Yes almost everyone loves a Disney Princess. But don’t be blinded: Beneath the romance, flowers and singing woodland creatures of the classic Disney hides a host of stereotypes that shaped our generation.
Disney has always been criticised for having films that promote hegemony and show off elaborate and unrealistic stereotypes. They supposedly changed more in their latest releases such as Moana and Frozen.
Looking at the classic films it is clear to see that the princesses conform to almost every stereotype of a woman at the time. The classic damsel in distress is shown throughout the films, for example, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
I would argue that these two films are the biggest offenders in promoting hegemonic values and beliefs. The basic plot of the Cinderella is that she gets a make over to ‘become beautiful enough to go to the ball’ where Prince Charming falls in love with her. This film is basically saying that in order to get a Prince you have to have a makeover before you meet so he likes you.
In Sleeping beauty they instantly fall in love upon meeting, spend absolutely no time getting to know anything about each other, and then live happily ever after. This sends a message to the audience that when it comes to love, it’s what’s on the outside that counts. Attractiveness is synonymous with happiness.
Even in more recent releases such as Frozen, which were supposedly anti-hegemonic and changed peoples opinion of Disney to the better, there are still stereotypes. Elsa sings ‘Let it Go’ and changes from a buttoned up, repressed princess to a sexy siren. Seriously–why does realising you need to be free involve whipping free your long blond hair, and a slit up to the thigh on a sexy sparkling dress? It could be viewed as positive as she appears to be sexually liberated but is that a theme that should arise in a childs’ disney film?
On the other hand, a key moment was Elsa saving Anna with true love’s kiss. The love of a sister, not a man, being the important distinction between this film and the ones of the past.
This is a significant change as it shows family to be a more entered and important part of life which wasn’t shown as much in previous Disney films. Ariel in The Little Mermaid actually decided to trade her voice in order to get legs so she could meet her man, which meant not only being a female character who literally had to have no voice in order to be loved but also leaving her family forever and not being able to go back.
The latest release Moana also attempts to challenge stereotypes and hegemonic values. Moana is based on a Polynesian myth about the daughter of the chief of her tribe. A curse is put on the island by mother nature, Moana is called upon by the ocean to go on a voyage to save it and ultimately is the hero of the story.
Moana is called ‘the most revolutionary princess yet’ and i would agree with this statement, since the issues people commented on about Frozen they were sure not to make the same mistake again with this film. However, i would say that the only issue left that in order to be independent and powerful she has to conform to male stereotypes, which is still promoting hegemonic values.
Overall, i would say that there is little to no issue with Disney’s’ films and stereotypes. The word stereotype exists because people like that do exist. Some women are traditional like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty whilst some are more independent and adventurous like Moana, and some are in between like Elsa from Frozen.