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.


This study didn’t just focus on how many words the characters said, but what was said as well. They analyzed compliments, and here we see a positive trend. During the Classics stage, the female characters received 55% of compliments based on their appearances and 11% based on their skills. In the New Age era, female characters are complimented on their appearance 22% of the time and on their skills 40% of the time.

With the most recent batch of Disney Princess movies, the dialogue trend has been reversed. Frozen, Brave, and Tangled have been more judicious about the speaking roles between the genders. This newest cycle features Princesses who are independent, talented, and are often the drivers of their own narratives. In fact, in a dramatic change of events from the earliest Princesses, these modern ones often save the men. In Frozen, the traditional love story is turned on its head when true love is revealed to be the love between sisters.

How Messed Up Lessons From Disney Films Affect Us

But Disney could still very well be f*cking us up. A major motif in the feminism of today is unrealistic body image, and Disney does very little to address this. Impossible body proportions in Disney Princesses, and this study found that the ratios of women’s bodies to men’s in modern Disney movies reinforce the sexist notion that women are beautiful only when they are impossibly thin, with delicate caucasian facial features.

Look, I don’t think we should lose our heads over Disney Princess films. After all, these films are meant to entertain and little more. That being said, children aren’t capable of understanding the potential effects it may have on their self-image and, clearly, internalize these sexist messages. So what’s the answer? As it often boils down to, being aware and educated, and voting with our dollars is really the best we can do.

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 43 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Yeah that is so not okay… Disney has been making it look so natural for underaged girls to be married to some charming handsome heroic princes. Unbelievable how none of us even realize until we sit down and analyze, right?!!!

  9. Diana Hewitt

    WHAT?? Snow White is 14??!! Really? How is that even legal to even show kids? Some grown up prince giving her a kiss to bring her back to life… Oh how so romantic until you realize she’s just a 14 year old kid! Omg blew my mind in the worst ways!!

  10. Kaitlyn Barrett

    I agree that Disney has some messed up secret messages and all but honestly, Disney isn’t the only one. Can’t even think of one big company that doesn’t promote negative female stereotypes.

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