For many people, one of the best ways to decompress after a busy day is to get lost in fictional fantasies. Whether that be through playing a game, watching a movie, or reading a book, there’s a comfort to be found in taking a break from everyday realities. In essence, their appeal lies in the fact that they never ask you to critically analyze all parts of the work: Their main goal is to smother your free time with a little fantasy sparkle. The escapism offered by fiction allows a person to immerse themselves in other worlds and characters without worry, which is a saving grace needed in these more unpredictable times. However breezy these hobbies are, what happens when real-world arguments intrude onto such fantasy territories? Recent social media squabbles over Disneyland Paris’ Minnie Mouse reveal the reality of heated debates over cartoon characters.
In January, Disneyland Paris announced that it would celebrate the 30th anniversary of the park’s opening with several special attractions. Complete with limited-edition shows and never-before-seen light projections, the celebration is set to capture the magic and wonder of the park. Since Paris is also synonymous with haute couture, there are high expectations for the shiny new costume collection that will debut for the occasion. According to the Disneyland Paris website, Mickey and friends will get to strut through the park “decked out in their new iridescent costumes, as created especially for the 30th Anniversary.”
Disneyland Paris also revealed that famous designer Stella McCartney created a special pantsuit for Minnie Mouse to wear throughout the anniversary celebration. In a now-viral tweet, the special suit is adorned with Minnie’s classic polka-dot pattern, refreshed with a wicked-sharp blazer in navy blue. Of course, it would not be a “Minnie Mouse” outfit without a few bows, which pays homage to her character’s timeless dress. While Minnie Mouse will only get to prance around in this celebratory suit for a short time, the new costume caused a surprisingly heated debate on social media.
Shortly after the announcement, the internet sprawled into a mixed bag of emotions toward the outfit. Many fans were quick to praise the character’s look and the dual statement it would make for Disneyland Paris and the upcoming International Women’s Day celebrations. As designer McCartney told CNN, her intentions for the powerful pantsuit are to evoke “a symbol of progress and empowerment for a new generation.” Despite the joyous reactions, there were a significant number of fans who took offense to this decision. Across Twitter trending events and notable news outlets, people could not handle the famous mouse undergoing a costume change. Even knowing that the suit was a temporary fix was still not enough to soothe the wave of internet cries against Minnie Mouse.
One video that made its rounds throughout social media involved conservative pundit Candance Owens, who appeared on Fox News to bash the new suit as distracting from the so-called “real” issues at hand. The rant against Minnie Mouse, complete with the notion that “they’re trying to destroy fabrics of our society,” pinpoints the distress that some felt toward the character’s deviation from her iconic red-and-white dress. Not only did people like Owens find a “distracting” element in McCartney’s tailored pantsuit, but many also considered the suit as pushing Minnie Mouse to be more masculine. To really hit the point home, the Daily Mail called out this change as a “woke” move on Disney’s part to embrace feminist-forward thinking.
For those who might be scratching their head at the phrase “woke,” the slang term is defined as a thing or action made in order to keep up with current trends in social justice or activist movements. When tangled together with feminism, the phrase “woke feminism” refers to making feminist-centric decisions that are entirely influenced by current trends in social movements. Trends, in the context of “woke” thinking, are more impactful for widespread change than simply changing for the better. As Minnie Mouse and her new pantsuit were called out as a “woke feminist” move made by Disneyland Paris, many accused the park of choosing the tuxedo outfit as a “trendy” decision among the current landscape.
While the debut of the pantsuit offers a creative spin on the classic Minnie Mouse look, the costume choice is not something “woke” for the Disney character. In fact, many fans were quick to point out that this will not be the first time the character has donned a two-piece outfit. From Captain Minnie’s maritime uniform on Disney Cruise Line to a Twitter user who compiled a group of Minnies in fashionable trousers, the swap from skirts to pants is one familiar to the mouse. There’s no questioning the character’s femininity either since she has proven time and time again that Minnie Mouse is inherently “Minnie,” no matter the outfit.
Consequently, the dress debate shines a light on how minuscule issues can gain traction when placed in the hand of a social media user. Given that it only takes a few clicks to read a news article and post a response, the temptation to share an opinion on every issue is addictive. However, the ease of posting and resharing opinion after opinion can also be exhausting, to the point where the original statement gets lost among masses of users re-interpreting messages. With Disneyland Paris and their 30th anniversary, their happiness to share long-awaited plans becomes distorted by this influx of opinion via social media.
The pervasive nature of technology makes it almost too easy to “stay connected” at all hours. By constantly tapping into the web for news and media, it’s inevitable that one will be overwhelmed by all the opinions that come together for the same reason: killing time on the internet. Without dismissing the fact that everyone’s lives have drastically changed over the last few years, the balance between engagement and disconnection online is blurrier than ever. Maybe the boredom of distance is eating some alive, or maybe there are just some very passionate Disney fans like the ones who weigh in on Minnie Mouse; the choice to share opinions on public media outlets remains in the user’s hands.
When it comes to fiction, the ability to give it space away from “the real world” is what makes it intriguing. Themes and characters do pull inspiration from today’s society, but the storytelling aspect of fantasies is what keeps them wonderfully distinct from everything else. In the same way, the Disney company is praised because their stories are estranged from the humdrum of daily life. The fantastic fiction and animated characters cannot speak to every issue, nor do they try to. Applause should be held for the magic manufacturers in their attempts to satisfy every guest and fan, but 100% satisfaction can never be guaranteed.
The same thing can be said of the Minnie Mouse dress debacle: While the push for a new pantsuit has the best intentions behind it, such changes are made knowing that not everyone will absolutely love it. In the words of one Disney-centric blog on the issue, “Disney cannot satisfy everyone’s reactions to an outfit.” It’s then up to the fan to decide if it is worth the energy to weigh in on a conversation such as this, or let it be.
Simultaneously rising to headline status alongside new changes to the M&M’s character mascots, the sudden need to make every cartoon “lifelike” detracts from their original purpose. Sure, you can go ahead and debate the feminist underpinnings of Minnie Mouse in a suit, or bicker over the nuanced personalities of chocolate candies, but the characters will always be creations made from fantasy. Stressing over the ways that each fictional character represents every aspect of real life is an exhausting pursuit because they will never reach the “ideal” level of representation. Additionally, if Minnie Mouse were the most perfect icon of today’s feminist movements, then she would not be an anthropomorphized mouse dancing on Main Street, USA. Social media’s demand for fantasy to represent reality will ultimately go unfulfilled, but the colorful debates that result are sure to entertain the initial idea.
Fantasy is appealing because it allows the individual to leave their worries behind and get lost in escapist fiction. While sharing those opinions online might be an interesting way to find a like-minded community, the key here is remembering that fiction can be anything to a given person. No matter what kinds of opinions are expressed about a character, all versions of the fantasy remain true to those that believe in them. All things considered, if fictional characters and costumes are a person’s main source of anger, maybe it’s time to put the keyboard down and find another hobby to relax with.