Are Disney Princesses Harmful? – A Response

Of course, Mulan is harmful. Have you seen her with a sword?!

Just kidding.

Daily Mail recently released this article entitled Could Disney princesses Harm Your Child?   It included research from several prominent universities, including Brigham Young University; Taylor is a BYU alumni, and I, as a former student of Brigham Young University-Hawaii, was interested in what the article had to say. The article suggested that girls who spend regular time watching Disney princess movies and playing with Disney princess merchandise are prone to more female-stereotypical behavior, which becomes a problem when they avoid experiences that aren’t seen as “feminine.” It also points out that the Disney princesses perpetuate skinny culture, indoctrinating toddlers into thinking they need to be skinny.

I can see where the article is coming from, but let me go nerdy and analytical on you, and tell you why I have some problems with this article. 

  1. Sources? No links to the sources. I know studies on Disney princesses are out there, but it concerns me when an online article doesn’t bother pointing them out. It’s hard to know if a study was well performed and what it truly concluded if I can’t see the source material itself. I feel that all too often in our society we refer to “studies” to prove our points, even though we’ve never read them ourselves. Not every study is a good study. The internet is a prime example that anyone can just about “prove” anything. 57452050
  2. Who is parenting who? I see how Disney Princesses could be harmful…if they’re the ones raising children. I think it’s only harmful in some sense if parents aren’t talking to their children. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens. But I think the majority of parents help their kids distinguish between Disney life and real life. I definitely grew up with Disney princesses; heck even as an adult, Disney princesses are my jam! However, my parents taught me to be my own kind of princess and encouraged me finding my own identity.63492220
  3.  And going off of that, I feel that it’s unfair to lump all the Disney princesses together. Disney has done a great job of diversifying their princesses, and I don’t just mean in ethnicity. Each one has distinct personalities and roles they play. I think most people only really identify with one or two Disney princesses as opposed to all of them. When I was a child, there was only maybe one Princess I wanted to emulate and that was the one with the most similar personality to me anyway. I’ve worked with a lot of children, and one of my go to questions for girls is, “Who is your favorite Disney character?” or “Which Disney princess is the best?” I can confidently say that most little girls have one definitive princess favorite, and it’s usually the one they connect to the most.636011240493106202103494253_13-Princesses-2015-redesign-disney-princess-38580030-1350-681.png
  4. He said, she said. The study points out the percentages of dialogue in the film of men vs. women. However, the ratio of men vs. women is not equal so of course there’s going to be a larger percentage of male dialogue when the cast is predominately male. Let’s take the example of Mulan. In Mulan, 76% of the dialogue is male. But, that 76% is spread across 7-10 supporting male characters, leaving Mulan with the majority of the remaining 24% to herself. sheldon-oh-please-gif
  5. Define feminism. This article is clearly written from a feminist standpoint, which is fine. I’m a feminist, and I love feminism. However, I felt that the article supports only one train of thought amongst feminists, which is basically gender neutralization. I do not follow that school of thought, and thus see no problem with little girls wanting to be feminine. If they want to wear pink and jewelry and not go out and play in the mud, well then good for them. That’s not how I choose to embrace my femininity, but I don’t see a problem if others do. Plus, let’s be real, we starting putting little girls in pink from the moment they are born, so I don’t think this is a Disney princess problem.girl-pink-princess-rex
  6. Women Power. I know that often princesses are criticized by needing to be rescued by men. Which I feel is one way of looking at it. But if we think of women being able to exert their power in more way than one, we could argue that some of the princesses are pretty smart. I mean Cinderella used her beauty and charms to not only to secure a  prosperous husband, but also escaped an abusive situation and became a powerful ruler. Historically speaking, if Cinderella had wanted to leave her stepmother, her only other options probably would’ve ended up with her becoming a prostitute. cinderela-filme-2015
  7. Speaking of princes. What I have always felt to be the most harmful part of the Disney princess franchise is the unrealistic expectations it sets for romance and instalove. Don’t mistake me; I love that it teaches that true love is possible, which I absolutely want my children to believe in. But, unfortunately, sometimes the people we think are charming princes turn out not to be. The amount of abuse that happens to women is disturbing. I have appreciated modern Disney movies who have addressed this. Frozen, in particular, I adore because it broke the mold and showed that yeah, when it seems too good to be true, usually it is. Sometimes handsome men turn out to be big fat jerks. Sometimes people are out there to use you and abuse you. Or sometimes your first love just isn’t the best for you. But, despite all that, Frozen showed that eventually you can find someone kind and compatible as Anna ultimately did find love with Kristoff, who is a decent person but maybe not quite Prince Charming. Kristoff-Rambling.gif

Any who, at the end of the day, I think it’s pretty clear that the journalist and I are taking this all a little too seriously. 

What do you think? Do you think Disney princesses are harmful? Who is your favorite Disney princess?

Tootle loo, darlings! And by the way, I officially get internet on Monday! I’ve been using my hotspot this week for my couple of posts.

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16 thoughts on “Are Disney Princesses Harmful? – A Response

  1. Yeah, I haven’t read any of these studies so I don’t want to dismiss them offhand. Anecdotally, however, I watched Disney movies when I was little and don’t think it was problematic. I also don’t think I even thought about body type or assumed I was supposed to look like a cartoon. I was more interested in what the characters were doing, not what they looked like. It’s really the same argument about Barbie. I played with Barbies as a child and never once assumed a plastic doll was a model for what I was supposed to look like.

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    1. Also, yes! I wrote a whole post on why Cinderella didn’t just get up and leave her abusive stepmother. She couldn’t. Historically, she would have either ended up on the streets or just as a servant elsewhere, if she were lucky enough to be hired without references or anything. I think you’re right that there are different ways of exercising power, and sometimes people don’t have many choices about how they can do that. Historically, embracing your feminine wiles or whatever WAS a form of power (and still can be, if you want to go that way). Disney’s Cinderella movie clearly takes place in some unspecified historical past (as do many of the princess movies), and if parents are really concerned they can always talk to their children about what women reasonably could and could not do in the past.

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      1. I hadn’t even fully thought about the fact that they are cartoons but you are so right. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve ever physically compared myself to an animated character in a negative sense. Now, if we were to talk about models and photoshopped ad campaigns, different story. I think that world is way more negatively impactful on our society than some Disney princesses.

        And I love that your wrote a post on Cinderella! She gets too much flack! Will you send me the link? I want to read it and go history nerdy. It’s a disturbing trend to me that people seem to be taking out the historical context when judging events or literature. I don’t think it’s fair to judge by our modern standards which in some ways are radically different.

        Thanks for your thoughts! They were on point!

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      2. I remember kind of bitterly thinking about how unrealistic cartoons were. Like, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to wake up and have your hair look perfect? Or beat up some bad guys for 10 min and have your hair and make-up look great?” But I got that cartoons have their own rules. :p I agree that Photoshopped magazine photos, TV, etc. is much more detrimental. There you think you’re looking at “real people.” As a child, I really didn’t know about the all the editing that went into celebrity images. I eventually assumed something like “Well, they’re rich and have stylists, so I guess they can pay to look perfect.” It took me a fairly long time to realize that celebrities really don’t look like their pictures, even with expensive products and professional stylists and to realize that it’s basically impossible for anyone to live up to those images.

        Here’s the link: https://pagesunbound.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/why-didnt-cinderella-just-leave/. it was a response to someone wondering why Cinderella didn’t just leave her abusive stepfamily. (Um, because that’s not necessarily easy to do?)

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  2. Yeah, I too have a major issue with “studies” that won’t reveal or at least provide more information about their sources. When I was in school (not revealing my age, but my oldest is 13, so take it from there), that would’ve resulted in expulsion and maybe criminal charges…

    And yes, parents need to rely on their instincts much more than “the experts”. Anybody else notice “the experts” tend to be idiots these days?

    Yeah, most of the “traditional” fairytale (Western fairytales) princesses are simply portrayed in their historical/literary context…and quite frankly, if we start messing with that, then it makes me seriously concerned about how we might address more intense (actual) things in 50 years (WW II for example)…

    As the parent of 2 sons – who may one day choose to marry, and therefore need to be aware of the proper way to treat women – I really prefer them to see examples of strong women, who don’t need to be rescued by them – but it would be appreciated, because you care about them. (Rather than “the damsel in distress”)

    When it comes to that, I can think of several Disney princesses who rushed into harm’s way to try to save their loved ones – Belle, Ariel, Merida, Mulan, Pocahantas… And in the historical context, this was definitely not advised for women.

    Don’t say you’re taking this “too” seriously… It’s a big deal… I’d also call myself a feminist, but not even in the way most “feminists” would define themselves. For example, I think part of embracing your womanhood is to say you feel your place is in the home, with your children, being the best mom you can be. You shouldn’t feel forced to get a job outside of the home. You should feel allowed to go to college if you want – or not – be a career woman – if you want – or not…etc. Little girls can dress up and wear tiaras and twirl around – if it’s their thing. Or if they like to play in the sandbox and build with blocks, who cares? (After working in preschool for 3 years, I’ve seen little girls wearing dress-up while in the sandbox!)

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    1. What you said about the changing of history really struck a nerve with me. I am seeing so many examples of this, like people wanting to take down the Jefferson memorial because he owned slaves and such, or the Confederate Flag being considered a symbol for slavery when that wasn’t why Civil War ensued at all. It is deeply concerning to me.

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      1. Me, too… Lately there have been so many discussions about trying to remove certain facts from our history, because they’re what we would know see as offensive or objectionable… If we do that, we won’t understand how people thought 300 years ago, and why it’s important that we no longer agree with their perspectives.

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