Written by Anaisa Arora, a grade 8 student.
We’ve always got a soft spot in our hearts for Disney princess movies. As girls, we were influenced by Cinderella’s desire to attend the ball, or we sympathized with Snow White’s predicament and wished for Sleeping Beauty to be liberated by Prince Philip. Recent Disney films, such as Frozen and Mulan, have rejected the conventional perception of women in Disney films, shifting the paradigm from the damsel in distress to the savior.
There is still a long way to go, especially as classic Disney films continue to have a massive influence. Countless children have been enchanted by the Disney label. Within is a dimension apart from reality, one in which royalty reigns and sorcery thrives. The lustrous glamour of classic Disney fantasy conceals subtle toxicity unveiled through stereotypes of a glamorous princess. While such princess figures are often memorialized in cherished childhood memories, behind the nostalgic appeal are chauvinistic forces of domesticity and subservience that mirror the norms that women face in society.
“Why does the prince always have to rescue the princess,
Why do women always have to be damsels in distress”
According to Disney, females’ typecast ambition is to pursue true love and happy life, regardless of individual ability and capability. Disney films may have shown that the cure for young females facing challenges is to find a man to serve as her guardian.
A misplaced sense of desire
Most Disney animations, such as the fairy-tales, seem to depict females’ only desire and fantasy as having the right man to marry. And for this, a feminine appearance and appealing facial attributes are conductive. Female phenotypic traits in Disney films might become repetitive as compared to males, as most of the princesses in the films have asymmetrical faces, slim bodies, and smooth skin, or, in a nutshell, what would be considered ideal in a skewed universe. Females are also portrayed as a “supposedly” perfect wife- to do all the household work and make sure the husband is being tended to every minute and second.
“Look charming, be nice, do the chores
And you’ll get a prize
you will go to the ball and snag a prince
With Your supposedly perfect body figure-tiny waist and appealing dresses-evince,
That u would be perfect, beautiful and a slave to his whims.”
Viewers can see villain characters that are characterized by non-normative physical traits such as obesity, missing limbs, old age, or derogatory facial expressions. For example, Ursula, the main antagonist in “The Little Mermaid,” is overweight and has a different skin tone than the rest of the characters.
Evil characters associated with unusual appearances may very well have left the impression that forms and colours other than those possessed by the princesses would convey a negative picture of personality or spiritual vulnerability.
“If i’m ugly i’m the villain
If i’m pretty i’m the princess
If i speak up then i’m difficult
If i take the silent vow then to my family i’m significant”
Princess Jasmine in Aladdin is an example of Disney’s misogyny. Jasmine is the Sultan’s daughter who must marry before she hits the age of 16, and of course, it is an arranged marriage. The arranged marriage reveals how women are classified as second-class people in certain societies. This film also depicts how women are constantly believing and succumbing to men. Throughout the film, Aladdin pretends to love Jasmine, but what he really wants to do is marry her so he can become the future Sultan.
Another example of sexism is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Belle is portrayed in the film as being trapped in a toxic relationship. Instead of escaping the beast, Belle abandons her family to survive in solitude while being screamed at, believing that the beast will turn into a nicer and better human. Even when Belle leaves the castle to assist her father, she returns not long after, as do most victims of violence. The beast inevitably evolves into the human Belle desires, and Disney makes it seem that if you persist with a bad scenario long enough, you will eventually be content.
Ariel from The Little Mermaid is another example. She is willing to modify her physical appearance in order for a guy to fall in love with her. This teaches girls that it is acceptable to change who they are in order for someone to like them.
As a result, it is apparent that depictions of gender and gender roles have been more quintessentially influenced by the use of modern media, which continues to rely on patriarchal mindsets for dissemination. And while this may not be happening in all of the films it definitely is in a considerate amount of them. Females are portrayed as caregivers or dishwashers, while males are portrayed as heroes who are able to rescue at the drop of a hat.
“The stories we should be telling,
Consist of strong women repelling,
The expectations of society,
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