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Sociological Deconstruction of the Disney Princesses


Image: Jeff Brunner


Jeff Brunner offers this scathing critique of the values that the Disney Princesses teach girls. At the link, you can view a response about what Disney teaches boys.

Link via Popped Culture

you have to realize that all these stories predate disney. The princesses' roles where likely set long before woman's sufferage, never mind the feminist movement. So disney (in regular disney fashion) took stories that already existed and made it their own, within the original framework. Why doesn't Mr. Brunner consider characters like Wendy, or Mulan. or more modern disney female roles, like in pixar movies. Pixar's stories tend to be brand new and not recycled. So, females characters aren't held down by their pre-feminist/ woman's suffrage beginnings.
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There are no fairy tales about someone getting a job, working hard for twenty years and buying the company. There are no fairy tales about marrying your school sweetheart and raising a family for 30 blissful years.

They are fairy tales. Fairies pop in for no reason and save the day. It is a literary device called "Deus Ex Machina" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deus_ex_machina). Anyone who thinks the characters and their actions in fairy tales are role models needs to literarily grow up.
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You know, I will agree that a lot of Disney 'princesses' can send a pretty bad message to little girls, but 'Beauty and The Beast' went out of it's way to show that Belle was smart and inquisitive. And jeez I can't believe I'm writing this...in the end it's love that saves the prince.

Just sayin.
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This is ridiculous! To say that Belle of Beauty and the Beast has "only one asset - her sexuality" is just wrong. In the film she was portrayed as a whip-smart bookworm, and her brains intimidated men like Gaston.

Jasmine is a similarly powerful female character, and of course Pocahontas and Mulan aren't in this picture, all the better to make the author's fairly shaky point.
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The only one I dispute is Belle. She saves a prince by being openhearted, seeing past appearances and choosing substance over flash. How is that 'her sexuality'?
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Disney did not write these stories. In the 1600's there was no women's lib. If you are teaching your girls that being a Disney Princess is anything but imagination and fantasy it's your own fault. Give your kids a well rounded education and set of roll models. Quit depending on Media to instill values in your Children.
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This is silly and can only be taken on a comical level. For one, the real fairy tales, not the sanitized Disney versions, are not only grisly,entertaining horror stories, but were at one time, relevant cautionary tales. Heck, some of them still are. Secondly, it's a fairy tale. When you start insisting that fairy tales be adjusted to reflect feminist or other modern values, you sap all the fun out of them.
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I'd like to introduce another point: how is this "neat"? This critique is neither new nor productive. I agree with the comments above, give your kids a wide selection of views. Young children live in a world of magic. They don't think twice about the possibility of kissing a dead girl to make her come back to life.
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Okay, my knee-jerk reaction was to find this amusing, but the reality is that this is pretty unfair to Disney.

The first, and maybe most obvious, issue I have is with the fact that whoever did this cherry picked the characters that make their argument. Where's Mulan or Pocahontas? Oh, those characters don't really fit the message so we'll just ignore them.

Second, characters like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella are taken way out of context. At least the dates are acknowledged, but is it really fair at all to hold Disney movies from 1937 up to a modern feminist standard?

Finally, the characterization on Belle is pretty brief, and I suspect that's because the complaint doesn't really fit. Belle was very independent and her sexuality had nothing to do with saving the Beast.

In short, the whole thing is kind of ridiculous.
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Its sexist. Belle's only asset isn't how she looks, she's the smartest person in her village. The whole first bit is about how much she loves books.
Ariel is an archivist who goes on land to connect with the elusive race she's been studying forever.
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Why am I not suprised to see that this article has more comments than the others. As mentioned all these girls are young and all these stories are old. No you can't blame Walt for 19th century values.
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I think this view of Disney princesses is a bit simplistic as many people have already suggested. I've always enjoyed fairy tales (both the Disney versions and the originals) as well as alternative tellings and little known tales that are rarely seen anymore. I enjoy them because they are a bit of escapist fantasy. On the other hand I won't be exposing my kids to them (Disney or original) until they're old enough to understand that this really is an unrealistic fantasy and not something to aspire to.

If you have a strong stomach I'd recommend looking up the original stories, which were passed down orally, not to entertain children but to teach them serious life lessons about societal standards, political scheming, incest and rape, slavery, brutality and survival. I think most people would be surprised how graphic and scary the original stories were and how little emphasis was put on how fabulous it would be to be a princess/prince. Because it wasn't. While it was probably a far cry better than being a peasant in terms of food and shelter, princes and especially princesses were little more than property, had very few personal freedoms and had to deal with all the same dangers as a peasant child.
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and they all have psychological issues too..

snow white - lives w/ 7 men...
sleeping beauty - has narcolepsy
jasmine - went on "magic" carpet rides.
ariel - idk.. she's a mermaid?
belle - into beastiality
cinderella - has OCD
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Women are unstable. They should live confined lives, and should not take part in important decision making. The ones with exceptional looks should be treated differently. Almost with a kind of respect, but not the same respect that hardworking men share for each other. More of like "Hey this one is good looking".
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Please note the title here: Sociological Deconstruction of the Disney Princesses. Princesses, not Disney Leading Ladies. Mulan was just a girl who joined the military illegally, sure, breaking the law makes her a great role model for little girls, but it doesn't make her a princess. The argument could be made that Pocahontas, being the daughter of the chief, is like a princess, but it's shaky at best.
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Also, let's not have it overlooked that Jasmine is by far the hottest of all Disney Princesses. Nah, the hottest of all Disney characters, ever. Jasmine is wicked hot.
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Oops, submitted too soon. If we really must point our fingers at anything, it's the fact that the 1937 Snow White is the only one of the bunch that won't cause little girls to turn anorexic to look like her. The others are turning into beanpoles.
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This isn't necessarily a jab at Disney, since the story existed well before the movie, but Beauty and the Beast always bothered me. Not because of how Belle is presented, but because the story involves her essentially being enslaved by someone who is angry, and abusive. But then, of course, just by getting to know him better and being nice to him, she changes him and falls in love. That's a pretty twisted message to girls in a world where many of them will be involved in abusive relationships. I don't fault Disney for the plot, but I'm not sure they showed the best judgment in choosing that particular story to remake. I felt uncomfortable with this movie when I first saw it and I was only 10.
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I do enjoy the old classics nevertheless.
The newer ones don't suit my tastes at all :(
Disney tries to compensate by taking the traditional helpless damsel in distress and turn her into a "modern" everyday women and I find it quite boring.
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this looks less a serious sociological deconstruction than an image a troll would produce in 5 minutes to piss off disney fans. most of them are editorialized ("she has nothing of value to say"), selectively abridged ("saves a prince's life."), or summarized without analysis ("she is enslaved by a powerful man and is only saved by the wit of a street rat.") I do think it's an interesting topic, though, and I appreciate that it sparks a discussion.
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Newer princesses looks more modern, smart and liberated. But they send the same message that older princesses (get saved by males) did, which is even worse because no modern girl will identify herself with Snow White but they can with Jasmin.
Here is where the value of Pixar comes in, with new (and way better) stories, new characters better storytelling (less songs) and new technologies this generation will be growing much more liberated and become free thinkers.
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To: " The man of the house"
Seriously? You MUST be joking. If you are , it isn't funny. If you aren't, may an army of PHD holding, bad ass women beat you until every misogynistic bone in your body is completely obliterated. I can't believe that people like you still exist. Educate yourself, it's your only hope.
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Are you guys seriously debating a picture that someone made in MS Paint? Get over it, folks. I saw this on 4chan a while back and thought to myself, "what a clever troll," and I moved on. There are WAY more important things out there than getting butthurt over which Disney princess isn't getting a fair shake.

Having just returned from a lengthy expedition to the land of chan, my immediate instinct is that "The man of the house" wasn't trolling but being sarcastic to make a point, and that "this matters" is reverse-trolling. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one, since the alternative is that he is very easily fooled.
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I took a films and literature class once in which the professor chose the particular theme of fairy tales that had been made into Disney films. Disney definitely had a thing about mothers, as you'll see if you look at how few "classic" Disney films feature mothers.

And I agree, Belle was more than just her beauty. I was so happy when "Beauty and the Beast" came out, because not only had Disney come up with a film heroine who was bookish, but she had BROWN HAIR. (This is a big deal to a brown-eyed brunette who grew up surrounded by blonde, blue-eyed imagery)
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Okay but here is the thing, we as adults see that they are stories and that princes dont just pop out of no where and save the normal looking folks...but its true that LITTLE GIRLS are taking the wrong messages. Walt Disney was a high level Free Mason and a rasicst sob to boot. He knew that only having the most sexually pleasing women being saved by the man would lead young women to be easily swayed into harmful ways of changing their bodies like eating disorders. Not many young girls are going to relate to the large busted tiny waists and big sultry eyes of the princesses while being an undeveloped and confused child. while the guy who made this is a numskull and hasn't learned about photoshop yet its a valid point that LITTLE GIRLS (not you or I) are taking bad values away from those movies.
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I just have to laugh at those of you defending the "hard-working" aspects of these women....duh, hardworking in house-chores, another reason that these stories are showing stereo-typical attitudes towards women; not only should they be beautiful and sexual, they should know how to upkeep the home! Ridiculous what the stories imply, thank goodness anyone who watches these are too young to understand the underlying implications and by the time they are old enough to understand, they wont consider a fairy tale life-style the way to go!
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