Parental notions

Gary Leach bangfish at
Sat Sep 18 18:57:18 CEST 2004

Bill Beechler:

> We all know about the "Disney single parent" thing.  How most 
> characters are orphaned or have at least one dead parent. Some of 
> this, it has been thought, was due to Walt and his brother losing 
> their mother when the house they had bought for her was lost in a > fire.

This will probably never have a real - or should I say definitive - 
explanation, but here are some notions of mine (not that I'd claim 
they're original notions), by no particular order or precedence:

- Many classic fairy tales reflect times - any time, in fact, prior to 
the advent of modern medicine in the mid to late 1800s - when maternal 
mortality at childbirth was, sadly, far too common.

- Mothers, by their intimate ties to the home and the kids, are seen as 
figures that don't put up with much nonsense. This does not usually 
provide the right kind of dynamic for rollicking cartoon themes.

- One parent is easier - and cheaper - to do than two, especially in 

- Orphans summon sympathy like almost no other character, and at the 
same time are the most at liberty to get into mischief and go on 

- During the Depression an enormous number of children "lost" their 
parents to the harsh distractions of seeking work and dealing with 
other economically induced hardships.

- Two world wars stripped thousands of families of fathers who would 
remain, for the children, forever young, adventurous, and idealized.

- Changes in the societal attitude towards divorce, begun in earnest in 
the 1950s, has led to at least two full generations of adults that view 
single-parent homes as not at all unusual. Many of these adults are the 
writers, artists, editors, and publishers/producers of the comics, 
comic strips, and cartoons of the past half-century.

- Fathers, whether as the family breadwinners or the non-custodial 
parents, are absent for much of the day-to-day life of their children, 
and thus are less familiar, more "fantastic" figures than their mothers.

A full list of these and other notions, and variations on same, could 
probably run for miles.


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