Taboo subjects never go unseen in the ever-growing film industry. This is perhaps just as well, seeing as most of us have an unusual interest in gritty plot lines about teenagers taking Class A drugs and dirt-under-your-fingernails crime-thrillers centred on child abuse and rape, not mentioning the obvious ‘sexplosion’ of pornographic feature-lengths. Of course, film gravitates towards these taboo areas because there’s a market for it, but does the idea fully stop there? What if some of the most shocking taboos were secretly laced into a wider range of film content, maybe even in those films we least expect?
Yes, exposed are the Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar and LSD-addicted Cheshire Cat in Disney’s famous Alice in Wonderland, a movie that does a bang-up job when it comes to inputting subliminal stimuli. After all, most kids’ films are riddled with cryptic messages that remain unseen to the eight-year-old’s eye but clear enough to the parent supervising them.
But what is it about children’s films, specifically the earlier ones, which render them products of a powerful taboo-obsessed conspiracy? Well, starting with Walt Disney Productions could shed some light on this. Certainly, it’s foolish to single out the one tapering castle spire in The Little Mermaid as an unmistakable phallic symbol, just as much as it is fruitless to assume the dust cloud in The Lion King spells out the word ‘sex’ (as was pointed out to us in a blood-red font by some Microsoft paint pundit). Even if these were intended, they aren’t obvious taboos.
However, hidden controversies in these beloved children’s tales seem to exist, what with the violent poisoning of Snow White and the unrelenting cigar-smoking Lampwick in Pinnochio – “Come on, take a big drag! Like this!” The controversy doesn’t stop here; sexual innuendos run rampant in films like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin – I mean, did they really expect to get away with a host of half-naked, cleavage-bearing Disney princesses without toning it down a bit? It is a G-rated movie at the end of the day…
Moving away from the subtle smuttiness of Disney, the much-loved Studio Ghibli too revels in taboo-induced cinema. Colourful artworks like Spirited Away raise questions of child labour and even, some believe, child prostitution (most apparent when Chihiro’s profession – a yuna – is translated into a woman who ‘assists bathers’ – in other words a ‘bathhouse prostitute’). The same topic crops up again in the company’s most recent movie, The Wind Rises, in which prostitution in the shape of ‘comfort women’ is touched upon – a bit much for a PG-13 kids epic, wouldn’t you say?
Finally, Disney: not really big on hidden meanings but equally never far from controversy in this matter. Suggestions that the central characters in the award-winning films Frozen and Brave are homosexuals (surely, that isn’t still a taboo, right?) continue to spiral the net, albeit with little substantiation. Other taboos like murder also make additions to films like Finding Nemo; of course I’m referring to the merciless death of Marlin’s wife, Coral (though it appears off screen, it still leaves a shaky audience). Sure, we aren’t talking about the extended legacy of Reefer Madness here, but certainly a concept set to rival the subtle edge commonly found in 12A movies.
Summing up, though it doesn’t appear as though creators of U-rated cinema are hell-bent on secretly advertising these objectionable taboos across the industry, it is certainly worth discussing. My theory: long hours cooped-up in a bijou office sketching characters all day gets a bit boring – so they sneakily add saucy secrets into