Princess Propaganda | Teen Ink

Princess Propaganda

April 1, 2014
By lolkimmers BRONZE, Wilmington, Massachusetts
lolkimmers BRONZE, Wilmington, Massachusetts
3 articles 1 photo 0 comments

“I want to be a princess when I grow up.” What little girl hasn’t fantasized about being a princess? The concept of gliding over an Arabian city on a magic carpet or waking up to a kiss from a long awaited Prince Charming is of course appealing. But should we be feeding young girls the idea of an unattainable life style, especially when it is portrayed in such a gender restrictive manner? And who is most to blame for selling children this gender based stereotyping of women? It is none other than the king of fairytales himself, the innovator of the happiest place on Earth, Walt Disney. But how happy is the happiest place on Earth? As children we were drawn in by bright colors, catchy sing-a-longs, and the whimsical world that is Disney. Now that we have matured, it is time to take a step back. Look past the predictable endings to better analyze the evident flaws in Disney movies. Only brief examination is needed to conclude that Disney’s long history of movie making is riddled with sexism, racism, and stereotyping.

Sexist views are ever present in Disney movies, from disproportional hourglass figures and high-pitched voices to gender roles of women and men. The “princess body type” gives girls an impression of the “ideal” female figure. Disney has manufactured an on-screen Barbie doll, both generic and beyond fake, brain washing young girls into believing they equate to nothing except superficial beauty. Disney is a detriment to individuality in young girls and promotes conforming. Disney’s gender discrimination is two sided. Every princess must have her Prince Charming, right? Nothing but names differentiate the princes depicted in Disney movies; other than that, it is the same overly recycled character. Men are exemplified as chivalrous and masculine, always there in the opportune moment to save a damsel in distress, most times having no personality. Relationships in Disney movies are often derived from physical beauty. The prince falls in love at first sight misrepresenting relationships in the twenty first century as being wholly materialistic and shallow. In the Little Mermaid, girls are shown that giving up their home and making sacrifices to chase a man is a positive decision, while the Beauty and the Beast encourages girls to stay in abusive relationships in hopes of being able to change the “Beast”. These gender roles are sickening, especially seeing as how they are weaved into classic family movies, becoming the cornerstone of many children’s childhoods.

Racism is alive and thriving even in today’s society, but when a company such as Disney blatantly invests in prejudiced views as a way to please moviegoers and make a greater profit, it is immoral. Especially in modern times when hysteria over terrorism leading to prejudice towards Middle Eastern people is common, Aladdin’s “Arabian Nights” theme song; “Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place/Where the caravan camels roam/Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” is a prevalent example of discrimination against people of color. Though Disney has made an attempt at “princess equality” with the production and release of Princess and The Frog and the addition of an African American princess, the budget for this movie was only a miniscule half of that provided for Tangled, which was released around the same time. Disney may work to hide its bigotry but it still exists, however embarrassing for the production company this fact may be.

Disney’s inaccurate portrayal of history may seem unimportant but sacrificing the truth to enhance the plot is an injustice, which has led to lack of understanding important historical events. One instance would be the plight of Native American’s in Pocahontas. The misrepresentation of the relationships between Native Americans and settlers during the seventeenth century is misleading to young minds, when in truth the English settlers inflicted mass genocide on native people. The historical truth behind Pocahontas is that after acting as ambassador of her peoples and collaborating with Captain John Smith she was betrayed by both the settlers and her father. Upon John Smith’s return to England she was taken hostage by the English and used as a bargaining piece. Her father refused to exchange captive Englishman for the return of his daughter and therefore left her in the hands of her captors. The Disney movie version of Pocahontas in contrast may have begun with a severely strained relationship between the Europeans and Native Americans after the murder of a Native American warrior, it ended in peace between the two peoples and Pocahontas choosing to stay with her father instead of following John Smith to England. Disney is making light of a subject that was one of our Nation’s greatest calamities. Settlers not only forced the Native Americans from their land in the name of Manifest Destiny, but also maimed and skinned them. The greatest injustice to the Native Americans was the Trail of Tears, the mass herding and marching of Native Americans to relocate them under the Indian Removal Act. Disney’s reconfiguration of history is despicable and undermines the Native American culture.

Next time you venture to watch a Disney Princess movie, I encourage you to better observe the undertones of sexism, racism, and historical inaccuracy. Has Disney’s greed to expand profit margins overstepped humane morals, poisoning the minds of children on a global scale? It should be considered that the most offensive Disney films were produced in the early to mid 1900s when awareness of social prejudiced was not called to question. Though this is true todays youth continue to watch these movies and they continue to send the same message. Is it this steady diet of hidden propaganda, unintentionally overlooked by parents, playing a role in developing prejudiced views in todays maturing youth? One thing is for certain; the “happiest place on Earth” is a disguise for yet another example of corporate greed. It’s time we purge our selves of this corporate trickery and rebel against the Disney princess phenomenon. Ponder this, would Disney have sought to improve profit through these means if it was not what the audience wanted?

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This article has 2 comments.

on Apr. 23 2014 at 1:34 pm
Jessica Tucker BRONZE, Clarkston, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
While you made valid points, and it's always good to take everything (especially as something as technicolor dreamworld as Disney) I think you were focusing on the wrong things in a lot of the piece. For one The original princesses from the fifties and earlier were very sexist pieces, but the princesses have been evolving (slowly) ever since along with our country. For one thing, Ariel wanted to become human long before she saved prince Eric, it was simply her love for him that gave her enough of a push to take what she had wanted. She was miserable as a mermaid so she took a chance to improve her life. And don't even get me started on beauty and the Beast. This movie was so the opposite of sexist (the only sexist character was the evil Gaston). Nevermind the fact that Belle saves both her father AND the Beast on multiple occasions but the whole message of the movie was that beauty is much more than someone's looks. That movie also contradicts your argument that all the Disney princes are copies. As for Pocahontas, this is still a kids movie, they obviously had to tone down the genocide when their main audience still doesn't even know what genocide is. Still, the movie promoted accepting other's differences, standing up for peace, and learning about other cultures. "You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you." Pocahontas teaches us NOT to be racist. If you want to criticize racism in Disney films, go watch The Jungle Book and Peter Pan. Those movies were absolutely appalling, Pocahontas was a masterpiece. I also notice how you completely jumped over Mulan, a woman of color who fights off misogony along with the Huns. I understand why you criticize Disney, it's made a few mistakes, but they have been growing and changing and have gotten much better. I believe your problem is you are coming in from a far too negative point of view, looking for everything you could possibly criticize. 

on Apr. 7 2014 at 5:07 pm
Bethany_Saint GOLD, Dexter, Maine
14 articles 0 photos 90 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Never regret something that once made you smile." - Amber Deckers

"Stories are more than just images. As you continue in the tale, you get to know the characters, motivations and conflicts that make up the core of the story...." - Livia Blackburne

I love how you were able to open minds with this piece. It surely opened mine. A job well done!