Why I Recommend This New Disney+ Short, Even Though It's Triggering as Hell
If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
This is a recap for “Far From The Tree.” There will be spoilers beyond this point. Please proceed with caution (because we don’t want to be the ones who spoil you!)
Once upon a time there was a lonely little girl with big eyes (and a bigger mouth) who believed in the power of fairy tales with all her might. She would press rewind on a VCR box on her favorite story – the tale of a headstrong mermaid who was above all else curious about a world beyond her own. Yes, she had her voice stolen from her and found a prince and all those other small details that you already know, but that’s not what made her get a fire engine red wig and a fish tale for halloween.
It was because that mermaid had a parent who wouldn’t feed her whimsy and creativity. Instead, he chose to chastise, punish, and yell at her for simply being curious due to the fear of what was out there in the world and the harm that could come to her. That’s the part she’d re-watch, because that would be the closest form of emotional representation she’d have for a very long time.
Spoiler alert – that little girl grew up and got a shit ton of therapy she desperately needed. She came to understand that her childhood abuser wasn’t a “bad” person, rather they were someone who was hurt and had to operate in survival mode their entire life. They did the best with what they had, while also still falling short in a lot of ways regardless of how much they loved her, much like Ariel’s father.
One not so special day, she decided to mask up (because, y’know, global pandemic) and go to the movies to see Disney’s newest movie “Encanto.” She didn’t know about the animated short beforehand “Far From the Tree,” and honestly, wasn’t emotionally prepared for it in the slightest.
“Far From the Tree,” which is currently streaming on Disney+, is the story of two generations of raccoons, generational trauma, and what it’s like to do better for the next generation.
The short opens to the parent, with a scratch over their eye, setting off with the baby to find food. The baby raccoon is curious about the world around them, as a child would be. Full of little to no knowledge about the dangers of the world, they don’t take heed of the parent raccoon’s order to stay inside a cave where it’s safe and sound. The baby raccoon escapes and the parent angrily uses fear tactics, demanding they go back inside never quite explaining why. This pattern repeats itself three times, before the baby finds a little seashell. After one more escape, in a fit of rage the parent breaks not only the seashell, but honestly me too. No, seriously. I was a wreck and it wasn’t even halfway over.
With tears in their eyes, they pick up the discarded pieces of the shell, only for a seagull to steal it. Not thinking, they charge out of the cave after them, but end up finding what seems to be a hungry coyote. The parent saves the baby, but not before the coyote scratches the baby’s nose.
Sitting in a tree, the parent yells (well, chitters I suppose) at the baby, pointing to their eye repeatedly. The baby, now fearful and understanding, sits on the opposite side of the branch downtrodden, having learned their lesson.
Fast forward some time, and the baby is now a parent. The baby turned adult, tries stopping their baby from running out of the cave, but like parent like child. The child runs out of the cave only to be swooped up by the parent who starts yelling (once again, chittering) at the baby before they realize they’re doing the same thing their parent did to them.
In a moment unlike any that I’ve ever seen in a Disney story, the older raccoon takes a look at themselves, deciding they don’t want to be their parent. Instead, they take their baby to the highest branch, and show them the danger that’s out there, telling them how they got their scar.
The scene changes to one where the two are healthily exploring the world together – the parent showing their child how to safely navigate the world with love and compassion. Finally, the short ends with the two of them listening to the ocean together through a seashell, much like the one their parent raccoon broke.
I don’t know who felt more seen while I watched this short – my inner child or grown up me.
I sat in the theater sobbing (how could you not), wanting to hug that same little girl that sat in front of the television so many times rewinding that same argument between Ariel and her father over and over again. For the first time I didn’t have to force representation when it comes to childhood abuse due to generational trauma.
The problem with generational trauma, is that it’s a bit more hidden and covert than more blatant forms of trauma. As an African American woman, I have trauma literally baked into my genes. My mother was born right along the cusp of desegregation. My grandparents were born during Jim Crow and witnessed white nationalist parades down the streets of their hometown. Their grandparents were enslaved.
They’ve had to survive, adapt, and assimilate in order to get me to where I am today. I’m here because of what they were forced to endure, and trauma like that doesn’t come without a fair share of scars. Sadly, sometimes we perpetuate unhealthy, toxic, and even abusive tendencies out of the need for survival, as the older raccoon and my parent both did.
While I am still healing, I have a choice to make just like the younger raccoon did – I can continue the cycle of generational trauma, or have it end with me.
That’s why “Far From the Tree” is in my opinion one of the best examples of what it’s like to experience generational trauma, but also what it’s like to overcome it and do better. We don’t have to be our parents. We can learn from their mistakes. They didn’t know better, but we do, so what are we going to do about it?
If you haven’t seen this short, I highly recommend you do. Although you may want to grab some tissues, fair warning.
Lead image courtesy of Disney+ YouTube Channel