Friday, November 22, 2013

The Disney Princess and the Self Esteem of Young Girls!

Hey everyone, Dana here. Last week, I posted my thoughts about gender segregation placed on toys and other consumables at Toys R Us. If you recall, I briefly touched upon Disney Princesses in the Barbie dolls, but I didn't really go into depth about it. Well, today...I feel my feminism re-emerging again, so it's time to really go into depth on Disney Princesses and how I feel that they ruin the self esteem of young girls. There are two Disney Princesses in particular that do this: Cinderella and Ariel. I'm warning you now, I'm gonna be brutally honest with what I think of these movies, so if you're faint of the heart, kindly close the tab and carry on. Thank you.
Alright, so I feel that the Disney Princess represents the identities of young girls that feel that they have to be attractive in order to be accepted by other people in this society. All of the heroines were portrayed as beautiful, intellectual, and ambitious women, while all of the antagonists were ugly, selfish, and cruel because they were jealous of the heroine’s beauty. This identity is portrayed in Walt Disney’s 1950 film Cinderella: the story of a young woman who lives with her mean-spirited step mother and step sisters.

Let’s talk about the time period this film was released, shall we? The 1950’s was a time that during the Cold War, women were being urged back home with imagery of ideal wives and mothers. Nearly every movie or television show that was either made in the 50's or took place in the 50's portrayed women as housewives or mothers. Look at Pleasantville, Father Knows Best, and The Honeymooners for instance; all of the women are housewives or mothers. Cinderella is no exception and is clearly unhappy about it. To break free from the poor living conditions, she sneaks out of her house to go to a party and falls in love with a handsome prince at first sight. 
The prince reciprocates that love with Cinderella and makes her his Queen solely for her looks, and for his personal gain: to become a king. Wow, selfish much? Since her amplified beauty was given to her by a fairy godmother, Prince Charming fell in love with her solely because of her appearance. He was completely smitten with Cinderella’s beauty and goes out of his way to find the “beautiful woman” with tiny little feet who can fit into the slipper. In other words, Prince Charming fell in love with her because of her looks; he didn’t even know her name or even bother to get to know her name. He did not get to know her personality or her ideal dreams for the future. Are you kidding me? That’s not “true love” or anything remotely close to being called “romantic.” Really, is he in love with Cinderella based on her personality, intellect and ambition, or how she looked at the ball? Which makes me wonder…who is the real Cinderella? The ordinary house servant, or the simulated princess? Is the servant, an identity forced upon her, more real than the woman so perfect her foot fits the glass slipper? Well, ladies and gentleman, it seems that only the perfect girl would fit in the glass slipper and would become the future queen of Prince Charming. In other words, if another woman cannot meet his expectations, i.e. fit the glass slipper, she isn’t good enough for him. That sounds like a great self esteem boost—not. 

You know what? What if Cinderella wanted to be more than just a housewife or a princess when she’s married to Prince Charming? This leads to the conclusion that since the film was made in the 1950’s, that’s all a woman was allowed to do. She couldn’t go outside of her home to get a well paying job because all of those jobs were occupied by men who applied to those jobs long before women were allowed to. But this message is still given to young girls who watch Disney Princess movies today. The 1950's was a completely different time from what we have now in soon-to-be 2014.

 From 1950 to 1989, society changed for women in America and the time period for Disney Princesses also changed. Yes, they have more opportunities than the woman portrayed in Cinderella, but Disney Princess movies still share the concept that a woman must be beautiful and perfect in order find a perfect man to marry. From what I get out of The Little Mermaid, the film encourages a pervasive world view that sees pure evil, not human fallibility, as the chief source of conflict. But you know what? The film fails to realize that Ariel had bad judgment on trusting Ursula’s deal, and chooses to change herself for her own personal gain: to fall in love with a Prince who only loves her for her appearance and singing voice. Selfish acts would not make a woman better than anyone else. Oh, but Ariel is a princess, so she doesn’t suffer consequences in the end, right? Yeah, sure, that sounds fair. So, in 1989, Walt Disney Pictures made The Little Mermaid, the story of a mermaid who must change herself to be accepted by Prince Eric, her future husband. Because Ariel is a mermaid, she can’t marry him unless she and Ursula sign a contract that is clearly reminiscent of a pact with the devil.

Let’s read between the lines here: she isn’t accepted for who she is, so she’s forced to sign a contract with an evil person to change her appearance so Prince Eric can fall in love with her. What the hell kind of love is that? Why can’t Prince Eric see Ariel for who she is as a person? He sees her as a beautiful woman, but nothing more. Not to mention she loses HER VOICE, you know, the thing that you use to state your opinions, give constructive criticism and to back up your beliefs. Unless Ariel digs shallow men like Prince Eric, no woman should ever pursue a guy who will only marry her unless she was beautiful. Also, Ariel is SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. What the hell kind of sixteen year old is already planning on getting married? 
 The message that The Little Mermaid gives is that if you want to get married, you have to be more attractive for your fiancĂ©. From what is perceived in this message, inner beauty doesn’t matter and a young girl doesn’t need to get a job or do anything productive in order to be successful. As long as she’s beautiful, she will have a happily ever after like every damn Disney Princess ever made. So tell me, how does this story affect a young girl’s self esteem? Not every girl in the world is going to become a super model or have a perfect body with flawless skin. With messages that the Disney Princess movies create, a young girl may develop an eating disorder because her first crush said she was ugly. Her dream of finding her “Prince Charming” would be crushed because she wasn’t beautiful like Cinderella and Ariel. So, how can a Disney Princess be a role model for young girls who want to be successful in life? Why should beauty be the only successful trait that young girls have? What about her intellect, ambition, and other productive skills that she may possess? This also ties into my severe distaste for beauty pageants; why are women being subjected to have the "perfect, hour glass shaped body" in order to be classified as "beautiful?" If this is apparently the meaning of success, then I don’t know what success means.

 So how does this tie in to youth culture? Young girls are in love with the idea of falling in love with “the perfect guy,” and expect him to just appear out of thin air. I noticed that in both Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, both Prince Charming and Prince Eric fall in love with Cinderella and Ariel, respectively before knowing their names. They base their “love” solely on appearance and beauty rather than knowing her name, interests, intellect, ambitions and dreams. Prince Charming wants to find the beautiful woman from the ball making each woman try on the glass slipper while Prince Eric tries to figure out who saved his life by listening to a woman’s singing voice. Again, these are just minor traits a woman can have. If I have a young daughter one day, I will not allow her to absorb delusional messages that Disney Princesses give to young girls. Physical beauty and appearances do not make a good role model. 

After viewing these Disney Princess movies, girls should fall in love a person based on personality, intellect and ambition regardless of physical appearance. The most attractive man in the world can be mean, shallow,  dishonest, selfish, pretentious and rude, while the average looking man can be funny, smart, honest, compassionate, romantic and faithful. If he can make her laugh, has good taste in music and treats her as if she's the only woman in the world, I'd give her my potential future daughter(s) my blessing! If it turns out that the ideal personality of a man matches physical beauty, then it looks like that girl is the lucky winner. I will teach my future children a phrase that I was taught when I was a young girl: don’t judge a book by its cover.

Well, there you have it, people. Thank you all so much for reading, and have a great weekend.


  1. You do realize that these "Disney" princesses are not actually figments of Walt Disney's imagination, right? That these 2 princesses are actually taken from fairy tales which were published over one hundred years ago? Disney's not trying to teach young girls anything about reverse feminism. They're just trying to make a movie that's as true to the original tale as possible, while throwing in a few songs here and there. I'm all about feminism and I'll be the first to stand up on a soapbox and scream at the top of my lungs about how poisonous misogyny in our society is, but let me tell you about something: you've got these princesses all wrong. My girl Cindy worked her ass off, and she finally got her prayers answered. And in the end, it was a big "screw you" to her step family. Ariel? Don't get me started. She made sacrifice for something she really wanted. She wanted love more than anything. In the process, she had to leave EVERYTHING she knew and loved behind. If that's not courage, then I don't know what is. To say that these princesses encourage young girls to have low self-esteem is completely unfair. I happened to learn a lot from these Disney princess movies growing up. I learned that if you want to change the situation you're in, you are the sole catalyst. Nothing will change if you sit there waiting for change -- you have to go out and make it happen on your own. And as much as I respect your opinion, Dana, I must humbly disagree with you on this one. Disney princesses taught me a lot about being the strong woman that I am today, and I couldn't be more proud of that. However you choose to interpret these movies is your prerogative.

    1. I appreciate your constructive criticism.
      However, this is just my observation and my opinions about how society is now-a-days.
      I'd like to know how you are as well.

  2. To Anonymous...

    If individuals are the sole catalyst for creating meaningful change their lives when things o wrong- how come not all of us are living fairytale lives?

    Obviously a "fairy tale life" is an exaggeration but there's much more to be said about societal issues and individual problems. There are multiple reasons why people suffer in the was they do and it's not always within their control.

    Also, why should have Ariel had to make a choice between "love" and her lifestyle? Clearly that speaks to how women are pigeonholed between being a mother/housewife or a professional/working person of society.

    I actually didn't find that Disney movies had much of a role in my upbringing personally, but looking back at them with a critical view has definitely made me change the way I look at how the media and society as a whole portrays women in similar sorts of ways suggesting a very limited and biased view of what women's roles should be.

    Even if Walt Disney wasn't TRYING to corrupt the minds of children, and that he was just portraying an existing piece of literature- does that make it any better?

    It certainly doesn't. If anything that just reinforces that as a society- we haven't moved as far as we think we have in terms of our view of women's roles and status.

    1. I wish I knew who you were so I can give you a firm hand shake.
      Thank you for understanding where I'm coming from.