Disney “Princesses”: Fairy tales and Hannah Montana

The Disney Princess

To go along with my post about role models for young girls, a lot of girls, like myself, grow up watching Disney films.  I have to say I LOVE Disney films, especially the princess ones! Little Mermaid was my favorite growing up as a child, and now I love Sleeping Beauty. Going along with the fairy tale ending princesses films are love stories and all of them usually somewhat demeaning to women. Especially Sleeping Beauty, where Aurora must be awakened from her enchanted sleep with a kiss of a man.

There are two very strong princesses… Mulan and Pocahontas. However, each of these princesses are usually ignored in images of the Disney Princesses and when they are included, Mulan is showed in her geisha outfit. Something that if you’ve seen the film you would know makes her unhappy. But in her geisha garb she’s beautiful which is a franchise that Disney is pushing. They have turned the princess brand into a 3 billion dollar income for the company with merchandise ranging from dress up to board games – Pretty, Pretty Princess anyone? The princess images are something girls can’t really live up to… just look at the Little Mermaid… she is one princess that holds the hearts of millions of little girls. When you watch the film there is a specific part where Ariel is on a rock her hair is blowing in the wind and she is “beautiful.” However, when you look at her she is unnaturally skinny and her face is shallow her skin taught over her facial structure. Ariel is not the only princess who has the perfect body — They all do.  A standard that girls are having a hard time already with the media portraying REAL women in images of media defined beauty. Not only are they seeing real women like this, but now their imaginary heroines are all perfect in their animated beauty.

Another problem that Disney is now on it’s way to fixing… is that the princesses are mostly white: Ariel, Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, Tinker Bell, and Belle. They now have three women of color in their midst’s — Jasmine, Mulan and Pocahontas. But like I pointed out above, Mulan and Pocahontas are generally left out, only Jasmine is included in her half naked attire with her perfect stomach showing in almost every image of her.

The controversy of the first African American Princess: The Princess and the Frog

Disney is now creating it’s first full-length hand drawn feature animation in years and they are kicking off this celebration with a black princess set in New Orleans. So not only is she this first black Princess but she is the first American Princess as well. There has been controversy over the storyline, it’s setting, and mostly over the white prince. Disney’s argument is that it is trying to show the melting pot of America… a good message in my eyes. I come from a family of mixed race; my adopted sister is biracial. My family is a melting pot; even my extended family consists of mix race, and sexuality (a controversial topic that I don’t think that Disney will ever make a film on). I think having a biracial couple is more controversial than having a black prince. I see where having a white prince can put a damper on black men, but just having a black princess is something to be celebrated for young girls.

I read an interesting article that made me write about this topic mixed with the new black princess that I heard about recently. The writer has a three year old and is a self-proclaimed feminist, “my daughter pointed out Disney Princess Band-Aids, Disney Princess paper cups, Disney Princess lip balm, Disney Princess pens, Disney Princess crayons and Disney Princess notebooks — all cleverly displayed at the eye level of a 3-year-old trapped in a shopping cart — as well as a bouquet of Disney Princess balloons bobbing over the checkout line. The repetition was excessive, even for a preschooler.” She goes on to talk about how she gets afraid that her daughter will think she doesn’t want her to be a girl because she, as a mother, doesn’t like the princesses. Because as a three year old you do not understand the feminist movement and princesses are just fun for you.

This princess movement is one of the biggest brands Disney is selling and it isn’t going to stop. They have moved on so when the pink of princess is too babyish for the girls they can attach themselves to the greens and lavenders of Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell, who according to Disney, is part of the Princess merchandise. She is one of the top selling products for them as well. However, in my eyes Tink can be a bit deceiving and sexual. Her dress is much to short, and low-cut and her sass is somewhat inappropriate. However, girls will be girls and the brand will sell itself further and when tink is viewed to be too babyish. Disney will continue to catch them with Hannah Montana. The story of Hannah is a great one regardless of the actress being caught in some of the photo scandals the show and film has sent out a great message to girls.

My boyfriend was singing the song from Hannah Montana: The Movie, while he was working at a golf course and an older man stopped him and said, “That was a great movie, I took my grand daughter to see it, it gave a great message to young girls.” Disney, in my opinion, has hit the target of great messages sent from Hannah Montana, each episode has a moral where Miley Stewart learns a lesson that her alter ego, super star Hannah Montana helps her learn. The film however probably sent the best message that you can be who ever you want and reach your goals. Hannah Montana takes off her wig on stage and reveals herself to the crowd of fans that have come to see her. The crowd promises to keep her secret so that she will be able to lead a normal  life and continue to be Hannah so she can inspire millions of girls to follow their dreams. The film closes with the song “You Always Find Your Way Back Home” with lyrics like

You can change your hair and you can change your clothes

You can change your mind, that’s just the way it goes

You can say goodbye, you can say hello

But you’ll always find your way back home

You can change your style, yeah your can change your jeans

You can learn to fly and you can chase your dreams

You can laugh and cry but everybody knows

You’ll always find your way back home”

The messages that Hannah and Miley send to girls who watch the show are one’s that parents can relax about when they are watching. My sister is eleven and I get to watch all the shows and movies that are geared towards her age group and this show is by far my favorite one to watch with her because I know it’s appropriate and funny.

Sometimes Disney hits their mark with shows and films like Hannah Montana, ut sometimes they miss, with their princesses. Either way dress up and princesses aren’t going to leave the young girls alone and the values that are taught to them are going to be what shapes them. Hopefully the princesses are just a phase, but if they aren’t at least there will be princesses of many backgrounds. Let’s hope Disney continues the fad and creates more princesses of different backgrounds leaving the primary traditional princesses behind.  

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