Disney Princesses Are Bad Role Models
We all have our own memories of watching the magical world of Disney with its stereotypes and cliches, and even though they’ve been a huge part of our childhood, it’s fair to say that our beloved Disney Princesses haven’t always portrayed the best ideas about some pivotal issues. Some concerns that arise in Disney Princess movies include the coverage of serious issues regarding body image, the wrong depiction of men and women’s roles in society and the detrimental stereotypes that are portrayed (Tarannum, 2020). These themes deeply resonate with children when they have been exposed to the fictional Disney Princesses, as they believe that they are realistic and are how a ‘perfect’ society should be, when in reality, it is far from the truth. Due to reasons like these, it is safe to say that Disney princesses aren’t the best role models for children.
To start off with, let’s take a look at how these princesses actually look. They are drop-dead gorgeous, no one’s denying that! – and that is the main concern here, because it is very unrealistic. The Disney Princesses with their long necks, slim waists, slim legs and hourglass-shaped bodies create an image of the perfect body type in young girls, from a very young age. An idea is engraved into these little girls’ minds that they need to be “as pretty as a princess”, which completely throws out the idea of body positivity, and sets a wrong impression about the importance of beauty. It creates unrealistic expectations, and when the girls are hit with the reality that it is impossible to attain the body of a Disney princess, it causes immense psychological turmoil and issues with self-esteem. Another main point that stands out, is that physical imperfections on villains have been highlighted to such an extent, that children watching the movies would believe that there is a deep correlation between bodily flaws and negative personality traits. If we look at Ursula from The Little Mermaid, and Anastasia and Drizella from Cinderella, it has always been portrayed that characters who don’t conform to society’s idea of beauty must be villainous (Hains, 2020). Young girls are being told that what their worth is based on is how they look and the things that they have, which is very superficial and is not the way young girls should be reaching their own ‘happily ever afters’.
Starting with the obsession of finding ‘true love’, to the expectation that a boy will swoop in and save the day, Disney has made it look like women are worthless and dependent on men. These depictions impose the wrong message that girls need to be damsels in distress and wait for a knight in shining armour to come save the day, when they are completely capable of doing it themselves. The princesses are too dependent, and don’t have a will to fight their hardships on their own, and portray a dependence on men that is unrealistic and unhealthy. Snow White is a seamless case of the dependency on men and the typical roles of women. She takes the mother-like role of the seven dwarfs and becomes the servant of the house, until the witch eventually poisons her. Only true love’s kiss could break the spell, which of course means that a man has to come and save her. Until the prince arrives to save the day, Snow White just lays there, helpless. This is only one example out of the 12 Disney princess stories, but if you take a closer look at the others, you’ll see that all of them revolve around this same, demeaning plotline, where the prince always saves the day – have a look at Sleeping Beauty! Further, most of the Disney princesses do not have mothers, and the female figures in their lives are evil (for example, Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters), further accentuating the argument that they rely primarily on the help of males to achieve their goals. This gives the message to girls that they cannot trust and rely on members of their own gender, and that they cannot get along in the world without the help of males.
Further, the set of roles and behaviours portrayed by the princesses are far too rigid, sending the message that girls need to behave in a certain way to fit into societies ‘norms’. It also imposes the fact that girls need to always be attractive and behave in a certain way, if they want a happy ending. Growing up with such constricted and definite roles, young girls could feel pressurised to behave in a particular way to be ‘feminine’ enough. All of the Disney princesses display stereotypical feminine traits, from having tender, gentle personalities, to doing everything for a man, who in most cases, they have only seen once and have never spoken to. A stereotype present in Snow White, is that men are hopeless and need women to take care of them – in this way Snow White is forced to save the seven dwarves from their pigsty by demonstrating gender-specific roles seen in society, like staying at home and sweeping, dusting, washing dishes and tidying, while the men go out and do work. Another good example is Arial, who basically gave up her way of communicating and expressing personality, her voice, in exchange for legs, to be with Prince Eric – she ultimately succumbs to a subservient role by giving up everything, for a man (Pickett, 2020). The fact that Ariel gives up her voice and changes herself into a human in order to get her prince has a powerful underlying message for young girls. Changing their bodies and giving up their voices are two things we do not want young girls doing for love. the princes fall in love with the princesses at first sight, instilling the belief in young girls that beauty is all that matters, and that if you are beautiful, a prince will fall in love with you, without even knowing your personality (Jenkins, 2020).