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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On a lady who’s withdrawn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 lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 122 Comments

  1. Check out the Beast and the Beuty

  2. Patti Salazar

    I feel like Cinderella was the worst of all. What a freaking gold digger. But yeah, not to mention the prince of Sleeping Beauty who just kissed a princess who wasn’t even conscious. I wouldn’t have understood all of this if it wasn’t for this article. But I was thinking that maybe Disney didn’t intend to do this, mainly because they’re not really the author of these classic books. Removing the main details would have been a complete remake. So I guess they didn’t have a choice.

  3. Joan Taylor

    I don’t remember Disney being as stupid as this. Maybe we’re just overthinking?

  4. Delores Green

    I hate how they made Rapunzel dumb. I used to like her.

  5. Hilda Norris

    Oh please, just because they’re cartoons it doesn’t always mean it’s for kids. Plus, supervise your children so that they don’t end up watching something as stupid as this.

  6. Claudia Delgado

    Never liked old Disney anyways. I like the current Disney Princesses better. Elsa didn’t even need a prince.

  7. Monique Fleming

    I was probably a dumb kid back in the days because I didn’t even see the undertone of these Disney movies. I just thought that princess and prince’s were loving couples and that everyone in this world has their prince charming. The real message was lost in translation to me. Eitherway, I’m glad someone compiled this because I want this to serve as a lesson to a lot of people that even though they’re cartoons and that the show seems harmless, we might be putting across the wrong message.

  8. Angel Gray

    I didn’t even know that Snow White was 15 and she lived with 7 male dwarves!

  9. Anne Glover

    I think we’re overthinking this. It’s not that Disney is trying to portray women like that, but it’s from classic books that aren’t even originally from Disney.

  10. Terry Morgan

    All these disney characters messed up big time. I really wish the stories were better but those are classics.

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