The Disneyfication of Social Work

26 02 2013

I think we all know that I’m a pretty big fan of Disney. I love cartoons, musicals, and animals. Animated woodland creatures bursting into song? Yes, count me in.

To clarify: I’m not saying that I’m cool with sweatshop labor, or their bizarrely controlling ways with their “cast members.” (Cast members=teenagers selling churros.) I know people have really strong feelings either way. Personally, I try to live my life hurting as few creatures as possible, but if I boycotted every company whose ethics didn’t 100% jibe with mine, I’d be sitting naked in the backyard eating nothing but grass.

Glad we got that out of the way.

Disney catches a lot of crap from our sort these days, for other reasons. Princesses are shitty role models who sit around waiting to be rescued and have no goals outside of marriage. This is true. I don’t call little girls in my life “princess.” Instead, I encourage them to enroll in science camp. But I have to assume that these people stopped watching a while back, because Rapunzel and Tiana? They wait for no man. They start small businesses, rescue themselves, throw themselves into their hobbies, and the men come crawling to them.

I’m always all up in social workers’ collective grills for not being able to relax and enjoy anything We love to pathologize things. We love to pick out what’s wrong, in an effort to show off how smart and insightful we are help. Why not take it one step further? Some of these characters need help.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel wants a human life on the land, and to find true love. Why does this mean she has to jealously guard a cave full of garbage? She’s a hoarder who would benefit from CBT. Forget her issues with men, she’s going to be crushed in an avalanche of dinglehoppers.

Cinderella

Yes, they’re glamorizing child abuse. But the real issue here is the vermin. There’s also no way that girl didn’t have bedbugs. Yes, Gus Gus looks adorable in his little hat but it’s unsanitary.

Pocahontas

I’m simply going to say “cultural competency” and leave it at that. We can do that now.

Sleeping Beauty

Can we say sexual assault? I don’t believe Aurora consented to that kiss. Prince Philip, don’t focus on “no means no,” wait for a “yes!”

Peter Pan

Lock your children’s window, and don’t hire a dog to be their nanny. Come on. You can afford all these formal nights out, can’t hire a human who can say, “hey, your children just flew away with an androgynous kid in a feathered cap, call for help?”

Mulan

I’m just saying, a great opportunity to discuss the fluid nature of human sexuality was completely blown. Li Shang, if you ever want to discuss it, we’re here.

The Lion King

While I appreciate the positive representation of gay parents (I’m sorry, what did you think Timon and Pumbaa were?) it would have been nice if we could have addressed the offensive patriarchal nature of lion society. Lionesses do all the work, but the credit goes to those dudes with manes.

Lilo & Stitch

There’s the…I mean when…the time that…never mind, this one is perfect.





Nobody worry, I’m back! Please hold the confetti.

27 03 2012

I’m sure this past week you all sat at your computers, despondent and tearing your hair out due to lack of SocialJerk updates.

No? Maybe a little? I’m being told you were actually all fine. Well, all right then.

Point is, I was gone. For a week. Vacation is important for people in stressful jobs. Unfortunately, “social worker” didn’t make it onto Tina Fey’s work related stress level chart, but I think we’re somewhere between “business guys who do stuff with money” and “managing a Chili’s on a Friday night.” We need to vacate every so often, in order to maintain our sanity.

So the boyfriend and I packed it up for a few days in Orlando. That’s right, Disney, Universal Studios, Pirate’s Cove mini golf, and lots of churros. It’s not what you would necessarily call a relaxing vacation, of course. First of all, the girl who wrote this went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I saw Hagrid’s hut, drank pumpkin juice, toured Hogwart’s, and pretty much turned into Kristen Bell meeting a sloth.

Plus there are crowds, heat, lines, and children. Some moments make you think, “aw, doing this with kids would be so fun!” But more make you think, “thank Jesus we’re the weird adults waiting way too long for the Peter Pan ride.”

You see a lot of sweet family moments, and a lot of nominees for the Terrible Parenting Hall of Fame. (It’s located in Cleveland.) Your two year old is having a tantrum after spending a fourteen hour day in direct sunlight with no nap? Why, that’s practically unheard of! You’re encouraging your seven year old to stomp on adult’s feet to cut to the front of the line at the Haunted Mansion? I can’t identify a single bad lesson there, good work!

But through all the exhaustion, all of the instances of wishing people wouldn’t try to sneak their kids onto rides they’re too little for, there’s one think you have to love–kids are enthusiastic. Whether it was the nine year old next to me on the Test Track at Epcot, yelling, “Now that’s what I call a roller coaster!” or the six year old next to me on the Tower of Terror gleefully informing me that she didn’t scream at all (I could not say the same) kids enjoy things to the fullest and let you know what they’ve achieved. They’re not worried about looking dumb.

It stops at some point. They become cool. Or at least, they want to be. And there’s nothing worse than a child trying to be cool. At one point, in Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, I looked to my left and saw a four year old dressed in a full Buzz Lightyear costume. He was in heaven and thought he looked amazing. Directly in front of me were three overindulged pre-teens, saying to their father, “Oh my God, this is just birds talking? Can we go? Whose idea was this?”

Yeah, it’s birds talking. It’s awesome, kid, and you’ll do better to enjoy it.

Because taking a vacation from thinking about work would actually make my brain explode, of course I had to relate it back. This probably most accurately sums up what I love about working with children, before they get prematurely interested in dating and therefore way too concerned about looking cool. They just think they’re good at everything. We always talk about what a person’s strengths are in social work. Ask an eight year old what they’re good at. I hope you have a while. All five year olds are good at drawing. Maybe two of my friends will say they are. Singing, dancing, acting, playing the kazoo, training dogs, doing imitations of cartoon voices? All viable career options for the under ten year olds I work with, based on their stunning talents.

Then I ask my teenagers. As much as I love them, the answers of what they’re good at are decidedly different. (Unless they’re trying to be brash and obnoxious, but you can tell they don’t really mean it.) “Um, I don’t know. What do you mean, what am I good at?” “Nothing, not really.” “I guess I do well in school?”

So, some of my favorites, in no particular order.

1.) Back at Anonymous Youth Center, I had the five to nine year olds out on the playground. A seven year old boy came up to me, unprovoked, to let me know, “I’m really good at running backwards. See, like this.”

He then proceeded to run. Backwards. I’ll be honest, it was mediocre. Because no one is good at running backwards. But he was thrilled to pieces and way proud of himself.

2.) More recently, at Anonymous Agency, one of my eight year old girls started talking about her dreams from the future after a counseling session. “Do you want to hear me sing? I want to be professional. Like, on The Voice.”

As we walked through the office, back to the waiting room where her mom was, past all of my coworkers whom she had never met, she sang something I now unfortunately know to be “Baby” by Justin Bieber. (I’m not linking to it. You’re welcome.) This kid sang with one finger on her ear, because that’s how Christina Aguilera does it.

3.) A six year old girl, when I was an intern, told me, “I think I want to be an archaeologist and a chef and a ballet dancer. But also, I should be an artist, because I’m the best at drawing.”

She owed it to the world.

4.) A nine year old boy insisted on reciting his times tables to me, because he was the only one who had memorized all the way up to twelve. It took a long time, but I was pretty damn impressed.

5.) “Breakdancing? I’m really good at breakdancing!” A ten year old boy, who of course got down on the ground to dance in the waiting room. He was undeterred by the fact that no one had mentioned breakdancing.

My social work advice for the week? If you’re feeling down and bored, try for a minute to look at the world and yourself through the eyes of a latency age child. There’s probably something to get excited about.

If not, find a child to laugh at. That should work too.