By Nasheetah Hosssain
Growing up, I always felt put off by the Disney princesses that so amused most of my friends. Despite the unrealistic body images and almost too perfect personalities, the negative effects on viewers often seem to go unnoticed, especially how these ideals affect not only girls but also their male counterparts.
In “Cinderella,” for instance, she is a soft and kind girl, but the name in itself (meaning “little ash-girl” in French) indicates that what really classifies her as a “good girl” is her relentlessness in slaving away for her evil step-mother and step-sisters. As Cinderella grows up, she goes to a ball where a rich and handsome prince “saves” her from her painful life. This teaches girls that they must be hardworking and selfless even in abusive situations.
And what does this mean for the young boys watching this? It tells them that to be able to be with a “good girl,” they must be first and foremost good looking and financially stable. It creates the image that a man is only worthy of a beautiful and hard-working woman when he acquires the characteristics of a traditional ‘prince.’
The pattern continues in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” This princess is characterized similarly to Cinderella with her abilities to clean a house, but also by her physical attributes to such an extent that her very name stems from the color of her skin, indicating that the princess, with skin like snow, is essentially an ideal. This teaches girls that they must not only be physically perfect, but willing to cook and clean for any man, even seven of them.
The prince is again a similar shell of a man, good simply because he is rich, broad chested and handsome. This teaches boys that if one does meet those criteria, then it is acceptable for him to, quite literally, kiss a dead body. The “good girl” here has no way of stopping him, and by doing what he felt right regardless of her choices, he “saves” her and brings her back to life.
These traditional Disney princesses, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. have a stark contrast to new and more diverse movies that Disney has released more recently. In movies like “Tangled” (2010), “Brave” (2012), “Frozen” (2013), and “Moana” (2016), we see princesses not reliant on men to “save” them, princesses that often break the ideal mold instead of fitting it perfectly. However, In the last ten years, only one of those princesses is not caucasian. Disney is still pushing a particular ideal on both girls and boys, that in order to be heroic or a princess, you have to fit a certain type, which most of us do not.
As many of us from Generation Z begin to grow and thrive into autonomous beings, we must use our capabilities of gathering knowledge to consciously break stereotypical gender roles and ideals. We have to take into consideration the magnitude of these stereotypes’ effects on future generations.
With the help of social-media and other easily accessible platforms, we must preach the idea of breaking free from these stereotypical standards that are responsible for many insecurities.
Content-makers also must know that the rising generation that has a louder voice than ever and will fight against these calls for old standards. Therefore they must truly work on fabricating a platform where children can grow up to dream a future that is not created by cookie cutter ideals.