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Why Disney Princesses Matter
All Fluff And Frill...And Strength
Not Everyone Loves Gorgeous Dresses And Tiaras
The stereotypes about what girls should look like and dress like seriously needs to change.
Even in the 21st century, there are those that expect that to be a woman, you should regularly wear dresses, heels and hosiery in order to look the part. This look has been perpetuated by the likes of June Cleaver during the Leave It To Beaver days, and furthered by images of princesses wearing beautiful tiaras, having perfect features and wearing beautiful clothes. Now, there are young girls growing up who prefer high tops and t-shirts to heels and sequins and frills, but are having to endure the pain of snide looks and comments.
If we are going to promote the notion that girls should be comfortable in their own skins, we have to look at the images that are being perpetuated through the media, and specifically through animation, which is the chief medium that young girls see as they grow up with television and YouTube in the background.
Disney seems to have started to work with the idea that girls need to learn that they can move beyond the trappings that society seems to continue to cling to - that to be a real woman, they need to look the part. Since Mulan, which bowed in 1998, Disney has slowly been integrating the notion that girls and women can be the hero and be strong without having to think about how they are perceived by the men in their lives. Although Mulan ultimately did fall for Li Shang, who was in charge of the army that Mulan was a part of (albeit in disguise as a woman), her heroism was not to rescue Shang, nor was it to impress him. Her heroism was for the greater good of China as a whole, thereby opening the doors for other Disney princesses to be strong without being motivated by a man's interest.
Merida from Brave, Tiana from Princess and the Frog, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, Moana from the film of the same name and even Elena of Avalor are all showing girls that it's possible to be heroic without a man motivating their actions, and it is cool that they are conducting their heroics while still wearing a pretty dress with their hair well coiffed. However, not all princesses wear dresses, nor should they. How is that realistic?
High Tops And Jeans Don't Diminish Femininity
Dresses And Sparkles Sell Big
There's no question - frills, dresses and jewelry still are hot sells for girls, and we as a society are hard pressed to ignore that. It's really difficult at times to look at someone who doesn't quite fit the mould and accept that person for who they are, regardless of whether they are a girl or boy.
There are kids of both genders that are struggling with the images that are perpetuated by the big media companies as to what a guy or a girl should look like. It's really hard to move past the notion that girls should have long hair and wear makeup while guys should be interested in working out and building muscles while looking incredibly macho.
Why do we cling to these notions?
They are comfortable as a warm sweater or a familiar pair of shoes. It's easy for us to look at kids and pigeonhole them. Why is it so many of us look at boys and girls and automatically give boys the dump truck and the girls the kitchen set?
This is not to say that everyone stereotypes in this fashion; it's just that there are more who do this than not, and it's little wonder that we have troubles convincing girls to try the trades like masonry or welding and assuring boys that it's OK to express themselves with sensitivity or artistically without worry that there will be someone who tells them they shouldn't. It's terrible that girls who do not ascribe to the feminine norm are told they aren't a "real girl" or that boys who do not fall into the stereotypically masculine trappings are "pussies."
Who's to say that Disney princesses aren't for both boys and girls? Princess Tiana, Merida and Mulan have strength that should appeal to both boys and girls, so why do we insist on stereotyping genders as having to be one way or another? It's not fair to the kids that don't fall into the various stereotypes, and it's not really not fair for people who think it's OK to do so.
Our kids would be a lot happier if we fell out of those stereotypes ourselves.