Most girls grow up watching Disney films, especially the films that have story lines where the protagonist is a princess. Included among these films are classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. Although many people see these films as harmless entertainment because they are deeply woven into society's idea of normal and popular culture, the influence that Disney princess films have over children's understanding of gender roles and identity development.
The Disney princess films all revolve around common themes. The princess is usually motherless, or has an evil and powerful step-mother, and she is either being forced into marriage or work, but maintains a balanced and just view of the world, and always does what is morally right. It also remains a constant and necessary part of the Princess archetype to possess unsurpassable beauty (Wohlwend 44).
Along with beauty, these princesses are always seen as weak, even if not on the surface. Regardless of the peril the princess must face, in the end, she always needs the love of a man. In the case of Mulan, she falls in love with her military leader while she is disguised as a man. When she is viewed as a man, they are friends and Mulan is seen as a great soldier; it is only when she is revealed as a woman that the man she loves no longer sees her as a great soldier.
[...] It is this point that makes the Disney Princess such a pernicious character. When the character itself is an encapsulation of entire discourses of values and moral interpretations, and then is masked as an innocent role model for young women and no one stops to question the effects of these characters, intergenerational perpetuation of gender roles are given the freedom to breed. Many of the Disney princesses not only help to legitimize “traditional” and sexist gender roles, but also create a forum for cultural and ethnic identity development. [...]
[...] These films even influence the parents of those children, who watched them when they were young as well. These Disney princess films are a prime example of something so embedded into popular culture that it becomes normal, common-sensical, and unquestionable. More people need to ask those questions in order to help their children draw a visible line between entertainment and real life. Works Cited Wohlwend, Karen E. "Damsels in Discourse: Girls Consuming and Producing Identity Texts Through Disney Princess Play." Reading Research Quarterly 44.1 (2009): 57-83. [...]
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