How Messed Up Lessons From Disney Films Affect Us
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!
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.