“Princess Syndrome”: The Effect of Disney Princesses on Young Girls
Happily ever after, princes, weddings, wealth, beautiful girls with perfect bodies and love at first sight; these are all characteristics that are associated with Disney’s princess movies. These different things have a huge influence on little girls and how they dream their life should be. Little girls that watch these movies look up to the Princesses and admire them, wanting to be just like them. Who didn’t want to be a princess when they were younger with their own prince charming in tow? These movies provide an unrealistic view of how love is and what true happiness is, and they also make you believe that there will always be a happy ending, when we know that is not always the case. In real life you can’t just bippity boppity boo a perfect outcome, as much as we wish we could. With these types of movies, Disney portrays the meaning that as long as girls are pretty enough and have fancy clothes and shoes she will find love. These messages being sent out from Disney Princess movies have an impact on young girls self-confidence and sense of reality, while also steering them away from the important values for a young girl to be looking for in their role models.
In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Snow White falls into a deep sleep due to a poisoned apple, and is saved by her true loves kiss to awaken her. This is the same scenario in Sleeping Beauty (1959), except a spinning needle pricks Aurora, the main character, until her true love awakens her with a kiss. Sensing a similar scene here? So am I, and it has to do with True Love being a hero. In almost every Disney princess movie, the princesses are only saved by their true love, their prince. Their knight in shining armor always rescues them. Young girls are very gullible and vulnerable to these stories, they will grow up believing that no matter what they go through they will have their true love to save them, or take their pain away. Do we want our young girls believing that they can only be rescued and be happy by some man. We should be teaching them to be strong and independent so they can rescue themselves, and provide their own happiness. Disney movies are majorly focused on falling in love and getting married, but they do not value anything beyond that. The princesses do not really pursue any of their own hopes and dreams, because their dreams are focused on finding their prince. The movies do not show what happens after the “happy ever after”, and so that is the only side that the viewers get to see, the happy after.
Although we do have to acknowledge that Disney has been better about changing their stories by trying to make the girls seem more independent and fierce. Some of the newest movies show the princesses really taking a stand for what they believe in and not caring about their prince charming. There is Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog (2009), and she is more focused on her career and starting her own restaurant than worrying about a boy. Then there is Merida from the movie Brave (2012), who does not mold to the norm of a princess girl, she is more of a tomboy and has no interest in finding a husband, she is happy to be who she is. Another exception to this theory of true love is the new movie Frozen (2014) that everyone is raving about; it is the first movie where the act of true love is not from the prince. In this movie, the act of true love is done by the love of a sister. This was inspiring to see, and I hope to see more scenarios like this in future Disney movies. It was a pleasant surprise that for once the prince wasn’t there to swoop in and save the princess; spoiler alert, the prince was actually the bad guy. This being said, I love Disney and I don’t think kids should just stop watching these movies, I just think it is important for the kids to understand that it is a fairytale, and it is not real. They need to understand what characteristics are the ones they should adapt into the real world and which ones are not actualities.
Most young girls go through a princess phase where they decide to only look and act like a princess. They also may feel self-conscious because they are trying to compare themselves to these princesses, they may think they are not as pretty as the princesses are, or as perfect (Bailey 2013). They are so impacted by the movies that they begin to live in the fairytale. Mary Finucane is a psychotherapist who started a “Disney Princess Recovery” blog after her three-year-old daughter was extremely sucked into this whole Disney princess phase. Mary say’s this about her daughter, “She began refusing to do or wear things that princesses didn’t do or wear. She had stopped running or jumping because princesses didn’t do those things.” (Bailey 2013). This was about the time that she decided to study the impact that these movies have on these girls. It doesn’t help that Disney has a huge franchise of Disney merchandise, most of it consisting in really feminine things that relate to looks. They have make up mirrors, make-up vanities, purses, jewelry and of course the princess costumes, all of these contributing to the ideal of image and looking pretty. The bottom line is little girls view princesses as pretty girls with nice princes as husbands and a castle for a home. That is what they are learning to aspire for, the material side of life and not the independence.
Although I wasn’t much of a girly girl when I was younger, I do remember how much I loved Aerial, from The Little Mermaid and how I wanted to be just like her. I dressed up for her multiple times for Halloween and remember thinking how I wanted to find my prince Eric just like her. Disney is such a powerful franchise that has captivated so many young hearts with their films; it is somewhat of a role model company so it is great to see that the movie patterns are swaying. Disney should be encouraging it’s audiences to be smart, independent and self-confident women who can be happy without their true love and fairytale life. Having the young girls learn and understand that these movies are just fairytales, Disney can provide a healthy environment of imagination. Overall the messages being sent out from Disney Princess movies have an impact on young girls, their sense of realism and their self-confidence, these princesses are role models for these young girls and that is something we need to keep in mind.
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