'Imagination will take you everywhere'
After spending a day lazing on the sofa watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid (yes I am eighteen years old), I have come to realise a couple of significant aspects which I’ve never really thought about before…
I must confess that I love all Disney princess films and I therefore do not want to put children off watching them because they were a huge part of my childhood. My sisters and I would each dress up as our favourite character – I was always Snow White as I adored her dress; the lemon yellow skirt, the puff-sleeves, the scarlet cape – not to mention that beautiful (if high-pitched) singing. However I have noticed a common thread which links all of the sugary sweet princesses together; take Sleeping Beauty, the radiant, yet naïve princess who can only be saved from her slumbers once kissed by Prince Charming; or Snow White, who again is only awoken from her poison-induced sleep when kissed by the handsome prince; and Ariel, the Princess of the sea that yearns for legs instead of a tail, but will only be granted a permanent set of pins if (you guessed it) Prince Eric puckers up and plants a smacker on her lips. Notice a recurring theme – apart from all of the kissing? Most Disney Princesses (not all of them) rely on their beaus to save their lives.
I suppose this representation of women follows the traditional archetype of how the two genders are normally portrayed in the media. Women are traditionally the weaker, subservient sex, while men are the dominant, strong, heroic ones. But is this the right thing to be teaching impressionable young girls? That they can’t do anything for themselves. What happens when the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly? I’m sure many will be disappointed that they haven’t been swept off their feet and carried into the realm of ‘Happy Ever After’ by the time their sixteen. But to even begin to find love they have to be pretty, beautiful and thin – instilling in them from a young age that anything less than perfection isn’t good enough. Maybe this is what starts a body obsessed mind-set that sees teenage girls intent on being skinny. It’s no surprise young girls want to diet when they’re practically force-fed with stick thin role models from the start; the teeny tiny waist of Cinderella, soon becomes the physically impossible figure of Barbie and then it’s the anorexic models and celebrities in the fashion magazines. Before you know it thirteen year olds are comparing their cheekbones and thigh gaps with Cara Delevingne’s.
Ugly, fat, deformed and disabled characters are notoriously known to be evil within the world of Disney. Think of poor Captain Hook who was forever tormented for the hook on the end of his arm instead of a normal hand. Ursula was the fat, crazy, half octopus half woman who cursed Ariel in The Little Mermaid and then met a painful end. While Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters are just plain mean, as well as being very jealous of Cinderella’s beauty. Maybe if the villains of the films felt more accepted within society then they wouldn’t feel the need to wreak havoc. Then there’s Quasimodo who’s locked away in the bell tower of Notre Dame – hidden from the outside world for being hideous looking, when actually he’s the hero of the story. This marginalisation of people with differences doesn’t prepare children for life in the real world, as it encourages them to think that beauty is more important than personality. Ugliness isn’t a crime, it’s just nature.
The Duchess of Cambridge seems to be the real-life Disney princess. Waity Katie spent years gazing out of her tower in the Bucklebury mansion, her long brunette locks blowing in the breeze as she gazed at the horizon, dreaming of her prince galloping along to rescue her from perpetual boredom. Soon enough he came to whisk her away and after a fairy-tale wedding and the birth of an heir, she is now back to her slim physique and blow-dried bounce, exuding class as per-usual. Perfect is the only word to describe her.
Occasionally Disney films have fantastic morals. Quasimodo’s kind and brave character shines through and he’s finally accepted within the community. While the headstrong, independent and courageous Mulan kicks male ass and saves the whole of China – showing girls it’s not all about a prince (but of course she still falls in love). Not forgetting Belle who actually comes to the Beast’s rescue at the end; thus subverting the archetypal roles that so many Disney films advocate. Young girls hear this: Women aren’t just on earth to look pretty and marry a prince (only the lucky few do), we can do whatever we want, whether we’re ugly or pretty, the choice is ours.