main concept here is the concept of the stereotypical damsel in distress. According to Urban Dictionary, a damsel in distress is a female stereotype of an unmarried woman who is need of help, any woman who needs help (usually virginal, beautiful, young, virtuous, and hopelessly passive, as well as being asexual).  In short, a damsel in distress is usually female who’s placed in enormous danger and has to wait for help (usually in the form of a man) to come along. This is mostly seen in fairy tales, and to some extent, some TV shows, films and cartoons. Many young girls, growing up with such tales in their childhood, would dream of a prince to come for them someday, only to be crushed years later. That depends on certain situations a girl has to face later in life.

Way back then, women were supposed to be passive and dependent on men. This yet again is an idea found in fairy tales. Joseph Campbell, in ‘The Power of Myth’, mentions about this stereotype in fairy tales, there were such stories with a young girl who doesn’t want to grow up, and at the times of crisis, she balks. Then she falls asleep until a prince comes in, having to go through many trials to reach her. However, during the Middle Ages and even some times after that, some of the women are anything but in distress. Some, like Joan of Arc, has the guts to go into war; one woman led her castle against a siege in her 60’s, another one went against a forced marriage and became a holy woman. Still, this stereotype of a dependent woman wouldn’t be more influential until the Victorian Age, with the Industrial Revolution ushering in. Woman then became mere ornaments of their husbands.

In this cartoon, as well as other early Disney cartoons in the old times, Minnie was portrayed as that damsel in distress, and Mickey that prince that have to save her from harm (or in this case, Big Pete). Here, she needed to be saved a lot. One was that she was out in the cold: hungry, tired and cold & she collapsed after reaching the tavern. Mickey has to get her out of there, hence fulfilling the concept, as well as him giving her soup. The second has her being kidnapped by Big Pete who tries to seduce her, yet failed because she refused to. So, she needs to be saved again, making Mickey to go after Pete with Pluto mushing forwards, only to be distracted by a rabbit, leaving Mickey to face Pete in order to save Minnie, whose skirt was hung on to a mounted deer head trophy. This shows the idea of the woman being needy & dependent on the man to get her out of any situation.

But as the years went by, some cartoons later showed Minnie as mature, smart and level-headed, sometimes annoyed by Mickey’s antics as well as those of others as evident in the cartoon show House of Mouse. However, in Mickey Mouse Works, there’s a segment called Mickey to the Rescue wherein Minnie is portrayed as the damsel in distress again with Pete always holding her hostage and Mickey rescuing her from the former’s clutches. Then again, who knows what would strike their mind instantly without any second thought?

Therefore, it is safe to say that people should be careful in what they are reading, listening or watching in terms of how it will affect one’s mind-set later in life.

 

Sources

Campbell, Joseph and Moyers, Bill. “The Hero’s Adventure.” Campbell, Joseph and Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. New York City, New York, United States of America: Doubleday, 1988. 168.

The Disney Wiki. Minnie Mouse. n.d. 6 Spetember 2013 <http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Minnie_Mouse&gt;.

—. The Klondike Kid. n.d. 6 September 2013 <http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/The_Klondike_Kid&gt;.

The Klondike Kid. Dir. Wilfred Jackson. Perf. Walt Disney, Bill Blecther and Pinto Colvig. 1932.

Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary: damsel in distress. n.d. 6 September 2013 <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=damsel%20in%20distress&defid=6128113&gt;.

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