What Disney Princesses teach girls


Source unknown. RELATED: What Disney Princes teach men about attracting women.

Update: Origin and/or related images in a 2009 post at contexts.org.


    1. It is similar, but I think this version better describes the problems inherent with each of the women.

    1. and yet… in countless examples there are girls that are plucked from a lower social economic tier up due initially to their beauty. but only the pure heart and intentions makes it permanent. which came first the cartoon or the reality?

      if you’re poor and in difficult circumstances have a positive hopeful outlook and you’ll be ‘seen’ as desirable by people in the circumstances you desire. disney tries to make that metaphysical reality apparent to the masses by drawing perty womens. that’s just ‘how one appears’ when the internal thinking is as modeled.

      a lot of people don’t get it. and they subsidize those that do. in so many ways, in so many things. go on, rail against the sexual subjugation.

      always pure of heart, right? and that ‘looks’ beautiful. people take it the wrong way and think if they can inflate or carve themselves into “beautiful” then they’ll get the rewards of ‘pure of heart’. never works.


      1. but only the pure heart and intentions makes it permanent. which came first the cartoon or the reality?

        Looking forward to Disney’s Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.

        Hear they’re giving it to Pixar.

  1. Heh! My sister just gave me a birthday gift in a gift bag with these exact Disney princesses on it.

    Me: Message, sis?
    Her: None that I am aware of, except, of course, happy birthday.

  2. OH Yes… and SANTA CLAUS teaches boys to get fat, never shave and break-in other people houses…

  3. When I was little, I never did identify with the Disney princesses, the idea of waiting around helplessly to be rescued never appealed to me.

    That’s got to be in some way related to the way that I over-prepare for almost every eventuality.

  4. i disagree about Belle. She is intelligent and loves learning – always has her nose in a book, she’s not impressed with Gaston who all the other girls fall for, she is more interested in her inventor dad’s crazy gizmos, she is brave enough to sacrifice herself to save her father, she sees beyond the surface to love the beast for who he has become. of all the princesses I think she has a lot of positive characteristics as a role model for little girls.

    1. Of course Belle isn’t actually a princess, she’s just a peasant girl who gets kidnapped by a rich guy who got turned into a monster because he was a dick to begin with.

      Pocahontas is closer to royalty than Belle is, but she never gets invited to tea with the other girls because she doesn’t have any pretty pretty dresses.

      1. it’s true he was a jerk in the first place but he changed and was rewarded with being pretty again lol

        my daughter is finally out of her princess phase… i may still be suffering from overexposure!! I did want to defend Belle though because i have a gifted daughter that doesn’t fit the mold either and i come from the days when Barbie said “I hate math” :(

    2. Belle is great what with her love of books and all, but her story infuriates me–it teaches that if a man is abusive to you, you can love it out of him.

      1. I disagree. Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and I never thought that way. Learning about actual abusive relationships made me the kind of girl who would kick a guy to the curb if he ever treated me like that. I think the fairy tale aspect of these stories mitigates these supposed messages. Kids think, “Of course he’s grumpy, he’s a beast!” He looks like an animal and acts like one. It’s expected. Sometimes, with fairy tales, there needs to be a little leeway.

    3. Not to mention that Belle is easily the strongest of all the princesses.

      Think about it. Right after Beast fights off the wolves to save Belle, he faints from his injuries.

      Yet we see Belle leading the horse back with Beast, still unconscious, *on* the horse.

      The only reasonable explanation is that Belle power-lifted Beast onto the horse.

  5. What “What Disney Princesses teach girls” teaches girls: if you’re black, Native American, or Asian you’re not really a princess.

    1. Sorry dude…The Princess and the Frog doesn’t have a white princess…don’t bother bringing racism into it! Sheesh!

    2. Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana(from Princess and the Frog), Jasmine? There hasn’t been a white Disney princess since 1991.

    3. well to be fair, they don’t really have royalty in most asian/black/native american societies. But Pocahontas and Mulan were based on real historical heroes, which is pretty cool in itself. And Tiana does marry a prince.

    4. Well now they made the Princess and the Frog and she was African American, and they made Pocahontas and Mulan

  6. Affirming, inspiring Miyazaki edition, please.

    @Nanner: I think the criticism of Belle’s story is just that, a criticism of the story — not Belle herself. The story maintains a double standard: she has to be perfect, but he can get by just being…beastly. Why does she have to be adorable all the time, when Beast does not?

    1. Why does she have to be adorable all the time, when Beast does not?

      There’s an archetype for that: the Good Woman Saving the Bad Man. “He may snarl and yell and throw things, but I know deep down he really loves me and I can save him.”

      1. “There’s an archetype for that: the Good Woman Saving the Bad Man. “He may snarl and yell and throw things, but I know deep down he really loves me and I can save him.”

        Isn’t that a co-dependent abusive relationship in a nutshell.

        1. Isn’t that a co-dependent abusive relationship in a nutshell.

          Yep. Hey – didn’t Disney make a movie called ‘The Rescuers’? Are we seeing a pattern here? Just sayin’.

      2. Somewhat relevant to this discussion is the brilliant analysis of the lessons for children contained in “Lady and the Tramp,” featured in “The Last Days of Disco”:

      3. There’s an archetype for that: the Good Woman Saving the Bad Man. “He may snarl and yell and throw things, but I know deep down he really loves me and I can save him.”

        This. The Beauty and the Beast story always made me uncomfortable for this reason.

    2. Huh? But Beast doesn’t stay beastly. The turning point is when Belle runs away and Beast protects her from the wolves, getting injured in the process. From that point on he works – with Belle as his social worker – on becoming human again.

      Besides, I find it very odd that his dismissed so easily. Yes, he was a dick. But he’s also a victim of entrapment and was punished (his staff, too) in a cruel and unsual way. Somehow I don’t think that dehumanizing people brings the best out of them.

      1. You’re right. But she has to be a social worker first, and an equal partner in the relationship later.

        I’m not saying I misunderstand the point of the story. Love is transformational and redemptive. But the story doesn’t give Belle the same wiggle-room for flaws as it does Beast. He enters deep rages, and the worst she does is get a little persnickety with him. She has to be perfect in order to be that social worker, and it’s a little unfair. At what point does Beast demonstrate a similar understanding of Belle’s emotional needs, beyond ameliorating the effects of problems that he himself caused? It’s been a while since I last saw the Disney version, so I may in fact be forgetting something crucial.

    1. The original nancy drew series (the girls are smart, independent, strong, and always catch the bad guys…while their boyfriends wait on the periphery to take them to dinner after said bad guys are safely in jail). and anne of green gables (who uses her imagination and wits to make tough situations better and never loses hope that she’ll be successful even in the face of disappointments).

      two of my girlhood faves.

      1. I read all of the Nancy Drew books, but I was never that much of a fan because I got frustrated at how many times her boyfriend somehow ended up on the scene to rescue her in situations where the Hardy Boys would have gotten themselves out of trouble.

        1. many of the original nancy drew books were sanitized in the 1950’s (yellow) reprints. Rarely in the originals did the whole gang (3 girls, 3 boyfriends) solve crimes together. Often Nancy was alone, without even the girls with her.

        2. Not in the original ones, the boyfriends didn’t. when they were re-written, sure…all the new ones, yeah. but I have the original, old-school ones up through volume 60 or so…and I don’t remember the boys ever “rescuing” the girls. They were around in the beginning of the story to see the girls off on some trip or other, and at the end to have dinner after the girls wrapped things up.

          I remember Nancy getting HERSELF out of trouble over and over. In fact, in the first several books, there aren’t ANY boyfriend mentioned at all.

          It wasn’t until after Carolyn Keene died and the stories were being written by someone else that the goyfriends started rescuing the girls!

        3. The Hardy Boys didn’t get themselves out of trouble. They were constantly being rescued. In fact, the easiest way to determine whodunnit was to eliminate anyone who saved their lives in that story. I only recall this method failing me once, when a killer guided by astrology saved their lives early in the story because it wasn’t yet time to kill them.

          In addition, their sidekick Chet had a new hobby in each book, and usually found some way to use it to either save their lives, or capture the fleeing antagonist.

    2. Pippi Longstocking! And her cousin, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. Great role models from Astrid Lindgren.

    3. DROP DEAD FRED was one of the better little-girl movies I’ve seen in a good long time, and with a message totally counter to the Disney one.

  7. Isn’t it more disturbing that Disney presents the idea of royalty as a good thing? Can’t they have more positive stories where the monarchs are overthrown by heroic peasants?

      1. I like it. Even though I suspect, in such a Disney movie, Marie, rather than being guillotined, would have a change of heart from her “let them eat cake” position, and the movie would end with her addressing a crowd of cheering peasants while bursting into song about how together they can make a new France.

        1. Jonathan: Well, they did change the ending of the Hunchback, so why not change history?

          Overall, I think my real problem with Disney is the marketing to the kiddos. It’s all geared toward getting them to not only buy tickets to a movie, or a book, but clothing, toys, a theme park, food, school supplies etc. And how much of that is tied with exploitation of workers in other countries? What they doing is building brand loyalty incredibly early. Not that it’s new, mind you, it just seems far more pervasive now than in previous generations, I think. While I agree about the messages the princesses send, for me, it’s not the most important problem regarding Disney.

          Good kids books, with smart girls? Children/YA books by Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Wolves in the Walls) and Terry Pratchett (the Tiffany Aching books) for my money. I’m sure I can think of others, too, but those are my faves right now…

          1. What isn’t about marketing tie-ins? Sesame Street? Dora the Explorer? Barney? Why pick on Disney just because they do it better than the others. Not that I approve, but you act like they’re the only one. Its pandemic in children’s TV and movies.

  8. My mom blocked me from ever watching Disney films or going to Disney-world/land, as a kid, precisely because of the above projected mythologies.

    Granted: there is now a huge black hole in my pop-culture repertoire… however watching the flames curl from her nostrils when she articulates the above is awesome. Go go fierce mommying, go!

  9. It’s funny ‘cus children don’t even think like this….so what’s the big deal? People try to make a big deal about everything these days. I watched the movies when I was a child, and these thoughts never came across my mind. Lame!

    1. No the thoughts wouldn’t cross your mind when you were a kid. The images would likely stick, tho.

    2. The problem is that these thoughts don’t “cross” a child’s mind. They embed themselves there below the level of consciousness, which makes them really, really hard to root out.

    3. the influence of these films on young girls cannot be denied, and most of that influence is subconscious so they are unaware. The influence it has on young boys’ perception of a woman’s role is also something to be said.

      1. except as a boy I never seen the princess’ like this. I love being so ignorant at times. I always thought Pocahontas was trying to use a diplomatic solution so her tribe can be safe instead of what the guys on both side wanted “rawr blood kill eachother”. Even the male characters were hard to bond with, Aladdin had to be himself and not fill his life with lies/thievery, did that stop me from lying? Not at all.

        Popeye on the other hand. I don’t even remember his girlfriend name. I just learned that spinach is delicious (which it is) and you always have to beat up Bruno. But they are sailors.

  10. Someone asked for positive role models for girls, and someone mentioned Miyazaki. He has many.

    Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, who saves her people from environmental destruction.

    Chihiro of “Spirited Away”, who has to save her parents and survive in a mysterious and terrifying spirit world (this one could be scary for younger kids, OK for 10 and up).

    Kiki of “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, a young witch who has to learn to make it on her own.

    And “My Neighbor Totoro”, just marvelous for younger girls.

    1. Chihiro is mega-awesome to the awesometh power, and the girls in “Totoro” (sorry, forget their names) are also kick-ass. Don’t forget the girl (again, the name escapes me) from “The Cat Returns”–she gives the Cat King what-for at the end. Granted, the Baron and MOOTAH (!) save her physically, but she doesn’t allow herself to be held prisoner by circumstance.

    2. And San from “Princess Mononoke”! Stops deforestation, saving the lives of the animals and the humans the animals have been attacking and saves the Forest Spirit.

  11. Jessicka Sinz — the point is exactly that people don’t usually think like this. It just sinks in without them knowing it. It’s only later, if we’re lucky and are exposed to some alternative ideas, that we might realise what garbage we swallowed when we were younger simply because we didn’t know any better.

    1. Nope sorry. I, and many others, still don’t think like that! So, I prove you wrong!

    2. The “Princesses” don’t teach these things. It’s all on how the PARENTS raise their children! BLAME THE PARENTS!

  12. Sad but true… Italo Calvino said that “Fairy tales are the catalogue of destinies” and, well, now I realize that Disney uses an abridged, unfair edition!

  13. Dating the girls here might be appropriate — Snow White is from 1939, while Ariel is 1989.

    In fact, the progression is easy to figure out — the waists (and busts?) keep getting smaller in proportion. Clearly the Disney animators are mostly butt men.

    But men they are. ;) By setting every story historically, even mythologically, they avoid a certain responsibility towards modern women.

    Here’s my question, Disney — what’s with the cherry-picking? Where are Mulan, Pocahontas, or even lesser romantic figures such as Mowgli’s girl from Jungle Book?

    Lower body exaggeration is a pre-requisite for a Disney ‘princess’.

    Prove me wrong, if you can.

  14. My daughter is into the Disney Princesses, even though she’s never seen any of the movies (at least not at home), and she recently went through a “girls can ONLY wear pink!” phase. At first I was worried that she might be picking up gender stereotypes from her peers, but I think the best antidote is balance. I’m trying to help her understand that there’s not just one way that all girls should be or all boys should be. It’s something I’ve struggled with myself, from the opposite extreme.

    In high school, most of my female friends were smart, independent, ambitious girls. We also read a lot of books with definite feminist leanings. I firmly believed that I should want to do more in life than fall in love, get married, and have babies. When I realized that that was exactly what I wanted, I felt really inadequate. Eventually I came to accept that it’s OK to want those things, too. Whatever makes you happy, right?

  15. This is such an absentee parent discussion! Does it really matter what they enjoy, so long as you actually inform them of the difference between entertainment and reality?

    I can only imagine kids with over-preening parents falling for this rubbish.

    And personally, Jasmin rings my belle. And Pocahontas. Not so much Snow White. Cinderella – yes, too wet behind the ears. Mulan – she’s a dude! You didn’t mention her! Belle – work harder to escape, my lady. And who’s the frog one again? Actually rather pretty.

    Maybe these princesses are too wonderful for the kids.

    1. Maybe these princesses are too wonderful for the kids.

      Yeah, who are we to judge that real live human children are more valuable than fictional characters who also act as trademarks?

      But y’know what’s insensitive? No one here has asked what the princesses themselves think of their work. Maybe they just needed the exposure, and took what opportunity the patriarchal structure of corporate entertainment allowed them. What is it like to be cartoon character and just be forced to behave however the whim of a committee of hack shills commands?

      What would Feminist Hulk say about our unexamined privilege of being enfranchised, non-fictional people?

  16. I always thought that the worst thing Disney taught children was that above all, revenge was paramount.
    There can be no forgiveness.

    1. About Disney teaching vengeance being paramount: What about Lion king? Simba was about to show Scar mercy and let him go, but right after he did give him a change, Scar tried to kill him again(For a Third time), and Simba defended himself.

      And “unfortunately”, these stories have existed LONG before Disney, so only where they’ve been guilty is re-energizing them a bit. All those stories except for Alladin I’ve known years before watching them on film.

      As for Disney “Conspiracy for keeping all the women under the heel of men, while making profit.” There is none, they’ve just replicated old stories to their best of their ability, without thinking anything. Of course, you could actually found it being more incriminating: They didn’t think about being role models, they just did it for the profit…

      Can’t say they don’t have point with this over simplification, but then again “Princess” has never been a good role model for women in the first place, no matter who’ve done it. “Queen” always inspires more respect, but Royalty is not about something you’ve achieved or worked for, it’s about something you’ve happen to born with, So that’s about it.

  17. Uh… is this a parody or not? Kind of hard to tell. Looks like someone already beat me to pointing out the missing Tiana, Mulan and Pocahontas.

  18. Why isnt Pocahontas on here?? Surely she is a good role model?!

    Sells out her people to a genocidal invader, ‘because, like, one of them is hot?

    Or am I remembering the story wrong.

  19. Nice ! I can’t wait for the same analysis with Superman and other superheroes to be posted !

  20. @ walter
    I don’t think that this necessarily an absentee parent discussion. The stories that we’re exposed to matter a great deal, and strongly effect the way that we interpret reality, or the story that we tell ourselves about our experience of reality.

    1. Agreed, stories and their incantations are powerful shapers of our perceptions – but with simple explanation and gentle showing of the way, stories can be relieved of their mystical qualities.

      Like the Jesus story. Teaching kids that he was actually a man, not begat of a sky god, goes a long way to helping them distill the useful and pragmatic information within from the nonsensical fairy-tale bias. Not to drag an unsuspecting religion into this (although all religion is, of course, suspicious).

      I say show them what’s useful, laugh with the kids at the fact these silly protagonists always have some grinning rich idiot prince save them, and show them that it’s just entertainment.

      Ariel, for instance, is a wonderful gateway to learning about the undersea world.

  21. I always found that telling the real stories about real people were the best teaching moments for my daughter and son. Disney is just entertainment. Hearing about how their great grandmother escaped to America to become a foster parent 12 times had more influence than Disney or video games.

  22. I think people are unfairly harsh on Disney’s version of the Little Mermaid. If the message of the story was that you have to give up your voice to find love then it would be pretty bad, but that’s really not what the story is about. She never should have given up her voice, but she felt pressured into making that decision because her overbearing father was not allowing her to live out the life she wanted to. She was willing to sacrifice anything to pursue her dreams.

    In the end, her father realizes that he was wrong to limit her, she gets her voice back, and things work out pretty okay for her. The moral is more, “Seek your own path in life even if it is hard and eventually you will find love and your stubborn parents will come around.” The “Radically changing your body” bit is ridiculous in this context since a mermaid would have to become a human to function well on land. In that fantasy world changing from a mermaid to a human is the equivalent of moving to another country, not getting radical plastic surgery.

    For those who don’t know, in the original story of the little mermaid the little mermaid dies and the moral is basically “Obey your father or you’ll die.” Disney actually put a very positive spin on this story, as they did with Beauty and the Beast by making Belle intelligent and self-directed.

    Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all stay very close to the original fairy tales which have been around for a long time. It’s not really fair to hand Disney the blame for the way those stories were written, or for the fact that people continue to want to watch and buy these “Classics.”

    I’m not saying Disney is a beacon of feminism, but as time goes on and they adapt more stories they work on updating them to make female characters that are better role models than princesses waiting to be saved by princes. They are not leaders in keeping women down, they are just reflections of the culture at the time the movies are made.

    1. No genius, the original story was NOT about obeying your father. It was about love being about giving not taking. The Disney film was a travesty. especially given that it was released in the 90s. The older ones can be forgiven. But to retell a story that is about giving and not taking (she sacrifices herself to save the prince) and things not always going your way, and turning it into a story about getting married and living happily ever after at the age of sixteen is ludicrous. I grew up Disney. I have a love hate relationship with these messages. But it is PAST time for them to update it.

    2. She never should have given up her voice, but she felt pressured into making that decision because her overbearing father was not allowing her to live out the life she wanted to.

      I dunno, I think King Triton actually had a pretty reasonable position there…

      1) Ariel was 16.
      2) The Prince was personally responsible for killing and eating many of the King’s subjects, even as he wooed the girl.
      3) The two didn’t really have anything in common anyway. Like compatible genitalia.

    3. For those who don’t know, in the original story of the little mermaid the little mermaid dies and the moral is basically “Obey your father or you’ll die.”

      I think it’s much more insightful than that. The (original) message is pretty much that if you sacrifice family, friends, your own nature and personality for love alone, it is a very real possibility that you may lose it all.

      The little mermaid is lovestruck, reckless and naive. She places all her bets on the prince but barely considers the possibility of him NOT reciprocating. Andersen’s original story, although tragic, does give the mermaid the alternative to gain her own soul through her own will and good actions instead of entirely depending on the prince (she does die, but becomes a spirit instead of sea foam, redeemed by her choice not to do evil to save her own life, and can earn her immortal soul through good actions for 100 years). I think it’s a sound message, and somewhat more temperate.

      The Disney version is a lot less nuanced: The mermaid falls in love and, as in most movies, that’s the ultimate goal so there’s no way she won’t get her prince. There is also no way the prince could genuinely fall in love with someone other than our mermaid, so the ‘other woman’ is of course an evil bitch with a sordid agenda (in the original, the other girl is completely innocent and even saddened by the mermaid’s ultimate demise). In the end, the lesson is that if you’re cute and spunky enough, you’ll get exactly what you want, the evil bitch scheming against you will die and everybody, including your uncool dad, will see that you were 100% right all along and kiss your ass.

      Because any lesson other that “YOU WIN, all the time” might damage the kids’ self-esteem or traumatize them.

      That said, I actually like Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’, as a very well-made animation movie with its own charm despite feeling that the original story has way more depth and value. Disney no doubt sticks with very safe, predictable and rather unoriginal territory and that’s a damn shame. But then again, everything can’t be a complete storytelling masterpiece, all the time…

      My daughter will probably watch Disney movies, including the ‘princess’ ones, because I’m an animation buff and Disney flics do have value in terms of entertainment and craft. However, she will also be exposed to Miyazaki, Paul Grimault, Soyuzfilm (I have a huge collection for her to pick from)… That’s without mentioning all the books she’ll have access to. I expect her scope will be far beyond Disney and fairy tale princesses.

    4. I disagree. I LOVED the original Little Mermaid. I mean, I didn’t like the story as a child but that’s because when I was a child I believed if you sacrificed and did the right things you get rewarded. I truly appreciate the Little Mermaid now, as an adult, because it tells the story of a girl who gave up everything for love and wasn’t rewarded in the traditional sense. The kicker was that the love story was between her Prince and another, she was the one on the unrequited end. And, unlike Disney’s Little Mermaid, she didn’t just lose her voice and magic couldn’t bring it back. She lost her tongue, of her own will. The witch was not evil, she just told the Little Mermaid the price of becoming a human and the Little Mermaid CHOSE to pay it, on her own free will – without coercion. I personally think the Little Mermaid fairytale is one of those closest to life stories. She couldn’t kill the prince in the end to save her own life because she truly loved him, him loving her in return had nothing to do with whether SHE loved HIM or not. It kind of shows the side of love that is truly tragic but majestic, we all like to think we will die for our loved ones but that doesn’t mean everyone will. The Little Mermaid did, and what others would have viewed as punishment, she did not. I’m not saying she’s the role model one should follow, and in the original story, I very much doubt any young girl would say “Hey, I would cut out my tongue and walk on glass every day to be with the man I love and then die for him when he won’t love me back.” But I like the message that in reality, the people we love doesn’t always love us back, but it doesn’t make love untrue if it’s not reciprocated equally (or at all). Love itself redeems us, not just the feeling but the choices and actions we make for it.

      It doesn’t, necessarily, have the story book happily ever after, but just because love may break our hearts (and in the Little Mermaid’s case, kill her), it doesn’t mean the person who loved would choose differently, no matter how foolishly others view the act. Come on, true love is not about reward or pride or possession, and that’s what the original story taught me. While the Disney version was fun to watch, the message was completely different then the original.

      (Well, that and you know, the original story had a LOT of religious (Judeo-Christian) overtones to it too :P That may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Good thing I read the atheist version of it when I was little!)

  23. Rats. I’ve been going about this parenting thing all wrong! I didn’t realize I was supposed to let Disney teach my children…

    Actually, my daughter went through a pokemon stage.. I can only imagine what Ash, Dawn and Brock have been teaching my kids…

    As long as they don’t grow up like that Gary Oak!

    ps – Sleeping Beauty wasn’t really DEAD, just asleep, no?

  24. Mulan, Lilo and Lilo’s older sister from Lilo and Stitch rock my world. They’re my favorite Disney characters (and movies) for good reason: Mulan is independent, strong, and saves her kingdom by herself. Lilo and her older sister are (nearly) accurate representations of kids in a tough spot trying to keep it together, psychological warts and all.

    Of course, for real American-animated girl power, I’d recommend Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is chock full of great female personalities, including villians (and there’s no waffling about boys giving the girls a fair fight, either). Check it out! :)

  25. It’s not just the Princess line that’s disturbing. I was watching Disney Channel with my nieces and the movie (‘Starstruck’) featured a boy celebrity that fell for a commoner. In order to protect the first-week gross on a movie, he went on national TV to deny knowing her and called her a stalker. I paused it so we could talk about how any guy who wants to hide you from the world isn’t in love with you and isn’t someone you want to love.

    Even ten years ago, Disney was making kid movies with strong girl leads in them. Of course, Lindsey Lohan was in many of them, so there might not be a way out of this. Still, Disney can make money without programming girls to be future strippers and mistresses. First Disney Channel and then Jerry Springer.

  26. funny, since the generation that grew up on these appears to be composed of the most fervent feminists this side of the 60’s…

    also funny that no one seems to have as much of an issue with the male characters. you know, the ones who are all 6’2″, ripped and sporting a bruce campbell like jaw? the ones whose lot in life is obsessing over one single girl that they don’t even really know?

  27. Ah, a feminist interpretation of Walt Disney. Are kids smart enough to figure out that cartoons are not an accurate representation of reality?

  28. “Number the Stars” and the original American Girl books tell stories about strong, independent protagonists with *zero* focus on boys/romance.

  29. Yep, let’s leave out the most recent Disney movie, where the protagonist is a.) a black woman and b.) the motivated one in the relationship.

  30. What I always thought:
    Cinderella: “Cleaning is for ugly girls and foreigners.”
    Snow White: “Sleep with whomever you have to if it gets you what you want…even dwarves.”
    Belle: “Smart girls who read are social outcasts, but you might get a nerdy rich guy if you’re prepared to overlook a few personal hygiene issues.”
    Ariel: “No matter what drastic measures you take, sometimes you’re just gonna smell like fish.”…
    Sleeping Beauty: “SO many things can get messed up by one little prick.”
    Jasmine: “Don’t ride a flying carpet with a stranger unless he’s prepared to share whatever he’s smoking.”

  31. Hey, I’m just glad to see some Disney criticism on here to balance out Cory’s somewhat creepy Disneyphilia.

  32. What Popeye cartoons taught me:

    Women are fickle and untrustworthy.

    The world is full of violent bullies.

    You only find strength to defeat the bullies by ingesting a green, leafy substance.

  33. There’s something to be said about developing pride and promoting your best features. But most fairy tales were born of medieval, pre-industrial age cultures. And like many earlier mythologies, it came down not from one book or source but from an ongoing spoken cultural movement. Our myths and archetypes are still moving and changing as our culture changes. This website and the subsequent comments reflect our attitudes which are certain to shape future myths and fairytales.

  34. Good lessons all. But, of course, we don’t live in a Feudal system, so the entire idea of Disney princesses being role models is pointless.

  35. Twitter user @whyiwatch said about this: “What Disney princesses teach girls, or why I’d rather raise my daughter on vampire slayers”.

    I agree with her.

  36. i think you could have taken it further, especially with Belle. He screamed at her locked her in her room and threatened to starve her. but it’s all okay because after he kept your dad in a dungeon he replaced him with you. wait….

  37. While neither PC nor enlightened, the roles and attitudes in these ancient stories were and remain widely felt throughout many cultures. Disney didn’t make them up. It simply capitalizes on primal feelings, as does virtually every corporation and political party that has ever existed. It’s a jungle out there.

    1. It simply capitalizes on primal feelings

      If those feelings are primal, how is it that many early societies were matriarchal?

  38. I note that this lift left out any princesses after 1991:

    Jasmine (who was willing to give up royalty and wealth to find happyness)
    Nala (Not technically a princess since she didn’t “marry” Simba until after he was king, but she was betrothed to the prince. In any case, she helped lead a revolt against the ruthless tyrant)
    Pocahontas (Okay, there is no real positive message here either)
    Esmerelda (Not a princess by any stretch of the imagination, but a strong female character who strove to end the discrimination against her people, even if she did fall for the handsome soldier instead of the deformed hunchback)
    Megara from Hercules (Not technically a princess since she marries a son of the gods instead of a son of a king, but she is a poor role model who sacrifices her soul for a man who later betrays her, and later cannot carry out her assigned task because love gets in the way)
    Mulan (A strong female figure who defies gender stereotypes, while surrounded by male characters who are mindless idiots)
    Jane (Also not technically a princess since Tarzan went directly from “Tarzan of the Apes” to “King of the Apes” without being prince. Not a terribly good role model since she falls for the hunky Tarzan despite him being uneducated and essentially a wild animal)
    Tiana (Another strong role model, she is the only “human” character in the entire movie with ambition and work ethic, and the only one not impressed by the prince until he gets a serious additude readjustment)

  39. The moral is more, “Seek your own path in life even if it is hard and eventually you will find love and your stubborn parents will come around.”

    Does not match many real life examples I am exposed to. Love comes and goes, and really long-term relationships depend on not expecting too much, e.g. too much love either. And your stubborn, possibly abusive, parents can be and think anything they want, forever. They are not slaves to anybody’s narrative structure, or any models in the media about how life is supposed to work.

  40. The Disney Princesses page features all of them, with Tiana in the center.

    We don’t watch that. We watch Miyazaki and Avatar – the animated series from Nickelodeon. Kitara is freakin’ awesome (and makes a super-cute Haween costume, too), and there are several other strong, dimensional female characters.

  41. It’s not just the Disney princess stories that teach girls those ideas. The Twilight Series is hugely popular, and tells girls that it’s okay to ignore all logic and risk your life to be with a guy… go into a deep, suicidal, depression when he disappears, and then happily take him back when he decides to marry you.
    I guess what I’m saying is, the problem goes far beyond Disney, and is disturbingly present in our current “better informed” society.

  42. What irks me is that the Disnification of fairy tales devalues the original stories – the unbowderlized, fantastic stories that, while weird and not always sensible, through their telling impart a wide variety of messages to kids and help them subconsciously work through all sorts of angst, meta-life issues, and other stuff. (For more, though rather dated, information, see ‘The Uses of Enchantment: THe meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales” by Bruno Bettelheim, and any collection of fairy tales discussed or annotated by Maria Tartar)

    While I always enjoyed the songs and shiny animation of the Disney versions, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a variety of the original stories, as well as some great lesser known tales (One of my favourites as a kid was “Billy Beg and His Bull” and “The Girl who went to live with the Cats”)

    Nickelodeon, when I was a kid in the late 80’s/early 90’s, had some fantastic animated fairy tale theater type programs (Hell, one of them did an animated version of “Jorinda and Joringle”!) and the Fairy Tale Theater live action shows hosted by Shelly Winter were pretty accurate, and at least had a broad spectrum of stories.

  43. as an 18 year old girl and a huge super fan of disney princesses even after analyzing them in multiple classes i have something to say…

    i can see how people can interpret disney princess movies as sexist and degrading towards girls but at the same time there are other things that people can learn from them.

    If anythings it serves as an escape to an alternate life where everything is happily ever after and dreams do come true.

    I grew up on these movies and i still see them multiple times as means of destressing after a long day at university. Yet i still find myself to be a very active person in women’s rights. I am independent of men, i am working on a career towards a doctor so that i can take care of myself. I will be damned if i sit around waiting for prince charming or let a man abuse me.

    And still I am perfectly fine with seeing such movies and watching them not to find a deeper meaning but to enjoy and forget about the cold harsh world where things like glass ceiling and motherhood penalties still exist.

    If i ever do have children, which will not be anytime soon, I see nothing wrong with letting them see disney movies or going to disneyland. There kids and in the end if adults are going to overreact about every little thing out there then might as well throw tv’s, computers, and radios out because the majority of the media available now a days shows people that are less than role-model material.

    If your going to criticize disney movies dont be sexist and attack the females, the guys in these movies are also less than role-model material.

    Plus always keep in mind the era these movies where produced in, or the original stories for that matter, and then see the values and the role of women that was common in those times. Obviously things where way different for women back then.

    And at the end of the day i feel more than anything its the parents responsibility to act as role models to their kids.

    Nancy Drew rocks. Belle too :D

  44. I’m guilty of being a princess disney fan & sharing this with my daughter and really, all i gotta say is: Just teach’em better! Things like these should only really affect those kids whose parents don’t take the time to talk to them and explain things.
    I still think this is cool :P

  45. Three words: THE LAST UNICORN

    (Mia Farrow & Jeff Bridges classic)

    She explores the unknown and once she learns of the enslavement of her race, fights down the fearsome raging bull to free them all. Then, unsatisfied with her perfect human form, leaves her airhead prince to go back to life as a unicorn, wild and wise.

    1. Wait, if you’re going to use The Last Unicorn as a good example, then don’t use the unicorn! She was helpless in her human form, she even began to forget she WAS a unicorn! It was, in fact, the wizard and Molly Grue – a woman who was damaged by life but still refused to give up (and who my amazing and sweet pit bull was named after) – who saved her, and in turn helped her save the others of her race.

  46. On the other hand Mulan, Pocahontas and the girls in all the Studio Ghibli films (Spirited Away, Totoro, Kiki’s
    Delivery service etc.) that are distributed by Disney in the US are strong female characters.

  47. We have to remember that the stories Disney commodifies into films are culturally rooted in Western folklore. These values of beauty in women are not products created by the Disney Corporation. Rather, they are intertwined with our cultural fabric that goes back to pre-medieval times. While Disney has had an effect on our value system, I believe Disney and its products is more a result of our culture than a cause.

  48. In all fairness, that’s the general message of all fairy tales, even the old skool Brothers Grimm ones.

  49. i let my kids watch whatever they want, limited by the ratings system and within reason. they can watch “the chronicles of narnia” of they want, but after that i’ll bring home “the golden compass”. they’re a little too young to compare and contrast, but how can you resist cute talking animals? for ever horrible lesson taught in a kids movie, there is a good one…and just how much kids glean from them, i’m not sure.

  50. “Appearances don’t matter, what counts is what’s in your heart. Unless you’re the girl” – hahahahaha.

    Sad but true.

  51. Good expose!

    PIXAR does a little better job, although even in UP, it’s the little old man who gets the adventure. His lovely (made me cry) wife… well watch it if you haven’t. I’m no spoiler.

  52. WOW that’s so true! I’ll bet you every little girl in the world has seen all the princess movies! and yet what *are* they teaching them???

  53. Cartoons. They teach us such bad things don’t they? My brother once wanted to do a paper on the influence of Pepe LePew and how it contributed to date rape.

  54. See,
    It’s been years that I tell my girls that Cinderella is mentally challenged…Can you imagine her , in her princess gown, making clothes for mice in the palace… Not a royal image.
    As for Snow-White, she goes away with the first guy who kisses her (without her consent). Lost in the forest, she doesn’t look for a map but does the dishes and cleans for 7 men….Something fishy with her too.

    Talking about fishy, Ariel is basically a doll: do whatever to me you want, ask anything and I will do it: rebels against authority, well an air head model.

    Mulan? As to disguise herself as a guy to be able to be a hero of some kind….

    And we could go on and on…..

    When will the hero to be girls, able to be feminine but certainly not fighting in a sexy outfit (why in earth would we undress to go on a front line!!!), able to make decisions (without having to be a virgin like Jane of Arc, who got killed anyway).
    What do we want our sisters, daughters, aunts, women of this world to look up to in 20 minutes, 20 years, 20 centuries…


  55. Ooh, look at us, being edgy by criticizing Disney.

    I took more issue with Aurora not SPEAKING for the last bit of the movie, even after she’d woken up. Previous to the “hot princely action”, she had actually met Philip and at least started to form a relationship with him. Jasmine rebelled against the notion that she was not good for anything but political marriage and, ultimately, the film agreed with her. Belle is intelligent and rational and adventurous and bookish and, zounds!, also pretty. As for Ariel, I agree with everything except chastising her for “abandoning her family”. As the film established, she was itching to leave the nest long before she’d even seen “her man”. God forbid she want to be independent.

  56. I only like Belle, because she abandon her family for a man-she exchanged places with her father to save him. She didn’t wait around for some attractive man to find her worth-she rejected the wealthy town idiot because he was…well, and idiot.
    She’s always been my favorite, and I don’t think she deserves to make this list. Plus, she wasn’t even a princess. Her father was poor.

  57. Seriously, children dont usually wanna grow up to be a cartoon forever. They grow out of that phase. This all depends on the parenting. I think I would explain the reality to my daughter so she wouldnt believe the BS. So parenting is what makes the difference.

  58. I don’t know if your joking with this, but I would like to make a few comments.

    Starting with Princess Aurora- Well she has a curse on her, and it’s such a beautiful thing for her lover to fight his way and risk his life to save her and break the curse when the lovely fairies inform him about it. So, that’s a pretty odd thing to say about it, especially when he just kisses her doesn’t go any further than that…  
    Next Princess Snow White-being almost posined by someone is terrible enough. And it’s not even because of her being beautiful, she portrays inner beauty and outer beauty hints to why she’s so loved by everyone. The women was not mad because of her beauty but because of what she had, and earned for being such a great person.
    Princess Ariel-She didn’t make a choice to ‘abandan’ her family forever, she wanted to win her true loves heart and not let anything stand in the way. She took a risk, and worked until she got it. She didn’t change her body she just let her fins go temporary in order to complete goals. The lesson I can see never give up on your goals and always work hard.
    Princess Cinderella- She didn’t escape her living conditions from her beauty, she escaped them from showing the Prince who she really is, and he fell in love with her for her. She was such a great person, and that’s what made her stand out from everyone else.
    Princess Bell- This one kinda confuses me when you put a comment like that by her picture. It’s funny because she was the girl who turned down a handsome bachelor in the first place, she didn’t like him because he had a horrible “inside” or personality. So looks didn’t matter to a guy anyway. She fell in love with the beast for him, and magically he transformed into a human, a very handsome one. 
    Princess Jasmine- She didn’t want to marry any one. She wanted to marry someone that would make her happy and in the end her father changes the rules just to let Aladdin become her husband. So when you say political worth by marriage. Aladdin was anything from royalty. Your honestly just a hater, and need to understand the full concepts of Disney princesses. Don’t insult something you have no businessmen insulting Disney’s a very family orientated brand. I think you could use a few lessons from those movies!

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