The Controversies Associated with the Disney Princess Franchise

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THE CONTROVERSIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE DISNEY PRINCESS FRANCHISE SAMANTHA GARCIA
HARMON
05/04/2012
Princess themed fairytales have great influence on children’s books, movies, and television shows. In 1937 Disney released ‘Snow White and the seven dwarfs’ the first full length cell-animated film in motion picture history. It is based on the Brothers Grimm German fairytale, and it is also the debut of Disney’s very first marketed princess. Since then Disney has created their own princess line using characters from popular movies such as Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and so forth. Disney has received criticisms and created much controversy over the values instilled in these movies. Many of the Disney princess movies depict good triumphing over evil, however some critics question the impression the characters leave on young girls. The Disney princess line began officially in 1999; Andy Mooney was hired by the consumer products division to help improve sales. He began attending shows such as Disney on ice. He noticed that a great majority of the young girls were dressed up in generic princess attire. There was not an official franchise offered by the Disney Corporation to this growing market. Disney began selling merchandise featuring popular princesses including Aurora, Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Ariel, Pocahontas, and Mulan. Within the last couple years two more princesses have been added to the original eight, Tiana and Rapunzel are now featured on Disney products.

Princesses such as Belle, Tiana, Pocahontas, and Mulan have wholesome qualities that parents approve of. They are examples of courage, strength, generosity, and ambition. Their storylines differ from the characters before them, which usually consisted of a prince saving the day. The new age princess Disney began to market in 1993 with Beauty and the Beast showed young viewers not to judge a book by its cover. This began a trend in Disney movies, girls responded well to a princess as the heroine. As the times changed and women received more equality in society, Disney began changing their depiction of women as well. Every movie following Beauty and the Beast would no longer feature the female lead as a damsel in distress.

Despite their attempt to showcase positive influences of woman hood, Disney still receives criticisms for being sexist and racist. Parents argue that these movies contain inappropriate messages to children involving violence, rebelliousness, and vanity. Feminists state that even the newer image of princess is not sufficient in providing girls with a positive example, and urge Disney to produce a princess that embraces being a woman.

In 1937 Snow white became not only the first full length animated film but Snow was the first Disney princess. She has received poor reviews for being passive, dependent, and needy. Her only assets to be mentioned are her beauty and cleanliness. Her character lacks substance and personality. Her beauty surpasses a jealous queen, so she is sent to the forest to be killed. The huntsman spares her life because of her beauty but eventually the queen poisons her and the prince has to come and save her. Her life depended greatly on her looks and teaches girls that a beautiful appearance is the most important trait to possess. Snow white needed a man to save her life in multiple instances, and when she was homeless she had to depend on the kindness of the dwarfs to survive. There wasn’t a single moment in the movie where Snow learned to take care of herself.

Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella ate my daughter, writes “Snow herself is such an incredible pill. Her sole virtue, as far as I can tell is tidiness. She is everything I thought my daughter would reject, would not, in fact, ever encounter or even understand if she did, let alone embrace: the passive, personality- free princess swept off by a prince (who is enchanted solely by her beauty) to live in a...
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