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Media Portrayal of Disney Princesses

Disney has come a long way over the years.

Disney has come a long way over the years as they have made one movie after another. One of the most popular items sold of all time is the Disney Princess Line which started being sold in 2001. Children all around the world love to watch the many adventures of all the princesses. Through the princess' songs and journeys, children were taught many lessons and looked up to the princesses. But each film showed women being housewives, always cleaning a house and never sticking up for themselves. They just waited to be rescued by a prince whom they fall in love with. When we look all the way back at Snow White from 1937, she is depicted as a meek young woman who cannot fend for herself. Sure she keeps the house for seven little dwarfs, but why would she trust an old woman who she never met in her life? It wasn’t until 1998 with Mulan, a fierce, brave woman who fought for her own, that the Disney Princess Line began to change. According to an article, "The Problem With Disney Princesses," “parents and feminists would say that they [the princesses] are not good role models.” In this paper, I will show how Disney has changed these princesses from love blind women to women who can fight for themselves.

Snow White welcomed a stranger, Cinderella needed a Fairy Godmother to help her, and Ariel sold her voice to a sea witch. All three of these women have the same fault in common. They were blinded by love just to get what they wanted. If one watches every Disney Princess movie, Disney slowly started to change the roles of how women are portrayed. They have been changed from being housewives to people who fight for their own. And all these women have another thing in common. They’re white. This is a difference from Mulan and Tiana who are of different race. Up until Mulan, Disney had only been portraying the princesses as white. Disney thought young children would look up to white women more than another race during the mid 20th century. Our world has made many changes since then such as the right for women to vote and for segregation to be abolished. In each movie the princesses make the audience learn a valuable lesson, but it wasn’t until Mulan came out that there was a true lesson to learn. You don’t need a man to save you. You need to fend for yourself. That message started coming through more as their movies went on when Disney created Tiana, the first African American princess. Since Mulan and Tiana aren’t portrayed as white, they’re more on their feet and ready for action when it comes. They show us that they don’t need a guy to live their life. Disney might be trying to tell their general audience they need to portray a woman in the right manner instead of the ditsy person we usually see.

Age also plays a role through the films. All the Disney princesses are portrayed in their teens, the years where all young women are learning the challenges of the world. Jasmine, from Aladdin, is smarter than Snow White. Snow White was only 14 at the time, but still, she should know never to talk to strangers. And then there is Jasmine, a year older than Snow White who doesn’t want love, but only to be left alone. Jasmine also purposely wanders away from home, something she’s never done before. Even though she doesn’t have a clue how to live on her own, she is at least going to try. If the animals didn’t exist in Snow White, what would she have done then? It’s likely that she would have stayed in the forest and died because she didn’t know how to fend for herself. Which brings us to the question, was Disney trying to tell younger women to get married in their teens like they were doing to the princesses?

Do we really learn anything from the Disney Princesses other than needing a man to live a good life? Not really. The early Disney Princesses were only here to sing about what they wanted and were blinded by their dreams. Let’s look at two princesses, Ariel and Mulan. Ariel trusts an evil sea witch and eventually has her wish come true. She becomes a human forever and lives on land with the man she fell in love with. But what about her family? Before her voice is taken away she never has one hint of worrying about her family. Mulan worries for her family because she is going into war. If you look at the two scenes where they’re choosing their fate, Ariel doesn’t look back while Mulan does. Mulan may never return, but she wants her father to live. In 2009, Disney introduced its first black princess. Tiana actually had a dream, like what other women would have. She worked non stop to make money for her own restaurant and is even taught a lesson herself. She is taught to take time and enjoy life. This is something that is not represented in the other movies. The princesses are so blinded by love that they forget about what’s in front of them. Couldn’t Ariel have enjoyed the times with her family? Couldn’t Snow White have known that the old woman was dangerous? Would Cinderella have realized that she was singing the song from the ball when she was home? Tiana wasn’t in love when she needed to learn this lesson.

Do we have Fairy Godmothers in real life? Do we have magic? Do we have little animals that can help us? This is all fantasy. Disney has learned to reach out more to children and portray women in a better light. The songs that princesses have sung over time have changed to stories of how they want freedom instead of love. This is shown through the movie Brave, and Pixar’s first Princess, Merida. Merida has changed the whole Disney Princess line because she never wanted to have a love life, just to be free and be who she is.

We can’t always have our children rely on Disney movies on how the world is. This is fantasy. I have enjoyed how we can relate to the princesses more because we don’t have anything in common with the early princesses. They’re fun movies to watch, but we shouldn’t have children learn the wrong lesson. Disney is learning to portray new characters of a different race to have a different perspective on children. They have also made a better portrayal in the roles of women. They are visibly smarter and more capable than how we see them in the earlier movies. They think and fend for themselves thanks to the character of Mulan.

Sources

The Big Problem With Disney Princesses, www.aleteia.org, Author, Rachel Lu, Copyright, May 8, 2014

Could “Frozen create psychological Problems For Girls Later in Life, www.vocativ.com, author: Elizabeth Kulze, Copyright: September 29, 2014

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