Everyday parents around the world allow their young daughters to watch Disney cartoons over and over again without worrying about the content of the film. “It’s Disney so is should be appropriate for kids to watch… Right?” Parents never think twice about the kind of messages that the Disney cartoons are truly sending to their young impressionable daughters. When a person thinks about Disney cartoons the words that come to mind are usually positive ones such as wholesome, non-violent, curse word free, and good family entertainment. People never think about the words such as male egotistical, maid, servitude, obedient, and low self-esteem when they think about Disney, but maybe parents of young females need to start thinking about Disney differently. Parents must begin to realize that just because Disney is a household name this does not mean that their young daughters are being sent the correct messages on the way they are to act in society by watching Disney films. Women are depicted in Disney films to be weak, male dependent, thin, beautiful, virginal, obedient, and without a mind or opinion of their own, and it is time that the females in cartons instead start to be depicted as strong, powerful, self-confident, independent women.
"The Little Mermaid"
For instance, in the animated film The Little Mermaid, Ariel, the heroine of the film is a young, beautiful, thin mermaid who, in the beginning of the film, has many dreams of her own; she is curious and adventurous. She explores sunken ships and rebels against her father. This is of course until the night she saves Prince Eric, a human, from drowning and falls in love with him. Once she meets the prince, her curiosity is minimized, and Ariel loses a sense of who she is, she is no longer exploring sunken ships, she is only dreaming of becoming a human and living happily ever after with Prince Eric in the human world. Ariel is willing to go to any lengths to be with Prince Eric. Ariel becomes so desperate to become human that she goes to see the evil sea with Ursula to seek help, but Ursula will only turn Ariel into a human on one condition, Ariel must give up her voice in return for legs and then she will have three days to make the prince fall in love with her and kiss her. So Ariel gives up her voice and is turned into a human and is able to get the prince’s attention with her body and beauty alone to the point where the prince begins to fall in love with Ariel, based completely off of her outer beauty. However, Ursula steps in and tricks the prince into falling in love with her instead. IN the end of the film Ursula is killed by Prince Eric, and King Triton, Ariel’s father, grants Ariel’s wish and turns her into a human and she is able to live happily ever after with Prince Eric.
So the message that young female children are receiving from watching the Disney film The Little Mermaid is that in order to gain true love you must be willing to give up who you are in the process. Ariel gives up her voice in the film, and her voice was her main way of expressing her thoughts and opinions through song. She had no way to communicate with the prince while she was human except by using her body and body language. The prince does not begin to fall in love with Ariel when she has no voice because of her beliefs or thoughts. The prince begins to fall in love with Ariel because of she look, not because of who she is. Ariel gave up everything that she was in order to be with him, so how could he fall in love with who she truly was? His attraction to Ariel is purely based on outside appearance only, and not on how she thinks or feels about subjects having to do with the world. So not only are young female children receiving the impression that you must give up who you are to impress a man but you must also sit there and be quiet, have no opinion on anything, and, on top of all that, you must be beautiful and thin to gain the attention of a man.
Also, Ariel does not even make her own dreams come true. Her wish comes true because of her father, King Triton allows them to come true. He grants her wish and, in return, she is able to have her dream of becoming human and being with Prince Eric come true. If her father would not have granted her wish, her dream would have never happened. Again, because of this action by King Triton this gives girls the impression that as a female you must dependent on a male in order for your goals and dreams to come true. Disney cartoons imply that, as a female, you are not able to be independent and make your own dreams come true without the help of a man. Ariel is left in the human world all alone with Prince Eric and she is now totally dependent on the Prince, when before in her world she was completely independent. Ariel knows nothing about her new environment that she has been placed in, so if things do no work out with her and the prince how will Ariel survive in the new world all alone and helpless, is she going to go out and find a job, when she doesn’t know anything about how her new environment works?
Ariel gives up her entire world to be with Prince Eric. She leaves her home under the sea, her family, and her friends all behind for one reason, “true love.” According Laura Sells “Ariel becomes woman as man want her to be rather than women for herself.” She makes many sacrifices in order to be with Prince Eric and yet he makes none. This is not a good example for young female children to be basing their views of relationships on. Women should not be the only ones in the relationship who are willing to sacrifice for the well-being of the other person in the relationship with them. A relationship is 50/50 but when watching The Little Mermaid one does not get the impressions that relationship are 50/50, the impression that is give off is that women should be willing to change in order to keep their men satisfied.
The only strong female character in the movie is the sea witch Ursula and, in the end, she is killed. Ursula may have been the evil character in the film but she may have had some positive influences in her character for young females watching the film. Ursula is powerful in the movie and she does not have the need for a man to complete her life. She is independent and will do anything to reach her goals and dreams. Of course, Disney makes the character of Ursula into an evil bitch, because aren’t all strong women bitches? Ursula is also the outcast in her society, she is overweight, ugly, cruel, and mean. So the message that is being sent to young female children by watching the character of Ursula and how she acts and is treated is that if you are fat, or independent, or opinionated, or a goal-oriented female that you are odd and males will not accept you. People will think badly of you if you are any of these things.
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
Disney does not send these types of messages only in the film The Little Mermaid, this type of situation happens in many of the other Disney cartoons especially the early classic Disney animated films. For instance Snow White was a young, beautiful, virginal, weak, house-cleaning female who only sang and dreamed about finding true love. Snow White is hated by her step-mother the evil queen because of her beauty. The film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is based almost entirely on the beauty aspect of a female. In the film Snow White is happy cleaning and cooking for seven male dwarfs. She lives happily ever after when her prince awakens her from a deep sleep with a kiss. So her dreams come true because the prince thinks she is pretty and decided to kiss her and *poof* Snow White’s dreams come true, not because of any activity of her doing.
In the film Cinderella, the heroine is once again a young, beautiful, thin, obedient, house-cleaning servant female whose dreams come true when she wears a pretty dress and glass slippers to a ball. The prince once again bases his feelings primarily on her outside appearance and her dress. She basically has her dreams come true because in the end the shoe fits and she looked fantastic in a ball gown. Thank goodness she wasn’t ugly or wearing a dress from last season! So once again based on beauty alone and not brains the prince falls in love with female and they live happily ever after.
Is this really the messages that we want to be sending to our younger female generations, which in order for girls to gain the attention of a male they have to be thin, beautiful, quiet, obedient, and house-cleaning females who are not independent and are not capable of taking care of themselves? Parents should be trying to send messages to young female generations that will help them to accomplish their dreams and goals, without the help of a male figure. Parents need to build self-confidence and self-esteem in their young daughters. Young females need to learn that it’s not what is on the outside that counts, it’s what is on the inside that matters most. Young female children need to learn that they can be independent and opinionated and still be able to find love in the world.
Recently Disney has come out with stronger female leads, the sisters in Frozen, and the main character in Brave. These three female characters are a step in the right direction for Disney. However, Disney needs to have more female animators drawing the female characters more realistically and not looking like they are walking sticks. Maybe as more females get involved in the animating and developing process of Disney cartoons they would be more respectful to females. Hopefully Disney will continue their move in the right direction by continuing to make strong independent females, who are necessarily stick thin.
Children are very impressionable when they are young and this is the time that parents need to help their children develop self-esteem, not the time to teach their children that their place in life is down on their hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor!
Skye Bacon on June 01, 2015:
what about The Princess and the Frog.