The Good in Beauty and Evil in Ugly in Disney Movies
Growing up nowadays most children in the US are brought up watching mostly Walt Disney movies. The Millennial generation was raised with the Disney renaissance film era, and the newer Generation Z is also being raised with the classic Disney films and the newer films like Tangled and The Princess and the Frog. As kids grow up, they begin to relate many of the stories and characters that they were so fond of to everyday things, whether it is their toys or Halloween costumes. Along with this is a clear placed biased view on behalf of the Disney corporation that most of the characters that are physically attractive or appealing to look at are going to be the “good guys”, while the less attractive characters are typically the “bad guys”. With this influence over children, it has led to greater stereotyping, body image problems, an ageism debate, and created greed to want to have Disney related memorabilia. These animated children/family based films have caused more controversy than ever expected.
In the majority of the Disney films with the main exceptions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Beauty and the Beast, there is a clear and definite difference between good and evil within the characters simply by their appearances. In 2010, the University of North Carolina and Appalachian State University carried out a study analyzing twenty-one Disney films made since 1938, and asked the participants to rate 163 characters on a scale of one to ten in terms of “goodness”. They were asked to also score them on their attractiveness, intelligence, aggressiveness, romantic involvement, and their life outcome aka their “happily ever after” (Leach).
In almost every movie, the “good” characters were the more attractive, more intelligent and less aggressive. Some of the characters that exemplified these ideals were Cinderella, Prince Charming, Princess Aurora, and the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio. This study appeared in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology concluded that, “as ratings of beauty increased, so did ratings of friendliness, goodness, intelligence, favorability of the character’s outcome, and romantic involvement”. (Leach) Using this study as reference, researchers then set out to determine how much the idea of beauty is good and ugly is bad, is based off of a specific film. Forty-two children between the ages of six to twelve were put in a different study and had them watch either Cinderella or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Those two films have both characters that are beautiful and good natured, and also an unconventional hero that is less attractive to the eye. From that researchers then showed the children photographer of other children and were asked what they thought of that person from their looks, and whether they would want to ever to friends with them (Jacobs).
Doris Bazzini, Lisa Curtin, Serena Joslin, Shilpa Regan and Denise Martz were the people behind this extensive project. Bazzini and her colleagues were able to conclude that it didn’t matter which film the child watched, their answers were all pretty consistent to each other. The researchers were able to pull that the children all had a greater desire to befriend or talk to an attractive peer, rated them as being more desirable to be friends with, less likely to get into any form of trouble, and were seen as being the better person compared to an unattractive peer. These thoughts were not just applied on human characters but also animal ones as well. (Jacobs) Bazzini stated in response to this project, “It may seem heartening to many parents that a single movie viewing did not induce greater use of the beauty is good stereotype. However, this may be due to the fact that the stereotype [has] inconsistent depictions of the low-beauty bias film are simply not potent enough to unravel a steadily developing propensity to judge attractiveness positively, especially when such stereotypes involve females”....
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