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Equality: Beware Fo The Disney Princesses

1763 words - 7 pages

In Walt Disney’s 1950 film, Cinderella explains, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” During childhood, countless girls dream of becoming Disney princesses in response to their exposure to animated films like Cinderella. This fascination with the princess lifestyle is commonly viewed as a phase that young girls pass through and is encouraged by Walt Disney’s 4.4 billon dollar line of princess merchandise, which includes toys, clothes, and even pink house paint (Smith). Although the princess merchandise, featuring primarily the original princesses of Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, is often perceived positively as being an essential part of a girl’s childhood, the commercialization of the Disney Princesses is in fact a detriment to the American society’s movement towards gender and racial equality.
Feminism in today’s society holds true that women are strong individuals who are capable of achieving their dreams. A significant problem with the Disney Princesses is that even surrounded by the notion that females have the same inherent dignity as men, they continue to be portrayed as passive women with limited aspirations. For example, in Snow White, the character of Snow White is glorified by her ability to sing beautifully and cook for the seven dwarves (Hynes). In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is ignored when she tries to make conversation about a book she is reading, which suggests that a well-read woman is not worthy of attention (Hynes). And, in The Little Mermaid, Ariel sings about all of the wonderful treasures that she possesses, which encourages the valuing of material goods (Hynes). These films give rise to the belief that a woman’s worth is dependent on her ability to maintain a household, find a man, and to simply be beautiful. Through the exposure to the princesses’ narrow roles and characteristics, young girls internalize these qualities and use them to construct gender roles, the collection of ideas about how men and women should behave in society (Hughes).
The Disney Princess culture enables young girls to easily adopt the domestic stereotype of women and implement its principles through role-play. The princess merchandise, according to Karen Wohlwend, a professor at Indiana Univerity, “blurs the line between play and reality, allowing children to live in-character.” She explains, “One can be Cinderella all day long, sleeping in pink princess sheets, eating from lavender Tupperware with Cinderella decals, and dressing head to toe in licensed apparel, from plastic jewel encrusted tiara to fuzzy slipper-socks.” Young girls who are immersed in this Disney consumerism are encouraged to reenact their favorite scenes from the movies, which in effect, hinders their imaginations (Linn). Instead of creating their own stories, girls recreate the tales of their favorite princesses, cementing the gender roles they learn from the movies. For example, one could be Cinderella by wearing the licensed crown...

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