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

Womens Issues

How Messed Up Lessons From Disney Films Affect Us

A startling look into the lessons embedded in Disney films.


New Age 1995 – 2009: This cycle featured Mulan, Pocahontas, and the Princess and the Frog. These Princesses were more complex with hobbies, skills, and careers, and they were often the heroines of the story. However, these Princesses mimicked the Renaissance Princesses in that at the end of the day, they just wanted to get married.

Lesson: Despite anything else, a woman’s greatest accomplishment in life is having a rich or powerful man take you away and claim you as his wife (even if he’s dangerously insecure). Seeing any patterns here?

So have the Disney Princesses truly fucked us up? Are we unhappy because we don’t have an 18″ waist? Do we feel competitive with other women because of this messed-up messaging? And speaking of this Prince, why are all the women always in competition for this one guy who only seems to care about youth and beauty? Haven’t they heard? There’s more than one (rich) fish in the sea!

Warning: Lessons may not be healthy to internalize!

If we were to adhere to the Disney Princess formula, all we have to do to get our happy ending is to be the most extraordinarily beautiful and young — beat out other women — and perhaps completely give up our voice? Hmmm… Not very subtle on the sexism, guys.

Disney movies help create a society that sees women as beautiful only when they are impossibly thin and overwhelmingly white.

But it’s more than that. A study conducted by Brigham Young University who chronicled the responses of 198 preschoolers found that children who are exposed to Disney Princess media are more likely to buy into sexist gender stereotypes. Long-lasting effects on young girls included higher risk of unhealthy body image and loss of confidence.

Disney has indeed made efforts to update their Princesses to reflect modern sentiments, but they’ve made a few errors along the way. A study of the dialogue in the Disney Princess franchise have uncovered a startling trend: Disney Princesses have had a smaller percentage of spoken words in the 90s films verses the original ones. So, while women in Disney films were becoming more independent and self-realizing, they were also speaking less than their male counterparts.

The study also suggests that this is partly because of the larger cast of characters featured in the newer movies. While the first cycle of Disney Princess movies only had a handful of characters, newer films are saturated with a massive cast, and because we still see men as the default, many of these minor characters are men. Need a shop keeper? Jolly people in the pub? A sidekick? Just add in a few more men with some major or minor speaking roles and you have yourself a movie with male-dominated dialogue.

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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: 76 Comments

  1. Lucinda Hanslow

    The only two Disney princess movies I sort of disliked was sleeping beauty, and Snow White, but that’s about it. Originally my favorite princess movie was Aladdin, but I honestly don’t see jasmine as the main princess anymore.

  2. Lynda Diaz

    I forgot how much I love Disney princess movies after reading this.

  3. Joyce Gonzalez

    It’s like the people who think old Disney Princess movies are “classics”. HAVE YOU REWATCHED THEM THEY’RE SO CLICHE. LMAO

  4. Debra Perry

    When I was little, the only two Disney princess movies I watched were Pocahontas and Little Mermaid. Why? Because Pocahontas was brown, and Ursula in Little Mermaid turned into a cute brown girl. lmao.

  5. Melissa Richardson

    blame those Disney princess movies for girls being obsessed with being in a relationship, and feeling like they need someone to complete them.

  6. Annie Wright

    One time I watched all the Disney princess movies in order with my brother, and his girlfriend. We rated all the guys on 5 separate attributes to decide which one was best. Hercules and Shang were tied.

  7. Kathy Rogers

    I don’t care, I will still watch Disney Princess movies. I still love Ariel!!!!! ?

  8. Alice Torres

    I knew it since I was in high school. I love them all, but when I started to realize that it is wrong, that I should not fantasize them because it is wrong, that I should not copy what there are doing. I love them, but I don’t love the story.

  9. Denise Murphy

    Because the generation changes. Before, during the classic times, women are not that strong. They are depending on their partners, but look at how Disney changed the story? from being a dependent bitch, into a strong, and powerful woman.

  10. Julia Gray

    WTH. I used to love Ariel, but after reading this, and realizing that she’s worst than the others, I hate her now.

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