Friday, August 30, 2013

Stuff the Disney Princesses Taught Me About Life

Growing up, I loved Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I mean who doesn’t want to live underwater, have fish friends, sing about thing-a-ma-bobs and brush your hair with a fork? In fact, on several occasions I attempted brushing my hair with a fork. That didn’t work out.

This doesn't hurt at ALL!
Via austenrisolvato

I wanted to be like Ariel. I mean, she is adventurous, has many talents and is extremely sociable, what’s not to love? Now, looking back, I see that there are a few huge drawbacks with Ariel’s story that Disney legitimized. Like… selling your soul and your voice to an evil sea witch for some guy you just met.

For the last portion of my “Stuff I learned” section, I’ll be giving close inspection to the fair, the sweet, the animal-charming Disney Princesses. The negative messages characterized by Disney Princess movies and franchises can be broken down into four parts, so let's get this video cassette tape rolling! 

Via SilentMermaid21

Physical Beauty

What is one thing that all Disney Princesses have in common, above all other things? You guessed it. They’re hot. In almost every film, the princess is even regarded as most beautiful in all the land, and every princess modeled since Snow White has the same EXACT figure. Just like in real life! This is a really good breakdown on princesses and their body type/face shape. The average princess is pretty much flawless in appearance. Her height is 5’2 and she weighs about 90 pounds.

Yeah, NINETY POUNDS. In other news, there has been a rise in cases of eating disorders of girls age 15-19 each decade since the 1930s. Disney’s Snow White was released in 1937 and the prime “Princess” demographic is young girls. And if you seem to think that not all Disney princesses alike, check out this website that shows alternative versions of Disney Princesses- you’ll find them shocking because they are so different from the model Disney portrays. 

Gender Stereotyping

Most of the earlier Princess films have shown the main character cooking, cleaning, being sweet, charming animals and capable of singing beautiful off the cuff melodies. The males are portrayed generally as muscular, stoic, valiant and sometimes aggressive. None of these characteristics are bad things individually. However, the combination staying so consistent puts men and women in two completely separate boxes

“But Disney is changing!” you say. “There are more feminine male leads in later movies, and more adventurous and strong female leads now!” And that’s true. Disney is growing more and more diverse in its characters. Merida is the one princess that isn’t really subject to all of the gender stereotyping. She has untamed hair, a wide grin, go getter personality and is the hero of her OWN story. Well, she was all of those things. 

Until recently, when Disney revamped her to adapt her into the Princess lineup, that is. Here, she is shown with flowing, perfectly curled hair, a coy smile and a lavish dress.  She appears to be a “girly-girl” all of the sudden. Noooot the best call, Disney.

Someone turned her into a vampire!

Actual chain of events...

Interactions With Men 

Every princess gets her prince. It’s kind of a thing. She is usually rescued by the handsome stallion, er prince charming, and whisked away to her happily ever after. When she isn’t being rescued, she is sacrificing herself to be with her man.

Disney Princess Boyfriend Track Record:

    1. Ariel sells her soul and voice to an evil sea witch to be with her man.
    2. Sleeping beauty's first kiss is when she's asleep. (consent much?)
    3. Cinderella's object of affection doesn’t know what she looks like.
    4. Snow White's first kiss happens when she’s in a coma. (CONSENT MUCH?)
    5. Mulan saves entire empire, is only fully happy after Shang begins courtship.
    6. Belle must choose between total douche bag or total douche bag (beast form).
    7. Jasmine's only way to save herself from Jafar is by seducing him.

Talk about your happily ever after...

Racism and White Washing

Disney loves to revamp and modernize the princesses to appeal to young girls and sell more toys/dolls/accessories for the Disney Princess franchise! Why is that so bad? Sure, maybe the new doll sells better because it’s more sparkly, but company tends to do another thing very well- make the princesses look more white. Eurocentric beauty is streamlined in these new makeovers for Pocahontas and Mulan.  

Loving the American Apparel earringsVia Sparkle Movement

It seems as though there is a clear cultural assimilation of these princesses with a different ethnicity than those of Euro or American descent. As time goes on, their skin begins to look lighter, their features more akin to Euro beauty standards, and their clothing styles more Americanized. This allow for younger generations to have cognitive dissonance to the true colors and intricacies of different nationalities and cultures. Even more importantly, what does that say to young girls being told inadvertently that being “white” is more culturally accepted? A more detailed breakdown of in-store dolls is found here, and a detailed video here offers more Disney Princess analysis. You can also sign the petition to end whitewashing in the Disney princesses through

White Washing is a thing, people.Via NotablyIndigo

So.... Now What?

There are many aspects of Disney that we have grown to love over the years. Most of us grew up watching the fantasy and magical nature of the stories, most of which were adapted from much darker versions of fairy tales. You may ask, “Why is knowing this important? Little kids don’t think about all of the hidden indiscretions.” And you’re right. They don’t. Children are sponges, though, and often develop attitudes based on their environment. Plus, it's not really about knowing what's right and wrong- it's about only knowing what you've been told. 

“It’s more a question of creating a certain environment of images that we grow up in, that we become used to and after a while those images will begin to shape what we know and what we understand about the world.” - Dr. Justin Lewis, Cardiff University.

There isn’t really a solution to the issues related to Disney and their use of conflicting messages. However, being able to talk to young people about the real power of understanding that beauty comes in all sizes, colors, shapes, and personalities is key, because we all have our idiosyncrasies.

Our weirdness is beautiful, people! Love yourself. Eat cookies like Mieko in Pocahantas! Say what’s on your mind like Mushu from Mulan! Be cunning and smart like Abu from Aladdin! Be totally bashful and loyal like Flounder from The Little Mermaid! Be a Princess if you want. Be the BEST PRINCESS TO EVER RULE YOUR LIFE. But make sure you know what the term means to YOU.

Via Tumblr

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