Sociocultural factors greatly influence the way people think and create perceptions of the real world. One of the most dominating factors contributing to this issue is the media. Media consumption in general has a measurable impact on people’s beliefs surrounding reality and helps guide their values, decisions and outlooks; regardless of how true the perceptions are. Media messages are also one of the main sources for the development of body image and the expectations of gender roles.
Research shows that watching “gender portrayals has an effect on individuals’ real-world gender based attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors”. The discussion of how women are portrayed is of particular importance because these portrayals are often detrimental. Women are portrayed as highly sexualized, more passive, and take on less active roles than their male counterparts. Women are often discouraged from power and encompass stereotypical feminine traits emphasizing their beauty and roles at home.
There are a lot of companies and enterprises in the world, but there are none that stick
quite like Disney.
Use of Media is inversely related to self-esteem, especially for young girls. Girls do not only internalize messages from the media, but then begin to objectify their own bodies as well. Self-objectification is related to a host of psychological outcomes, including low self-esteem and depression.
One of the most influential aspects in children’s media began in 1937 with the imagination of Walt Disney and his princess phenomenon. The classic Disney princesses perpetuate stereotypical gender norms by being thin, graceful, young, submissive, and attractive to romantic suitors of the opposite gender. Disney focuses on targeting young girls. The desirable traits associated with being a princess can create psychological issues for girls and mixed messages around what truly encompasses the female gender.
There have been three major eras of Disney princesses: The first era includes Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty; the second era includes The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Mulan; and the most current era includes The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Brave, and Frozen.
The princesses from the first era encapsulate submissiveness, traditional female gender roles, and stereotypical beauty.
The princesses from the second era dress more provocatively and still find true love in the end with a prince.
What about princesses of the third era?
Over the years Disney princesses have become more egalitarian, heroic, and athletic, showing progress that they transform with the corresponding societal shifts. Although they have become more autonomous, they still possess timeless beauty and have become more sexualized. Given the profound effect that viewing these images has on young girls’ psychological and physical health, it is necessary to explore how the themes of gender roles, body image, and love are presented in these new movies. This topic seemed interesting to me. I decided to compare the images of a woman of the 20th - beginning of the 21st century and consider the external and internal changes of the princesses. For this project, I studied the literature on the topic and content of cartoons, and also conducted a questionnaire to compare the answers of students in junior, middle and senior classes of our school. Having collected all the material, I developed a research project and made conclusion.
The relevance of the research topic is due to the fact that in the modern era, the image of a woman has changed dramatically. Based on Disney cartoons about princesses, we observe the destruction of stereotypes about a woman's place in family and in society. Gender prejudice completely disappears both in life and on screen.
The purpose of the research: to study and compare the image of a woman throughout the 20th-beginning of the 21st century.
1. to study the literature on the topic;
2. to explore cartoon content
3. to conduct questionnaires, interviews
4. to analyze the results of questionnaires, interviews;
5. to summarize bulk materials;
6. to draw up a research project, take part in conference.
Subject of study: the evolution of love based on Disney cartoons.
Object of study: the main characters of the full-length Disney cartoons (Disney princesses).
The hypothesis: the transformation of the traditional image of a woman under the influence of a modern view of the family and the relationship between a man and a woman.
1. The study of specialized literature
2. The study of Internet sources
The Brief Biography of Walt Disney
Where did Walt Disney grow up?
Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5, 1901. When he was four years old his parents, Elias and Flora, moved the family to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. Walt enjoyed living on the farm with his three older brothers (Herbert, Raymond, and Roy) and his younger sister (Ruth). It was in Marceline that Walt first developed a love for drawing and art.
After four years in Marceline, the Disneys moved to Kansas City. Walt continued to draw and took art classes on the weekends. He even traded his drawings to the local barber for free haircuts. One summer Walt got a job working on a train. He walked back and forth on the train selling snacks and newspapers. Walt enjoyed his job on the train and would be fascinated by trains for the rest of his life.
About the time Walt was entering high school, his family moved to the big city of Chicago. Walt took classes at the Chicago Art Institute and drew for the school newspaper. When he was sixteen, Walt decided he wanted to help fight in World War I. Since he was still too young to join the army, he dropped out of school and joined the Red Cross. He spent the next year driving ambulances for the Red Cross in France.
Work as an Artist
Disney returned from the war ready to begin his career as an artist. He worked at an art studio and then later at an advertising company. It was during this time that he met artist Ubbe Iwerks and learned about animation.
Walt wanted to make his own animation cartoons. He started his own company called Laugh-O-Gram. He hired some of his friends including Ubbe Iwerks. They created short animated cartoons. Although the cartoons were popular, the business didn't make enough money and Walt had to declare bankruptcy.
One failure was not going stop Disney, however. In 1923, he moved to Hollywood, California and opened a new business with his brother Roy called Disney Brothers' Studio. He again hired Ubbe Iwerks and number of other animators. They developed the popular character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The business was a success. However, Universal Studios gained control of the Oswald trademark and took all of Disney's animators except for Iwerks.
Once again, Walt had to start over. This time he created a new character named Mickey Mouse. He created the first animated film to have sound. It was called Steamboat Willie and starred Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Walt performed the voices for Steamboat Willie himself. The film was a great success. Disney continued to work, creating new characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. He had further success with the releases of the cartoon Silly Symphonies and the first color animated film, Flowers and Trees.
More Movies and Television
Disney used the money from Snow White to build a movie studio and to produce more animated movies including Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. During World War II, Disney's movie production slowed down as he worked on training and propaganda films for the U.S. government. After the war, Disney began to produce live action films in addition to animated films. His first big live action film was Treasure Island.
In the 1950's, the new technology of television was taking off. Disney wanted to be a part of television as well. Early Disney television shows included Disney's Wonderful World of Color, the Davy Crockett series, and the Mickey Mouse Club.
Always coming up with new ideas, Disney had the idea to create a theme park with rides and entertainment based on his movies. Disneyland opened in 1955. It cost $17 million to build. The park was a huge success and is still one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Disney would later have the idea to build an even larger park in Florida called Walt Disney World. He worked on the plans, but died before the park opened in 1971
Death and Legacy
Disney died on December 15, 1966 from lung cancer. His legacy lives on to this day. His movies and theme parks are still enjoyed by millions of people each year. His company continues to produce wonderful movies and entertainment every year.
The Three Ages of Disney Princesses
First Age: The Princess existed, and she was waiting for her Prince. Very little agency provided. ("Snow White," "Cinderella," etc)
Second Age: Taking cues from musical theatre, Princesses were given slightly more agency, but still mostly about finding a man. ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast", "Pocahontas," etc)
Third Age: A Princess might find love, but female friendship and sisterhood is the central plot element. ("Frozen," "Tangled," "Moana," etc.)
The first era
For a long time and without exception, the Disney princess had one goal: Prince Charming. There were gowns and slippers and tiaras, but getting that guy – in a swoon, in a waltz – that was the game. But little by little, the Disney princess – broadly defined - has been changing. From Snow White to Cinderella to Ariel to Mulan to "Frozen"’s Anna to "Brave"’s Merida. This is an evolution of the Disney princesses.
It was only 1989 when young girls were taught to prioritise beauty over brains as “it’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man”. This has slowly shifted, in Tangled the marriage is implied, not a major plot point, and in Frozen, true love is sisterly, not romantic. This is in stark contrast with Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid, where the narrative revolves around the attainment of ‘true love’ and in turn, a husband.
It noted that the girls are more often shown asserting themselves against parents (as in The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Aladdin, Tangled, etc) than princess. It seems the narratives are keen to tap into typical teenage angst, but as soon as these girls enter womanhood, they are resigned to subservience in their marriage.
Since the 1930’s, children of the world have connected with the characters in Disney films. Disney’s princesses especially have both influenced and reflected society’s image of women. The recent decade of princesses shows a significant shift in values. No longer do pretty princesses fall head over heels for a prince in day. They now inspire, empower and teach us to be conscious of culture, race, as well as valuable lessons in love and dreams.
What do Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora have in common? Well, first starters, they were all rosy-cheeked, pale skinned women with slight frames. They cooked, they cleaned, they sang and they all talked to furry little critters that pranced in the woods and inside the walls of their houses. Oh yeah! They also had bitter, uglier women who wanted to undermine the princesses’ success just because of their beauty.
The plot direction of these Disney movies is also reflective of the personal characteristics and traits embodied by these women.
“Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” reflected a period in society (1930’s-1950’s) where both men and women conformed to strict gender roles. Men were expected to be the breadwinners for the family. The stereotype for women was to play skinny housewives who could manage both motherhood and having dinner ready for their husband’s return. All three princesses knew how to cook and clean and they never complained about it.
All three needed a prince to save them from the life they knew. Snow White and Aurora relied on the kiss of a prince to wake them up. Cinderella needed to marry a prince to escape her household tyrant. As lovely and magical as these princesses were, their reliance on men made it appear to youth that women’s lives were only made better when a man entered it.
Snow White is about as passive as a heroine can be. She sits around a wishing well waiting for her prince to come, then after getting tricked into going to the woods to get almost-murdered, she sits around the dwarves’ house cleaning up after them. Then she’s poisoned and lays around in a glass coffin waiting for true love’s kiss.
White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in 1937, debuting the very first Disney Princess with Snow White herself. Her whole deal is she's, like, really pretty. Plus she cooks and cleans a house for seven dudes who can't seem to pick up after themselves.
According to the survey, we can see that a small part of the respondents still like the image of a hardworking and a friendly girl. Moreover, mainly boys focus on hardworking. Girls, on the contrary, emphasize their beauty and kindness.
The second era
The introduction of Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, Pocahontas and Mulan remade the Disney princess brand.
In the next movies, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, there are signs of the girls developing some intelligence, but a clear emphasis on their physical appearance.
Some character traits are admirable, but the plot still reduces their personality to a plot device used to attain a husband. These princesses presented loyalty to their family, questioned social norms and went on adventures outside of their personal sphere. Ariel is curious about her world, yet is willing to sacrifice everything for a man she just laid eyes on. She was a dreamer and loved to explore.
Jasmine and Belle stood for substance over beauty when it came to love and dreamed of traveling the world. Belle is intelligent, but socially alienated because of it. She loves the Beast despite his emotional abuse. And, as the film’s name establishes, she is still above all valued for her beauty.
Pocahontas and Mulan all feature hardworking, assertive, independent women.
Pocahontas and Mulan were selfless heroines who risked their own lives to save the people they cared for. Another perk was that the villains sought power instead of beauty.
Disney’s movies, at this point, said that a woman can be empowered by educating themselves, exploring and being generous. It was a much-needed change. If Disney stuck to the same social norms found in the older princess movies, they would not have been as welcomed by the movie-goers and children. One of the only negative responses to the movies was that some of the princesses were too sexualized. Ariel and Jasmine especially received mixed reviews for their clothing choices. Another complaint was that the princesses had to be in a relationship by whatever means necessary. The representations have been by no means perfect. It seems that every attempt by Disney to explore a non-Anglo-Saxon culture comes with a large list of cultural and historical inaccuracies that propagate offensive stereotypes. For example, historians have long been irritated by the reappropriation of the story of Pocahontas (who was actually twelve years old) and Mulan.
Unlike the gentle, delicate women that came before, Ariel is rebellious, curious, confident, and goes after what she wants in life. She breaks the rules and seeks adventure. She doesn't wait around for a man to save her — she saves her prince. Twice! And don't try to argue that Ariel gives up her voice to get the guy. She actually chooses to give up her voice to become a human, fulfilling a lifelong dream of living up above the confines of the sea. She spends the rest of the movie unable to speak, having to rely on her appearance and quirky adorableness to get her through. At the end of the film, it is Prince Eric who finally defeats the villain. She was the first of the Disney Princesses to focus on her own personal independence. She wanted a life on land and took matters into her own hands to achieve that goal.
Based on the results of the survey, we came to the conclusion that the princesses of this period are more attractive to the younger generation. This applies to students of an older age group. They emphasize the courage, militancy, masculinity inherent in this category of princesses. Girls in this age group want to be like these heroines.
The third era
The progress shown in this decade of Disney is noteworthy. From 1992, Disney finally caught up with society, and the next four films featured princesses of culturally diverse backgrounds. This cultural progressiveness is also accompanied by deeper character development.
Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Anna, Elsa and Moana embody the lessons we want our generation’s children to believe in. Their stories reflect female independence, different body types, different cultures, and risking their lives for the people they lead.
For example, Moana,Disney’s latest heroine, is the most successful and princess that they have created in terms of message. The girl is young, not sexualized and has a pure curiosity of the outside world. The islander princess travels with the Demigod Maui to return a magical stone that will save her people. She travels the sea with a male companion and without the talk of romance and marriage. Her body type reflects a 14-year-old and is toned like one who spends the day swimming and walking the island should be. The filmmakers were also conscious of the Hawaiian public and tried their best to not insult the culture.
Merida is praised as the first Disney princess with a realistic female form. Her hair is unruly and her waist is not ridiculously tiny. Disney is now telling girls to be proud of their shape and to not compare their beauty to the slight forms of the original princesses.
Tiana was groundbreaking, not only because she was Disney’s first black princess, but because she was not looking for a relationship. She set goals to open her own restaurant and believed that hard work helps make dreams happen. Disney finally scrapped the idea of overnight love when they created Rapunzel and Tiana’s stories. The girls fell in love after putting in time getting to know their “prince”. Disney took this revolution further by showing how horribly falling fast can go (i.e. Anna and Prince Han’s relationship in “Frozen”). Disney also scrapped true love’s kiss and turned it into “an act of true love”.
Recently, The Princess and the Frog, although noteworthy for the first black princess, was criticised for everything from the insensitive setting, racist character names, and non-black prince. Some race scholars even aired the interesting observation that housework and cleaning, not done by Disney Princesses since Sleeping Beauty, makes a resurgence with the first black princess.
Elsa and Anna
Both of the princesses in the first Frozen movie represent strong, positive, modern traits. Anna and Elsa’s mass following is teaching girls everywhere that sisters are more important than misters. The real love story is between sisters Anna and Elsa rather than with a guy. Queen Elsa and Merida boldly made the decision to lead their people without marrying Plus Elsa learns to embrace her power rather than suppressing or fearing what makes her special, giving us the power ballad that defined a decade. And with Frozen 2's release, these princesses continue to push Disney's values forward.
Princesses of the third era are the favorites of our survey. They do not only attract children with external data, but also with the spiritual side of their education. In addition, I really like the independence of the third era princesses.
The “forth” era
Although we can see only three eras of Disney’s princesses, I want to pay your attention for the forth (unspoken) era! I mean future non-standard appearance of some princesses from previous eras. A striking example is the preparation for the shooting of the animated film "Ariel", where she turns from a European red-haired fair-skinned princess into a black-skinned black-haired representative of the black race.
To all Little Mermaid fans who were disheartened to learn that Disney casting a black woman in the role of Ariel had prompted a racist backlash, worry not: The #NotMyAriel controversy is mostly fake news.
Last week, Disney announced that Halle Bailey, a black actress, would portray the fictional mermaid princess in a live-action remake. Allegedly, this infuriated some racists because Ariel is red-haired and white-skinned in the cartoon version. "Us white girls, who grew up with The Little Mermaid, deserved a true-to-color Ariel," wrote one critic, Rebeccs, in a tweet that went viral. "Disney, you made a huge mistake by hiring Halle Bailey."
Critics tried to prove that Ariel can't be black. Freeform, a cable channel, owned by Disney, fought back. "Yes, the original author of 'The Little Mermaid' was Danish. Ariel ... is a mermaid," Freeform wrote in an impassioned post on Twitter and Instagram regarding the argument that the fable's original author Hans Christian Andersen's Danish ethnicity meant that Ariel couldn't be black.
"Danish mermaids can be black because Danish people can be black," Freeform said in response to people who were using the perceived ethnicity of the fictional character as reason against casting black actress Halle Bailey in the remake.
The impact of how this historic casting — the first time Disney selected a woman of color to play a white princess in its highly anticipated live-action reboots — didn’t even get a chance to register in my subconscious before I was hit by countless offending social-media posts from folks aghast that Disney changed the race of their beloved Ariel.
Within hours there was a “#notmyariel” hashtag. A Change.org petition demanded that Disney rethink Bailey. These folks weren’t racists, so they claimed. On the contrary, they were preserving culture, their culture. That said Bailey is free to play Tiana, as they said. Or better yet! Create a brand-new story with a black princess. But please, pretty please, leave the beloved Ariel alone.
That wasn’t all. Some people took their ignorance to the next level, suggesting black people can’t be mermaids because black people can’t swim — or get their hair wet. Then there was the slew of memes featuring white actors assuming traditionally black roles.
Following the results of the survey of students of different ages of our school, we came to the conclusion that the majority of the respondents did not like the idea of a “black” Ariel. Viewers still want to see the traditional image of the little mermaid. Although we can recognize those who would be interested in experimenting with this image.
The heroines are no longer perfect. Princesses used to be fixated on their appearance. Nowadays, Disney princesses come in different shapes and sizes, have both male and female traits. The creation of these female characters helps in the fight against the stereotypical views that still exist in modern society.
Goals in heroines’ lives have changed.
Princesses of three eras have different values in life. Earlier heroines were simply housewives who were just waiting for their princes. Now princesses set their goals and go to them.
Self-love and love for family comes instead of love for a man. The only love of princesses of the first era is only love for a man. Princesses of the third era are not dependent on this feeling. They are independent, fight for their dreams and think about family more than about life partner.
Moving with the times, the appearance of the princesses is changing. Previously, the non-European appearance of the princesses was very criticized and condemned. Now Disney’s studio breaks stereotypes and creates princesses of different nationalities and non-standard appearance.
I believe that Disney’s huge success with Frozen has told them what the public wants today’s princesses to stand for. Moana was their response. Every bit of positive feedback that they have accumulated over the years is included in this movie to make her a positive figure for today’s youth. I believe that there will be many more Moana’s in the future and am looking forward to it. I will forever be a Disney fan and love all the princesses, but I cannot hide my elation to the changes brought about in this decade.
Do you like Disney cartoons?
Yes, I like them 2) No, I don't like them
Which princess do you like the most?
1) Snow White
Why do you like her exactly?
How do you feel about the idea of Black Ariel?
I like this idea 2) I do not like this idea
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