Opinion: Disney promotes unrealistic body standards


7-photos-disney-princess-g / JLinsky / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

These are the first seven princesses that starred in Disney movies.

Disney princesses. 

These iconic characters have immensely impacted almost every girl’s childhood. Every girl has probably crawled into bed, wearing a princess costume, as they drifted into a dream where they starred in their own princess movie. 

Personally, I remember watching Disney princesses as a young child. Ariel swimming swiftly through the ocean. Cinderella waltzing the night away at the ball with her Prince. Aladdin and Jasmine flying on a magic carpet around the world. I remember how I marveled at their facial features, their outfits, and how unrealistically skinny they were. 

As a young child, I couldn’t help but think, “Why can’t I look like that?”

As I have grown up, I have realized that these body standards are nearly impossible to achieve, as they have been created as a result of society’s expectations. 

When Walt Disney Studios first opened in 1923, their intentions for their animations were simple. It was simply to allow the audience to laugh a little to distract them from the harsh realities of the world.

Disney is well known for becoming a pioneer within the film industry, producing numerous remarkable films that have been highly recognized, including “Snow White.” 

Disney Fun Facts by Amber Chia

“Snow White” was the first animation that had English dialogue and used technicolor. Critics praised the film’s innovative storyline and the quality of the animation. This film launched Disney’s popularity and was also the beginning of the Disney princess movies. 

As these Disney princesses continued to be created throughout the years, their bodies became more and more unrealistic. 

Take Snow White, for example, whose movie premiered in 1938. Although Snow White is considered skinny, her body type isn’t as unrealistic as the later Disney princesses. Compare her to Ariel, whose movie was released in 1989, or a more recent character like Elsa. Ariel and Elsa’s waists are nearly nonexistent.

Sure, messages of women empowerment have also been increasingly portrayed throughout these films, but is that message worth risking children growing up wanting to chase society’s approval for their physical appearances? Is it worth making them believe these standards are normal? 

For kids, these princesses in these Disney films resemble models from social media for adults. These cartoons, like Twitter or Instagram, heavily influence their ideas and opinions. After staring at these unrealistic standards for hours a day, it is inevitable that it will impact one psychologically. They will subconsciously always believe that the body types from these movies are achievable and healthy. 

Many studies have found a correlation between a lack of confidence in one’s physical appearance with the growth of social media.  

According to an article on CNN, before social media, the only comparisons made were of models that one would pass by on a billboard. However, now social media is a click of a button away. The accessibility of social media has raised the rates of comparisons amongst society. Instead of seeing a glimpse of these models on a billboard, one can now scroll through social media where they see and compare themselves to endless numbers of models that have the “ideal” body type. 

In a study by the National Institute of Health, young children have not developed a conscience, meaning they are extremely impressionable. The early years of a child’s life is a major contributing factor to one’s behavioral patterns. Children watching these princesses will put their sense of reality and emotional well-being at risk. 

So what is the difference between the toxicity of social media and Disney princesses?

Constantly watching these princesses is equivalent to continually scrolling through social media.

disney / Marc Levin / Flickr/ CC BY 2.0 The iconic Disney castle is shown in each movie’s introduction.

If children are more impressionable than adults, the same concepts of influence will apply for children. Although they won’t notice it when they are young, the thought of reaching an “ideal” body will always be a part of their subconscious. The exposure to Disney princesses is just the beginning of the toxic cycle. 

When their brains are developing, shouldn’t they be exposed to media that will impact them positively? They should be surrounded by content that doesn’t promote unrealistic standards that will result in them never being satisfied with their bodies.  

Disney has been notorious for its products to create happiness through films for their audience. However, how will kids who continuously have this subconscious of wanting to meet these body standards in the back of their minds be happy? 

Society has constantly been claiming to want to promote body positivity, so start when they are young. Start at an early age when a child’s brain is still in the process of development.