Hidden Taboos in U-rated Cinema

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?

Film tabooScene-from-Spirited-Away--001 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?absolem

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
their animation.

1 Comment

  1. james
    03 May 2014 - 10:01 GMT

    There’re a lot of things wrong with Disney, the sexual innunedo being one of them (obsessive antisemitism being another), but I think you’re missing the point with Studio Ghibli, and are far too dissmissive of the claims against Frozen. There is a lot (and i mean a fuckload) of criticism on this subject already, and unsurprisingly its not all down to boredom. Films and literature provide an imaginative space where subconscious fears and anxieties can be expressed, maintained and controlled (<- thats not too ground breaking) and given the history of didacticism aimed at kids this is to be expected (the stuff about smoking being an example – those kids go to hell/transformed into donkeys and taking away as slaves by a sinister/peadophilic man with a moustache).

    The thing said about how being a 'homosexual surely isn't a taboo anymore.' Yeah you're right, but within a (kids) film where nearly every protagonist "enjoys" a heteronormative relationship; where every princess has a prince charming and where for the last 80 years until relatively recently they've all been white (American) it is fairly groundbreaking. Kids films are normative in the sense that they encode modes of behaviour. Frozen is reflective of the current LGBT/x-teenth wave of feminism which systematically breaks down taboos and cultural stereotypes in order to allow people to live lives free of shame.

    Things to back a homosexual viewing: "Same Love" Macklemore = lyrically similar to "Let it Go"; being afraid that the beauty of your inside will not be accepted by others is a typical anxiety held by those in the closet (especially in homophobic communities, with certain states in America being one of them) – she's hunted down and nearly killed for it; the man leading the "witch hunt" is an old, aristocratic Britsh (therefore conservative and oldfashioned) man, representative of older generations (in America esp.) who view homosexuality as a sign of the devil.

    Also, I'm surprised you didn't talk about Coraline – that shit is fucked up and is filled with Lacanian, Freudian psychosexual uncanniness and overtones of pedophilia.

    I read this because I thought it was gonna be interesting, but it was just disappointing. It covered ground that has already been made by a variety of people (note that old Disney films have been going since the '20s) and didn't really say anything new apart from the "ha! a dick!" kind of thing we all know and enjoy. Your theory is a croc of shite and doesn't take an indepth look at why taboos are shown.

    Try harder.

    55, low 2.2.

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