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 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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