The Detriment of Disney

Most, if not all of us grew up watching Disney movies, particularly those featuring the classic, unrealistically beautiful, highly dependent princess. Though recent characters have begun to vaguely resemble human proportions, the Disney princesses remain well known for their physically impossible figures. Along with Disney’s consistent use of this unattainable body, the villains in the movies are frequently more full figured. Take the movie The Little Mermaid for example. The protagonist Ariel fits perfectly into the Disney “ideal”, while the antagonist Ursula is illustrated to appear over-weight.

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This demonization of full-figured women is not at all uncommon. We all have the obvious experiences with slender models and movie stars being portrayed as the norm, but even well respected books such as The Bluest Eye touch on this bias. The two sisters in The Bluest Eye have been taught to associate weight gain with being “ruined” through the ridicule of the prostitute The Maginot Line. In Kelly Hager’s Keywords essay Body she states that “promiscuous sexual activity, criticized and vilified is linked to a character’s weight” (21). This is evident in The Bluest Eye when one sister recommends that the other exercise and not eat to avoid the dreaded weight gain that is presumed to follow the participation (non-consensual in this case) in sexual activity.

The continued shaming of the female form is detrimental to women of all shapes and sizes and the blatant biases of mass corporations, such as Disney, are plaguing the minds of girls barely old enough to attend elementary school. It is important that an effort is made to make images of women, whether animated, photographed, or written, appear realistic. No body, no matter the size or shape, is a “bad” body. You are beautiful.

8 thoughts on “The Detriment of Disney”

  1. I found your post very interesting in connecting The Maginot Line and Ursula. In both cases, fear is instilled into readers/viewers, and other characters regarding these women. I absolutely believe this translates to the way people view women’s bodies in society, as well as the way women view their own bodies. If women are always told that being full-figured is negative, their identity development is likely to be negatively impacted, lowering their self-image and self-worth.

  2. Throughout my childhood years, I always watched Disney Chanel movies and never came to the realization that you pointed out. The connections you have made shows a great connection to The Bluest Eye and the keyword essay Body. However, are there any races in particular, in social media that are shown to be overweight? If it is, what does this suggest to young girls that are watching these Disney movies?

  3. Media designated for children is constantly changing as we find out the effects it has on a particular generation. While Disney princesses in our childhood display a sense of physical perfection and desire for heterosexual relationships to fulfill their life long dreams, Disney has tried to release movies with a new spin recently. We see the movie Frozen almost mocking the heterosexual norms and ridiculous notion that you meet prince charming and get married a week later and focusing on the bond and love between sisters. In addition the release of the movie Brave, which hones in on the relationship between a mother and daughter and a princess that is adventurous and defying typical beauty standards with her pale irish skin and frizzy red hair. Disney is attempting to redirect the gender norms and heterosexual timeline in recent years. Although there are still advancements in the film industry that need to be made, I think disney is heading in the right direction.

  4. This is so interesting because, I always just thought Disney focused on skinny girls as their main characters, but never thought about the villains usually being bigger. Disney movies can shape a girls self-image unconsciously, and girls watch them so often. I think that the small amount of positive role models for girls of who are not stick-thin affect many girls, because their role models all look a certain way. I think we tend to focus on their role models being real people and we forget that they have been exposed to these standards of beauty from young ages, while watching Disney.

  5. The connection you point out about Ursula being overweight and being the antagonist is interesting! I also see this in the sequel “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.” The antagonist in that film is Ursula’s sister, Morgana. Morgana is much thinner than her sister, and Ariel’s daughter Melody starts to trust Morgana after meeting her (even though she is the villain). This is just another example of how Disney has made fat=bad and thin=good/trustworthy.

  6. I think you bring up a really good point here. It is one thing that I haven’t really noticed until you pointed it out. It is extremely important that we create an accepting and welcoming environment for women of all shapes and sizes in everyday platforms. However, creative decisions like this— whether intentional or not— are perpetuating these toxic, harmful image of a perfect body. I think another important thing to discuss is the possibility that these demonization of full-figured women could impact the way in which full-figured women in reality think of their moral self.

  7. I have always noticed that Disney always had skinny main characters and princesses, but I had never looked at the full figured body as being represented by the villain. This is something that I am sure young girls don’t outright notice, but that is unintentionally internalized by impressionable young girls. I’m sure Disney has received heat about this, I’m curious to see how long it will be until we start to see more realistic and diverse body shapes presented in Disney films and TV shows.

  8. This is a great discussion on body type and the connotations we associate with it. This type of theme might be even more detrimental for young girls who are already overweight. Though they may not overtly notice the body shaming and evil associated with a certain body type, it does get permanently engrained in their mind. Girls know their body type is not desired, but what is a girl to do at the age of 10? Disney movies have a lot more control over the minds of young children than we think, and they are not always sending the right messages.

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