What would our childhoods have been like without Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, or the seven dwarfs that accompanied snow white? These, amongst many other fairytales have been around and passed along for decades. The traditional Disney princess culture keeps being praised and applauded for the entertainment they bring to little girls. It is so widely accepted nowadays that most parents can’t even imagine not incorporating the Disney stories into their daughters’ lives. While the stories themselves tend to be appropriate for young girls, the subliminal messages behind them aren’t. Parents and guardians are so wrapped up in the fantasy themselves that they forget to ask themselves how their daughters may internalize the stories. At a first glance, these stories seem to be quite innocent but in reality these stories and basically the Princess culture, specifically in Cinderella and Snow White, encourages girls to be damsels in distress whose role it is to look good and wait for a handsome prince to swoop in, ‘save her’ and that after she’s saved they would live a life happily ever after. All of which are notions that shouldn’t be taught to young girls.
Growing up with stories such as that of Cinderella’s and Snow White’s; it’s only natural for young girls to grow up with the idea that they will be “swept off their feet” by the man of their dreams. This leaves these young women with a sense of hopelessness and despair when their “Prince Charming” doesn’t go running around to save them. In the story of Cinderella, she waits around for her prince to find her and let her try on her shoe when she could have easily gone out and looked for him. The story of Cinderella makes it seem like it’s not true love unless the man goes out of his way to conquer their women- like they’re some kind of trophies; or like they’re really that helpless. The story of Snow White just might be worse than Cinderella. Cinderella got to go on a date with Prince Charming, they spent the night dancing and getting to know each other but Snow White was unconscious when she met her prince. He was riding through the forest looking for her and when he found her, he leaned over and kissed her. She woke up and he took her away to his palace where they lived happily ever after. The chances of being happy spending the rest of your life with someone based of off one kiss, is extremely slim. Snow White gives young girls the impression that finding love is quite easy.
Not only are young girls being lied to about the reality of love but they are being lied to about the idea of beauty as well. Who is to say what beauty is? The princess culture in Disney tends to make their princesses astonishingly beautiful. Blonde hair, blue eyes or pale skin and dark features; whatever combination is being used, Disney sets the benchmark of beauty through the princesses. Through the stories and movies that these young girls watch they potentially expect themselves to morph into that level of beauty. When they finally realize that they won’t attain those features, they begin to feel ugly which then takes a damaging toll on their self-esteem. While there are girls who have similar assets as Cinderella and Snow White, it is unrealistic to say that it makes them any more beautiful or even that they have more of a chance at happiness than a girl who doesn’t acquire those features. Disney fails to demonstrate the variety of beauty amongst young girls.
Although the Disney princesses portray false ideas about love and beauty it doesn’t compare to the misconception of the “happily ever after.” Disney stories and movies have the tendency to make it seem like happiness is ensured and derived from finding a man. In addition, Disney also misleads young girls to believe that happiness doesn’t have to be fought for. The idea of a “happily ever after” is sweet but it leads young girls to believe that life is simple when in reality it is far from it. Cinderella and Snow White were happy and lived a wonderful life with no problems after they went off with their princes; the stories, however, failed to show how hard it is to make a relationship work with another person. Disney omitted the ugliness that goes hand in hand with the beauty of love; the element that would’ve made the stories that much more realistic. Disney’s princess culture might have been acceptable during previous generations, but as time goes by women are becoming more independent and Disney is failing to keep up with that. Stories such as Cinderella and Snow White are taking away the progress that women have been making. Not only could those stories contain and limit the independency of young girls; but it also makes their lives that much more harder. Being a girl is hard enough as it is without growing up to realize that their childhood was a lie. Those type of stories are going to keep girls stuck with the feeling that they are not really relevant and valuable in and of themselves, but only in their attachment to men.