Descendants is a made for TV movie that premiered on Disney Channel Friday, July 31. The film is the story of what happens when the children of the most dangerous of all Disney villains come to live in Auradon. The kids, Mel: daughter of Maleficent, Evie: daughter of the Evil Queen Broomehilda in Snow White, Jay: son of Aladdin’s foe Jafar, and Carlos: the son of Cruella de Ville, leave their home on an island prison (basically Australia) to attend high school with all of the princes and princesses in Utopia. The decision to allow the children of his people’s greatest tormentors is met with a lot of resistance by, well, everyone else in Auradon…especially those who had to fight the likes of Maleficent. The movie happens in the usual way that Disney movies end…happily ever after.
But, you know what? There are a few lessons, five to be exact, that one can learn from these kids who aren’t quite sure who they want to be yet. Read these five lessons carefully and please don’t complain about spoilers. You’ve been warned.
–The Elephant’s Conscience
- Be Careful Who You Trust- The young and optimistic Prince Ben welcomes the children of his parents’ enemies to his kingdom as his first official proclamation as king. Somehow, he can make official proclamations before his coronation, but whatever. The monarchy is weird. The kids are given a secret mission by their parents to steal the magic wand that will free them from the island. If it were another group of kids, one without a hint of good, they would have brought down the regime. In other words, Prince Ben got lucky those four weren’t evil. Good thing he didn’t bring in one of the Huns’ kids from Mulan.
- Context is Everything- The prince has a special reason for trusting the children from the Island of the Lost. As it turns out, the Beast (yes, from Beauty and the Beast) became king over all the other royalty in Auradon after he was condemned as evil and hunted down for his appearance. Prince Ben seems to completely grasp the idea that, if things had shaken out differently, he might not even be alive and if he was, he would have grown up on the island. When the villain kids first arrive, Ben takes them on a tour that includes a stop at the statue of his father in human form. It takes a clap of the prince’s hands to make the statue transform from man to beast to remind everyone that we all have the potential to be monsters.
- No One’s Born Evil- Just like racism, sexism, and pretty much every single form of bigotry, evil is a learned trait. That’s why the villain kids being good in the end doesn’t irk me like some other people. Just because someone comes from a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and/or “evil” family does not mean that they will be that way too. This in no way means that you should disregard rule number one. It just means that you should keep an open mind.
- Young People Need Structure- The kids take their first steps to goodness because they find something else to occupy their time. While living on the slum-like Island of the Lost (which locks all of the inhabitants in via magic force fields) and surrounded by evil influences there’s not much to do except act out. In Auradon, they take part in activities that allow them to use their energy in constructive ways. Jay and Carlos join the tourney (a sick variation of lacrosse that I hope becomes the new Quidditch) team. Jay becomes MVP and learns about team work. Carlos meets his first dog while running a forty-yard dash at practice. Cruella de Ville’s son gets over his fear of canines and the pooch becomes his new best friend. Evie is a closet genius in chemistry and Mal leads the others to turn away from the dark side. She also does every girl in school’s hair. “Idle hands are the Devil’s plaything” after all. So do something worthwhile.
- You Make Your Own Destiny- This is the entire theme of the film. Nothing is preordained. All of the good or bad that happens is either caused by you or defined by how you handle it. Your life is the culmination of all your actions. You did build that and that’s the truth.