Sunday, March 4, 2012

Disney Princesses: A Negative Influence

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!


  1. I totally agree that the influence Disney has over children, especially young girls is astounding. The Princesses especially teach absurd things about beauty and how a young girl should look and act. Although they are supposed to be just stories, they are so impressionable at such a young age. My little sister literally wore a tiara around for 6 months straight because she loved Cinderella so much. It certainly sheds an ugly light on America and our ideals for women when these sort of lessons are taught to children at such a young age. And what's worse is that Disney takes all of these stories that are originally horrible and sad and makes them into a fairytale with a happy ending. For instance, in the real Little Mermaid she dies and turns to sea foam because Eric actually marries someone else. Also, for your enjoyment I would highly recommend watching Jenna Marbles "What Disney Movies Taught Me" on YouTube. She is absolutely hilarious, and her video totally goes with your post.

  2. I definitely agree with you that Disney has made an effort to create the dichotomy of beautiful and ugly. Beauty associates with goodness and benevolence, while ugliness associates with evil and malevolence.We have been conditioned to believe these associations and the dichotomy of beautiful and ugly ever since we were little. However, the media today also enforcing this belief. This can be seen in our everyday ads, movies, or television shows. We rarely encounter an ugly protagonist. We even have makeover shows such as "What Not to Wear" and "The Biggest Loser", which transform the ugly to the pretty. This shows that our obsession with beauty and that we will go on national television just to be transformed. Furthermore, the before transformation self seems to be the object of ridicule and criticism while the post transformation self holds a whole new aura, someone with a new confidence.

  3. In my first post I also wrote about Disney Princesses. I took a more positive outlook towards them, although I will admit that they do not always have the best lessons for young girls. As you have said here, it is true that they teach their audience that it is good to be beautiful and bad to be ugly. I cannot think of any villains in Disney movies that do not fit the role of ugly. Also, even if the female protagonist is the heroine of the story, there is always a man who is her motivation or savior. I think that this an important lesson to consider when thinking about and watching Disney movies.

  4. Additionally, Disney suggests that women should conform to a certain standard of beauty- what they consider beautiful is what little girls believe is beautiful. All the Disney princesses are voluptuous and extremely skinny, teaching girls at a young age that to be beautiful they need to have nice curves and a skinny body. I recently watched a movie called the Micky Mouse Monopoly which addressed the negative aspects of Disney in terms of the message that they are sending to children, and with how wide spread their message is. Disney is by far one of the biggest media outlets in the world- it owns many magazines, television stations and networks that all disseminate the same message although they may appear to be different and accessible. If Disney owns most of the media, than what does the other media say about women? How does it affect the way children and adults understand the socialization of women as well?

    Here is a link to the movie in case anyone is interested:

    the other parts are also on youtube as well.

  5. Disney princesses were not drawn up to be bad influences to children; their stories eventually grew to be bad influences as society grew. Society grew with the emergence of women power while the fairytales have remained the same generation after generation. The fairytales still depict the princesses as being naïve and dependent on men. This is a negative influence towards young girls because women have started to show they do not need men; that they can be independent and do almost, if not everything, that men can do. Women are not the same as they were when Snow White was produced; they have grown to become doctors and nurses and teachers and scientists. Girls have always struggled with their physical appearance and believing that they are beautiful, and the Disney Princesses make that belief that much harder for younger girls. The Princesses are seamlessly perfect with perfect hair, skinny, “sexy” bodies, and beautiful faces. Their beauty is always idolized during their movie and is usually the number one characteristic that describes them. This creates a standard for girls that beauty is everything and if one does not meet those standards, than one is ugly. Standards such as these, make growing up difficult as girls will always be seeking for approval from their peers. Girls will always doubt their own appearance to match those that they grew up watching and see on tv and in magazines and movies. Disney princesses have simply evolved to be a negative influence on young girls and it is important to be able to teach young girls that they simple represent fiction.


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