Antecedent research has shown that boys and girls integrate what they see in movies to life. This behavior translates to the way children grow up with stereotypes. In my research, I found out about women stereotypes in children’s films. The majority of the Disney movies portrayed the role of the princess as someone who needs the help of a man or needs rescuing to be happy. This meant, all the sparkle and glamour the Disney princesses portray can be detrimental to little girls and how they observe aspects of romantic love, body image, and obtaining a happily-ever-after. In fact, during one’s childhood is when they are most sensitive and will later shape how they evaluate.
In 1934, Snow White movie became the first princess to begin it all. Now, Disney movies have modernized their princesses with more independent roles and diversity, but the perfect aesthetic and lifestyle have not changed. Even though the Disney princesses have been around for many decades, the overall worldview young children learn from the culture is questionable through the portrayal of unattainable standards and expectations, thus creating a more narrow perspective on appearance and love; it ought to be re-discovered in a different direction.
Almost every girl went through a ‘princess phase’ when they were growing up, it is necessary for this day and age, and the craze is only getting larger. Disney princesses’ culture has taught children an innocent yet dangerous point of view of the fact that if one is beautiful yet hard-working, a man will save them from distress and bring great happiness… ever after. In ‘Why Fairy Tales Are Bad For Our Kids,’ Vanessa Loder explains, “When we censor our children’s stories to eliminate the suffering that is inherent in the human condition, we isolate our children.” Sure, the princesses will go through a bit of suffering before they are rescued by their “prince charming” but then what?
Everything is not always happy in the palace and Disney blankets that, creating a standard view in girl’s head about how romantic relationships should be. “We build an environment that fosters shame and a belief that they are not beautiful enough because they cannot live up to the standards represented in these stories,” states Loder. She also describes how fairy tales eradicate the suffering that is common to all people, universal humanity. As a youth that are too young to understand these fairy tales do not depict reality when people cannot relate to situations, they begin to feel alone. It gives them a mental picture of how things “should” be and what they are doing now is wrong. Not only are the romantic standards distorted, but also self-image and individuality.
The princess phenomenon has become detrimental to girls’ image of themselves and has created beauty standards that are physically unattainable to the average person. Most women can relate to the underlying thoughts that watching Disney movies as a child gave: “When is my prince charming going to save me?” or “Why I cannot look like these princesses and be treated like one? The epidemic creates unrealistic expectations for every relationship and body image. In “Girls On Film: The Real Problem with the Disney Princess Brand,” Monika Bartyzel writes about Author Peggy Orenstein, she explains, “princess culture was no longer about fairy tale magic, but “a constant narrowing of what it means to be feminine.’” (468). She also describes how manufacturers narrow body parts of the princesses to make them appear more attractive narrower waists, noses, lighter skin, and bigger eyes. Children then get this thought about how they “should” or want to look and question their self-image.
Women should not be valued for having a pretty face and finding a prince. There is enormous, maybe even detrimental impact on young consumers today purchasing Disney princess products that portray such a figure that is physically irreconcilable to reality. (Bartyzel 470). There is no doubt Disney has evolved from the princess values in the 1900s to more diverse and rational princesses with better benefits, but the consumer products sold today still depict a body image that is unrealistic.
Since 1950, Cinderella’s Prince Charming has inevitably come to be the object of some young girl’s affection. Handsome and charming boys are not always the type that is promising for a “happily ever after.” In “My Daughter is not a Princess,” Clint Edwards expresses (about his daughter), “I want her to be able to spot the real Prince. I want her to love someone, and it is not because they own a palace and a beautiful horse, but because they are a good person with virtues and values.” He proclaims that the fictional Prince Charming has been misconstrued with handsome and charming “players” and “heartbreakers”—the cliché ones in every sense of the word (Edwards). To an extent it is true, and many women can admit to this theory.
The princess culture has jaded young girls’ concept of future relationships. The old age idea that charming princes will sweep damsels of distress by conveying one sort of act of defiance is overrated, and this generation needs to surpass it. Many parents can agree that they worry their child is developing unrealistic expectations with whom they look for as a partner. The tendency for most women to go for the tall, dark, handsome, and charismatic one is not the fault of Disney princess movies though it does not help the fact!
Feminism has been a favorite topic lately, and the Disney princess brand is restricting it. Yes, women should feel empowered and beautiful inside and out and deserve a man that loves her. However, the princesses should not be portrayed as helpless and waiting for someone in suit and armor to do anything about anything; it undermines women and paints an unrealistic expectation in children’s minds. The usual tradition of women is appearing lesser than men, and their dependency on them is gradually fading as the times pass. Boys and men never had much burden on issues such as self-image and romantic relationships because the pressure was not put on them. All little girls should feel like royalty, that should never be taken away from them but some of the values the royal Disney icons portray ought to be altered.
On the contrary, perhaps the term fairy tale meant a completely unrealistic life in a perfect parallel universe, and Disney made it so without thinking of the actual consequences to young consumers. Moreover, on the other hand, the new modernized Disney princesses have fixed the “Prince Charming” dilemma—the necessity of a man to sweep troubles away, including, as Frozen, where the central love in the story is sibling love, and the antagonist turns out to be the prince. Crystal Liechty’s “In Defense of Princess Culture” produces a good point, and she exclaims, “If my daughter knows the words to every song to The Little Mermaid, so what? It is better than her singing along with Rihanna’s latest ode to promiscuity.” In this age, it is impossible to avoid the impending media and all it is pop culture filled with sex symbols and lyrics. In comparison to this, princesses are much superior to what our youth chooses to indulge in.. for as long as intended.
For example, In the film, The Little Mermaid, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker Princess Ariel (a mermaid) is being suppressed by her father’s restrictions do not come out to the surface for serious reasons like being seen. However one night, Ariel saves Prince Eric, a human and immediately falls in love with him. Ariel makes a deal with Ursula, a witch, to become human for three days in exchange for giving up her voice. Ariel is told that the only way she can remain human is by obtaining a kiss from Prince Eric within the three days. Ariel was very close in succeeding.
Nonetheless, Ariel soon stumbled across Ursula who has also taken human form and has Prince Eric under a spell which prevents him from being with Ariel. In the end, Ursula exposes her true form and is killed by Prince Eric. Ultimately Ariel and Eric married and lived happily ever after. This film shows Ariel in need for the help of a man to save her, and she gives up her voice in order to be happy. According to Common Sense Media, gender stereotypes are very influential in teaching children what the culture expects of boys and girls.
In the film, Cinderella, directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske, Cinderella is submissive to all of her stepmother’s commands and is to do all the chores in the house. She is kept from every celebration; she manages to step out of the house and attend the royal ball with the help of her fairy godmother where she meets Prince Charming. She is supposed to make it back home at midnight, as she runs back home, she loses her crystal slipper and leaves Prince Charming behind. He does everything in his power to go all over the kingdom and find who the owner of the crystal slipper is. He finally gets to Cinderella’s house, and she can try on the slipper until her evil grandmother trips the man carrying the slipper and it shatters.
The Grand Duke is devastated until Cinderella shows him that she has the other slipper. Shortly after Cinderella and the Prince are married. This film is also based on a princess needs rescuing of some sort, without the help of a man she would not have been able to gain her freedom from her stepmother. Watching stereotypical media for a lifetime can instill in children so much so that it affects kids’ choice of career, self-worth, relationships, and ability to achieve full potential.
Alternatively the film Mulan shows a different perspective on the way women are portrayed. Fa Mulan is a tomboyish and healthy, young woman who does not have all of the requirements to be a good submissive wife. When the Huns cross the Great Wall to invade China all of the men are called to serve their country. Mulan is aware that her father is not strong enough to serve sneaks off as a man to join the Chinese army. The recruits are trained and condition by Captain Shang to defeat the Huns. During the war, Mulan fights for the safety of her country, the honor of her family and proves that even if she is a woman she can make a difference.
According to Jolene Ewert from Montana State University, the least commonly portrayed characteristics are predominantly masculine, she also notes that male characters most often completed male characteristics such as ‘rescues.’ I find that the research conducted by Ewert supports the idea that while women can portray a character without fear and being heroic most of the times, it is not done because everyone is focused on putting women into this box where fragile things belong. I think that with Mulan that stereotype is broken and it shows kids that women can be brave and fight for what they believe in.
I question the reason behind making movies that portray women in such a way that does not benefit image, self-esteem, and role in life. The majority of princess movies do not show an accurate characterization of what real life women are, most of them always link women with the inability to do and or have what it takes to get what they want. Also, they emphasize the idea of a male image that is always accompanying the women through her hardships, not that there’s nothing wrong with moral support but most of the time the male figure helping is the one the princess ends up marrying. So I would like to know the reason or need behind women in films always being portrayed in distress.
Furthermore the various questions I had before doing my research were answered, for example, I questioned if negative stereotypes affected us? Moreover, I determined that it does affect us in the way we carry ourselves through life and how we see ourselves out to be around others. I also questioned if I was affected by negative stereotypes and I believe that I was in fact affected, I remember not only going out and behaving differently like a princess would but also thinking that if I did not a would never be able to have a great love story or have an adventurous romance story like a prince and let’s not forget that I thought I would never get a prince so in fact I was subconsciously affected. I questioned why there was a need to put out these types of films and why always the women linked to being the victim maybe that is a question that I still have. I like to think that they do it to keep the storyline exciting and keep it as something our society is used to, but i will not stop looking for answers to that question.
Additionally according to a journal from the American Psychological Association “female characters across genres included showing fear, acting romantic, being polite, and acting supportive”(Leaper, Breed, Hoffman, Perlman 1653). I have concluded that as we grow up everything we are exposed affects us. While doing my research, I was able to see that even if it is not consciously one does pay attention to how we are supposed to act based on the films we watch. So, we try to be more girly, and we always have it in us that someday we will find the right guy that will save us because that is what these movies are teaching us. All of the questions I had about how we are affected by women stereotypes in children’s were answered, and now I have a more unobstructed view of what is it that we should allow children to believe. I believe that we as women are more than to provide for a role of vulnerability I know we deserve more than that and should be represented as capable members of society in children’s films.
In a Disney called ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Belle, who had a passion for reading was later ridiculed by the town’s people and called “a funny girl,” met Gaston who was the most admired man in the village. He questioned her interests in books and later tells Belle, “It is not right for a woman to read, soon she begins getting ideas, thinking” (Beauty and the Beast 1991). She is an innocent, passive, innocent, young woman who is dominated by a man, the Beast. The Beast constantly yells at her, refuses her food and locks her in a room; which in the real world, this is abuse. Belle sees the need to ‘nurture’ the Beast, and even though he has treated her like this, she stays to care for him and ultimately ‘falls in love’ with him.
One main view from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ illustrates an example of gender discrepancies and the turbulent relationship between Belle and the Beast. When Belle first goes to the palace in search of her father Maurice, the Beast continually shouts at her and locks her in a room with no food. Because of this cruel treatment, Belle decides to run away from the palace. While running away, and she meets a pack of wolves in the forest, but the Beast saves her and wounds himself in the process. Belle thinks that she must take care of the Beast even though he was abusive to her and Maurice and finally falls in love with him. This scene shows gender stereotype because it represents the females’ roles in the society as the nurturer and housekeeper. It also promotes the message that is it okay for males to be abusive and aggressive with the females. It inspires young girls to think that no matter how the males act towards females, and the female will always be submissive.
Each movie represents a stereotypical gender role depiction of its characters and presents the approach to young girls that men and women have a standard place in society. The females are all represented as passive, homemakers, and willing to fulfill the needs of their male counterparts. The significance of these factors and the impact it has on young girls can be harmful and influence their socialization with others and self-perception.
In conclusion, Children are very impressionable and often feel the need to adopt specific characteristics that they think are acceptable by society. By regularly viewing inaccurate depictions of male and female roles in the Disney movies, they are deceived and became negatively affected after adopting these characteristics and behaviors that are represented in the media. “The Disney Corporation has used children’s attraction to one-dimensional princess characters as one entity and, by doing, so created a shallowness of possibilities” (Jule 36). When children are limited in their viewing opportunities, their center becomes narrow and altered leading to mistaken beliefs about gender role. Disney Princesses films have displayed a wide range of values and lessons for young girls since their first release in 1937. However, the depiction of the female characters has raised concerns and has affected the way girls perceive gender roles and self-perception. These Disney films influence young girls on issues of body image and self-worth, and it is essential to teach the reality of these factors and instill sound judgment and morals into these viewers.