In my last freshman writing seminar, Young Female American Heroes, one of the main topics we discussed was “Disney Princesses” and their effect on young girls today. Disney has become a crucial part of every child in America’s life today. Parents rely on its humor and optimism to keep their children happy and involved with society. What many parents fail to think of, however, is the message that girls are being taught at a very impressionable age.
The first lesson that we are taught when we are younger is that beauty = good and ugly = evil. Although this sounds extreme, think about the characters in the film. Think about the princesses. Are any of them attractive (Belle: known for being the most beautiful in town; Cinderella: charmed the prince because of her beauty and grace; Snow White: the fairest in the land; Sleeping BEAUTY: it’s in her goddamn name…)? Now think about the villains (Old hag in Snow White, Ugly Stepsisters in Cinderella, Maleficent, a terrifying dragon, in Sleeping Beauty). We are trained to recognize that when something is unattractive, it is not “good.” This does not promote a mentality of acceptance. When I was in kindergarten, I was so afraid of my teacher because she was “tall and scary” that my parents were forced to pull me out of school: I skipped to first grade. This is an extreme example of what happens when a child is influenced by something with twisted morals, but it is also interesting to see that this can happen to everyone and does happen in many cases.
The second lesson taught by Disney is that women need to be the “silent victims” in order to win their prince and be rescued. It seems like the goal of being a woman is to be married to a handsome prince and live happily ever after. Well, what happens if the woman wants to save the man? Or if the woman wants a woman? Women and men in Disney princess films have specific roles that they play. The woman is always saved; the man is always the savior. There are some exceptions to these cases, but they seem to be used by Disney excuses as to why the film company is not sexist (when all of their other movies are).
Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney princesses with a burning passion. I wanted to work in Disney as a character when I was younger and probably own every Disney Barbie known to man. I now realize, however, that children need a lesson that goes along with these movies. They need to be shown that this is just a story and not how real people are supposed to act necessarily. I am excited to teach my own children some of these lessons and grateful that I was able to see how carefully we must examine things that may come off as being wonderful (but really have some underlying, negative influence possibilities).
Also, this video is absolutely HILARIOUS. I love SNL!