How Messed Up Lessons From Disney Films Affect Us - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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How Messed Up Lessons From Disney Films Affect Us

A startling look into the lessons embedded in Disney films.


Renaissance 1989 – 1992: It took 30 years for Disney to release another cycle of Princesses. When they did, they were praised by many who saw Ariel’s rebelliousness as the antidote to the subordinate, dreamy Princesses of the past (despite the fact that she gave up her home, friends, and fins, to get married to a fickle Prince, at age 16). This was followed up with Beauty and the Beast (where she falls for her captor) and Aladdin (where he keeps saving them from her f*uckups). However, the core focus of these scantily-clad Princess’s stories was, ultimately, to be sexy and win a wealthy husband — at any cost.

How Messed Up Lessons From Disney Films Affect Us

Ariel waves goodbye to everything she’s ever known, at age 16.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s only two options in life are the ones her father has laid out for her. An older, overweight woman (obviously, the villain) convinces her that to be sexually attractive to men, she should drastically change her physical appearance — so she does. The price is that she can no longer speak or sing (and singing was her greatest joy). No problem, as she has nothing of value to say, and the Prince clearly doesn’t care anyhow, since he decides to marry the mute Ariel.

So, in the end, she’s yet another tale of a girl being saved by a Prince. This time the Prince has a wandering eye (which he, of course, is not to blame for). The moral of the story is that giving up her family, home, biggest talent, and everything she knows was totally worth it because she is now owned by, and totally dependent on, a man (ie. –yay– happy ending). After all, it’s not as if he would have ever considered living under the sea with her.

Before Ariel trades in her voice for a pair of legs, Ursula sings a song to convince her to give up the goods. This gem of a verse seals the deal:

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha!
The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes, on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man.”

Beauty and the Beast: She saves a Prince’s life — not with her wit or strength (because she doesn’t have either of those things), but with her only asset: her sexuality. Proving that appearances don’t matter; what matters is what’s inside your heart. Unless you’re a girl, of course.

How Messed Up Lessons From Disney Films Affect Us

Good thing a man is on his way to save her! (Nice waist, BTW)

Aladdin: As a 15-year-old girl, her only worth was her marriageability, and the longer she waited to marry whomever her father demanded, the more trouble she caused. She ends up enslaved by a powerful man and is only saved by marrying a shallow and possessive man pretending to be rich (who refers to her as a prize to be won, and repeatedly assumes she must be shallow). “A liar who agrees that I am only a rich, hot prize to be won? GO JUMP OFF A BALCONY! Oh, you have a magic carpet? Never mind, let me hop on that!”

Lesson: Give up everything and make your life revolve around marrying a rich man. Then, the rich man will give you money and therefore fulfill your dreams. Oh, and always wear bikini tops to be sexy.

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A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she spends most of her time in France, NYC, London and Switzerland, and travels extensively around the world. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 46 Comments

  1. Elsa Gomez

    Classics such as Aladdin and Cinderella showed us how happiness is better than wealth but at the same time being poor also sucks. I mean, Cinderella’s life was much better when she got to go to the ball…

  2. Kim Asunciom

    Hello. I totally agree with this. I hadn’t thought of it until now, but WOW.

  3. Sasha Smith

    I bet to agree! That is so not okay… Disney has been making it look so natural for teens/ girls to be married to some charming handsome heroic princes. Its like girls cannot do anything at all. She just needs to sit there, be pretty and wait. WAIT and wait. I mean, Girls can run the world, Disney!

  4. I used to love Disney when I was little — I’d never thought about the messages in it! I must say, I really love how your articles take an issue that’s right in front of my face and yet I still can’t see it clearly, and articulate it in a way that shines a light on it. Thanks to Urbanette, I’m no longer blind to how I’m being manipulated!

  5. Jackie Lewis

    Disney movies are typically enjoyable and tend to be instant classics, none of these films are immune to that. I know there are some people who say “it’s just a cartoon, get over it,” but for some women, these works are what they based their idea of what women should be like. I think there is nothing wrong for little girls (and women) to enjoy these movies, but their families should be conscious of making sure they know that they should be valued for themselves and not just their marriageability, sexuality, or physical appearance.

  6. This is so sad. We see the wrong with Disney films when we grow up.

  7. Sylvie

    When I was younger it was all about Pocahontas. I watched the movie a countless number of times, I dressed up as her, and had sheets with images from the movie on them. I think the reason I admired her character so much then and now is because (at least as she is portrayed in the movie) she has several striking feminist qualities. She is a free spirit, bold, brave, a leader, and community oriented. Perhaps she does fit into Disney’s physical standard so they don’t get a 10/10. However, the ending stands out from the other DPC plots because she chooses her family and her duty to her community over her “prince”. Oh and ALSO I am annoyed that she is rarely considered to be a Disney Princess- her father it the chief which should translate to king but I guess according to Disney you’re not a REAL princess if you scrape your knee one in a while. In retrospect, I think Pocahontas may have significantly contributed to the feminist person I grew up to be.

  8. Jennifer McSween

    Very true, Hilary! Have you noticed the secret / hidden sexual details in those movies? Check the wall of Boo’s room in Monsters Inc for example. There’s a drawing on that wall… Dropped my jaw… A shadow of teenage girl performing sexual acts in the Toy Story…. So many other examples. How are these supposed to be children’s movies?

  9. Joel Bonpensiero

    Leave the princesses aside. Let’s talk about Monsters Inc. Some big old monster creeps on little girls in their closets. A whole movie made base on that terrible scary and pervy idea… And it’s made to be seem innocent and cute. Come on people! Wake up.

  10. Ingrid Winston

    What surprises me more is that there are still people who try to defense these movies even after reading these facts. Speechless!

    • Jeff

      It’s a frickin’ cartoon, get over it. Nobody cares except people who make a living pointing these things out. All three of my daughters grew up watching all of the mentioned shows and they all grew up to be strong, educated, self-reliant women. I think that the fact that we never steered them to be anything except what they wanted to be allowed them to be their own persons, stupid cartoons not withstanding. They were no more affected by Cinderella’s simple mindedness than we (all parents) were affected by Wylie Coyote’s proclivity for violence.

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