The use of media has advanced greatly over the last decade. The availability of information via movies, cartoons and TV shows has become so much easier than it was before. Children learn to use technology as soon as they can grasp objects in their hands. Animated movies are one of the first visuals a child sees and fairytales and Disney movies are a big part of the animated franchise. Thus the representation of women, mainly as a beautiful goddess or in this case a Princess is instilled at a very young age.
Hey, I’m no hater. I enjoy my share of the Disney world but it’s no shocker that the beauty standards created by them have a huge impact on children. Princesses are most popularly known for their beauty, grace, elegance and how they outshine those that are not as beautiful as them. These unrealistic beauty standards are predominantly oversexualized and woven into the minds of young girls.
Cinderella, one of the most famous animated films shows us the story of a young girl and the cruel way she is treated by her stepmother and stepsisters. The image of Cinderella is of a girl with rags for clothes and a dungeon for a room. Not only that, but she requires the help of a Fairy Godmother, who magically creates a fancy gown and carriage for Cinderella for the ball. Moreover, Cinderella has to compete with her stepsisters and other young girls for the Prince’s attention. All this hard work just so that Prince notices her. Sounds quite silly, isn’t it?
Let’s talk about Snow White. I’m sure you all have heard the story. Snow White’s name is the result of her skin as white as snow, hair as dark as ebony and lips as red as a rose. Her appearance makes her one of the fairest maidens of all. The Queen, jealous by Snow White’s beauty orders for her to be killed and lastly poisons her with an apple. The message that this story sends is very clear. Just because person A is prettier than me, I must hate them. Not the ideal lessons we want our children to learn.
Beauty and the Beast is another such story. Just tell me why do the town people find her peculiar? Because she loves to read and has her nose buried in a book all day! I don’t find that odd to be honest. Furthermore, her rejection of Gaston’s aggressive desire to marry her results in more societal rejection. Instead of being applauded for standing up to an entitled prick, she is further shunned for being different.
Last but not the least, Tangled, a movie that was released in 2010 shows us the same representation. Mother Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel, solely for her hair. Rapunzel’s magical hair makes the person beautiful and immortal. Without the magical hair, Mother Gothel is a proper, not so pretty witch. This instills a pattern of aggression based solely on beauty as something to seek and fight over.
I understand that over time, Disney has released movies that represent women in strong roles that focus more on other qualities than their beauty. Frozen, shows a very strong bond between sisters who themselves are empowering and Brave gives an entirely different meaning to the role of a Princess and to be Queen. It’s impressive with the narratives being changed overtime to showcase strong, feminist characters as Princesses. We want our children to know that beauty isn’t everything. Kudos to Emma Watson for refusing to wear a corset in the live-action of the Beauty and the Beast movie!
These aforementioned points are the ones that need to be highlighted not give power to the archaic beauty standards that are set in stone. Women are so much more than attractive arm candy. We must teach our children especially our young girls that being a princess is about being strong, humble, courageous, kind, brave, loyal, and standing up for what is right.
If you feel I’ve missed out on anything, feel free to share!