Parents who'd rather hoped that sticking their brats in front of a Disney film would result in nothing more serious than whining demands for associated merchandising will be horrified to learn that such movies are punting strictly heterosexual values to impressionable minds.
That's according to Emily Kazyak and Karin Martin, who probed top-grossing G-rated films and discovered that, contrary to "the notion that such movies are without sexual content", they actually "send a memorable message to impressionable young viewers that heterosexual love is not only the norm, but that it is also exceptional, powerful, transformative and magical".
To arrive at this shock conclusion, Kazyak and Martin "analyzed all G-rated movies released, or rereleased, between 1990 and 2005 that grossed more than $100m in the United States".
Three trained operatives "extracted story lines, images, scenes, songs and dialogue that addressed anything about sexuality, including depictions of bodies, kissing, jokes, romance, weddings, dating, love, where babies come from, and pregnancy."
Then, mercifully offering a much-needed IT angle, "the text describing this material was inductively coded using a qualitative software program".
The researchers explain in the journal Gender & Society: "Characters in love are surrounded by music, flowers, candles, magic, fire, balloons, fancy dresses, dim lights, dancing and elaborate dinners. Fireflies, butterflies, sunsets, wind and the beauty and power of nature often provide the setting for - and a link to the naturalness of - hetero-romantic love."
And if that's not enough, heterosexuality is "construed through depictions of overtly feminized women and masculine males, with the male characters spending much of their time longingly gazing at the former".
The message is further rammed home when "toys and other products tied to the films later reinforce the images".
The upshot of all this is that kids' entertainment is doing little to promote gay awareness and "continues to perpetuate a less inclusive message". The researchers conclude: "Both ordinary and exceptional constructions of heterosexuality work to normalize its status because it becomes difficult to imagine anything other than this form of social relationship or anyone outside of these bonds."
An abstract of Hetero-Romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children's G-Rated Films can be found here. ®