Disney Princesses Are Bad Role Models For Young Girls
Debate Rounds (5)
We're going to spilt the princesses up into three groups.
The classic princesses in which Mr. Walt Disney himself had took part in their creation:
Snow White (1937)
Princess Aurora [Sleeping Beauty] (1959)
The middle aged princesses which ranged from the late 1980's to the late 1990's:
Ariel [The Little Mermaid] (1989)
Belle [Beauty and The Beast] (1991)
And lastly we have our modern princesses:
Tiana [Princess and the Frog] (2009)
Rapunzel [Tangled] (2010)
* All years came from the Internet Movie Database pages that corresponded
Structure of the debate:
Round One: Pro presents case. Con accepts.
Round Two: Pro refutes. Con presents case, refutes and defends.
Round Three: Pro refutes and defends. Con refutes and defends.
Round Four: Pro refutes and defends. Con refutes and defends.
Round Five: Pro defends. Con defends. Voters are presented. No new arguments in this round.
First, Snow White is a seamless case of the dependency on men and the typical woman role. She lives with seven dwarfs whom take her in after she invade their home. The entire premise of their welcoming is that she can clean and cook. Snow White then takes the mother like role of the seven dwarfs and become more or less the servant of the house. She cares for all seven of them and eventually the jealous witch makes her appearance and poisons her. Only true loves kiss could break the spell, which of course means that a man has to come and save her. While romantic, Snow White lays in a slumber, helpless. It is only when the prince comes and kisses her does she wakes from her death-like coma.
In Cinderella, the poor girl becomes the housemaid of her own home and she is constantly tormented by her stepmother and step-sisters after her fathers death. There is a ball in which she is unable to attend because of the cruelness of her stepmother. She does everything she can but realizes there is no hope and ends up sulking in the backyard when all of a sudden her fairy godmother comes and makes all her dreams come true. With a wave of her wand and a cute little song, the fairy godmother does away with all of the negativity in her life until midnight. She goes back to living her terrible life as the prince tries to find out who the girl he fell in love with that one night was with the only clue he has; her glass slipper. Eventually he finds her and takes her from her dreadful life, making her a princess. It is clear that if it had not been for the fairy godmother and the prince, she would have ended up dying as the housemaid of her own home.
Second is princess Aurora, who is cursed by another jealous witch also falls into a coma like state in which she has to wait countless years for ‘true loves' kiss to break the spell. This yet again leads another princess to be dependent on a man. (Which is also very similar to Snow White). The bare bones of the story are identical to the story of Snow White.
This theme also resounds in the newest of the Disney Princess films, Tangled. The story goes something like the princess was born with magical hair and was kidnapped as a baby. She was brought up in a tower, away from the world to protect her hairs magical capabilities. But before her 18th birthday she yearns to go see the lanterns that the kingdom sets off on her birthday each year. It isn't until Flynn Ryder. the biggest criminal of the kingdom climbs her tower to hide away. It's there she strikes a deal with him that she will give back the crown he stole (which so happens to be rightfully hers) in exchange for his guidance and protection on the way to the kingdom. She is very dependent on him through out the trip and while she uses her hair to fight off the bad guys, he is the majority of muscle and strength. Even towards the end of the story when she is being carted away by the woman she now knows kidnapped her, he comes to her rescue.
The other princesses also showcase this such as Pocahontas, Ariel, Belle and Mulan. I feel as if the following would make good cases as well but perhaps not as good as those that I've expanded on.
Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, both written in 1697 by Frenchman Charles Perrault, were written and set in times when women were expected to be obedient. So in the case of Cinderella, especially, one can easily understand her supposed "weakness" and inability to stand up for herself against her wicked stepmother, the antagonist of the story, and to refuse to act as the servant of the household. Cinderella's step-mother was named "Lady Tremaine," which means that she is likely the daughter of a Duke, a Marquess, or an Earl, and as such, likely had political power over her new step-daughter after her husband's death, inheriting the role of "head of household" until she remarried.
Furthermore, in Sleeping Beauty, it is really the circumstances of the character, as opposed to the character herself, that is bad. Having been raised in a small cabin in the woods, she was not allowed much opportunity to learn how to be independent. Her castle is a strange place, her parents are strange people, and everything around her becomes suddenly unfamiliar when she is whisked back to the king and queen's palace. On her sixteenth birthday, a spell placed upon her by sources outside of her control renders her helpless, leaving her to sleep until "true love's kiss" comes to break the spell. Aurora is never given a chance to save herself and thus has no choice but to play the role of "damsel in distress."
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, as another example, was originally written in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm, another time when women truly did not have any rights at all. Though significant advancements in the women's suffrage movement were made in the nineteenth century, nearly all of them came after this fairy tale was written. In the 1800's women did not have any freedom whatsoever, and any liberation they could hope to experience would have to come from a man, likely one with express political authority, like a prince.
Aside from the circumstances of their times, each princess exhibits certain positive qualities that outweigh the negative ones. The early princesses – Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora – epitomize kindness, optimism, appreciation for what they have, and a willingness to dream. Though they were valued far more in the twentieth century, these are characteristics that can and should be esteemed regardless of the time.
And as for Rapunzel, the newest addition to the Disney Princess lineup, she, much like Aurora, is a victim of her circumstance – having been locked away in a tower for her eighteen years of existence. In this, her naivety and unadulterated innocence seem completely understandable. She knows absolutely nothing of the world outside of what she is told by Mother Gothel, Rapunzel's "mother" figure and the only other person she has ever known. When Flynn Rider enters Rapunzel's life, it only makes sense that she has no idea how to handle meeting another person, especially a man. Not knowing much about anything, mainly due to Mother Gothel's sheltering and overbearing overprotection, Rapunzel decides to bargain with this strange man – after already having defended herself against his intrusion by knocking him out with a frying pan – and live out her dreams of seeing the lanterns fly on her birthday. This may require disobedience of Mother Gothel's express orders to not leave the castle, but headstrong, courageous, and – like all princesses – determined to follow her dream, Rapunzel goes anyway. Along the way, she and Flynn become a team, learning, growing, and fighting, together. While she may have started out as a "damsel in distress," Rapunzel eventually comes into her own and saves both herself and her "prince."
As you said before," Aurora is never given a chance to save herself and thus has no choice but to play the role of "damsel in distress."" It didn't have to be that way though. One simple change in the plot line would have kept Aurora from being put into a long sleep. If someone had informed her of the curse that had been placed on her, then she probably wouldn't have touched the spindle of a spinning wheel. In fact, her curiosity seems to have gotten the better of her. While I'd argue that curiosity is a good thing, too much of it can be fatal as seen in this case. She may have still even fallen for the prince and lived happily ever after, as Snow White may have too if her storyline was changed a bit. I'm not talking about huge changes. Aurora might have known but that wouldn't mean she still would fall into a slumber. Snow White might have been wise enough to not eat the apple but forgot. But the way that the movies are set up, they aren't given an option to be independent and therefore are even more pathetically dependent.
While they do posses good qualities, this does not necessarily make them good role models for young girls. Young girls need to be taught to be strong and independent, and obedient to their parents. This is the problem with most of the newer princesses. In fact, it can be argued the Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Rapunzel all go against their parents words.
Ariel is punished by her father for going to the surface because he fears she is going to get caught and killed by fisherman. She then does it anyway (again) and even goes as far to give away her best gift and change herself for the man she is enthralled with. A young girl should never be taught to change herself for a man.
Belle, when rescuing her father he tells her to save herself and just get out because she still had a life to live. If she had listened, she may have never had her happy ending but she would have never known better either.
Pocahontas also falls in love with a man that her father doesn't approve of and puts herself in danger for him multiple times through out the storyline. She even stood between the Englishmen and Native Americans to prevent a war which may be honorable, but it is also reckless and dangerous.
Mulan takes her fathers uniform and letter to fight for the army when everyone knows that he wanted to join the fight to protect his families honor. While it may have been a noble act for her father, she also puts herself in danger and disobeys his wishes. It's by luck that she turns out to be skilled and saves the day.
As I stated before, Rapunzel also disobeyed mother Gothel (the woman who kiddnapped her) and went off on an adventure. While this was arguably the better choice because she was so overbearingly protective and sheltering, it still isn't wise to run off with a stranger whom you don't know. Luckily, Flynn was a relatively nice guy and she was smart enough to con him into staying.
Overall, the newer princesses are dependent (more or less), but it can also be argued that they are reckless and stupid. They often put themselves in danger despite what their parental figures say. As role models for young girls, this isn't a very good message.
Further, while the stories took place centuries ago and the Disney retellings were much more recent, women still did not have significant rights. They could vote, sure, but they were still expected to cook and clean and do housework and be good wives. Princesses like Cinderella and Snow White are exemplifying this belief of the times, serving as role models to the young wives of the age (since women were often discouraged from getting real jobs outside the house). Looking back on this, we – as liberated, young women – are horrified by the fact that Snow White and Cinderella cooked and cleaned and were obedient, but this is what was expected of women at the time.
Moreover, you argue that the earlier princesses like Cinderella were obedient to their parent(s) but that the middle-aged princesses are not obedient enough. This is contradictory, and, again, is based a lot on the circumstances of when the movie came out. Back in the 1930's and 1950's and so on, young women were encouraged to be obedient to their parents, as well as to their husbands. Men always held authority over women, and parents unquestionably held authority over children. However, the middle-age princesses (Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas, and Mulan) had their stories retold by Disney in a time when women were independent, and when it was encouraged for young women to engage in what some call "teenage rebellion." The middle-age princesses are headstrong, determined, unique, and not afraid to fight for what they believe in.
While Ariel did sell her voice to a sea witch to be granted a shot in the dark with her prince and in doing so disobeyed her father, it is clear that she wanted to be a human long before she met Prince Eric. She had collected thousands upon thousands of "thingamabobs" and "gadgets and gizmos" from the human world and even sings her Disney anthem, "Part of Your World" before she sees the prince's ship afloat. She is not so much dependent on a man so much as she is just wildly ambitious and entirely determined to live out her dream of being human. She is the princess who is willing to leave home to find out what more there is to the world. She is curious and adventurous. She does not conform, unlike her sisters who all seem to wait with baited breath for their father's next order, to what is expected of her. She has spunk and drive, enough of it to make her a fan favorite amongst Disney Princess enthusiasts.
Belle is the smart Princess, the one who doesn't care about what others think of her, who refuses to settle for an arrogant, one-dimensional man as a husband, even if he is rich and handsome. She also searches for an adventure outside of her small French town and makes brave and noble sacrifices for those she loves. Her story embodies the idea that "beauty" in its most known definition is only skin deep and that true beauty comes from within.
Pocahontas is arguably the least dependent Disney Princess there is. She does not look for a husband, though she is urged to do so by her father, and refuses to marry Kokoum, the village war hero, because she does not love him. Instead of being overly cautious and taking the safe path, Pocahontas chooses instead to be like a river, to be strong and to sacrifice knowing what is coming next in her life. While she does fall in love with a man of whom her father does not approve, John Smith does eventually gain Powhatan's respect and blessing. Having seen John Smith's sacrifices, taking the blame from Thomas for killing Kokoum and taking Ratcliffe's bullet for Powhatan, Pocahontas can make the decision for herself that he is a good guy and that his intentions are pure. Furthermore, she, herself, also made her own sacrifices. Fighting for peace between peoples, Pocahontas bravely stands her ground against those who are determined to fight each other. She is courageous and headstrong and open-minded, willing to follow her heart and her dreams in order to foster friendship between starkly different peoples.
Mulan also disobeys her father and takes his place in war, but in doing so gains the honor that she never could have acting as a Chinese maiden. She, too, is independent and makes sacrifices for her father, and later for others she cares for. Knowing that her father cannot fight, and that she is more likely to survive the war, she breaks the mold and runs off to war in his stead. Her bravery, determination, and "no-man-left-behind" attitude are what make her a skilled warrior.
Putting oneself in danger, while not always being a very smart thing, is something that teenagers, especially during their "rebellious phases", do. Whether it is by not cleaning her room or by sacrificing your livelihood in order to foster peace, friendship, and prosperity amongst peoples, teenage girls always disobey their parents. In the latter example, however, girls are encouraged to dream big, to want to make a difference, to positively impact those around them, and to serve, themselves, as a role model for others.
Many of the Disney Princesses do not let their lives revolve around finding a husband or a prince. Examples of this are Pocahontas, Mulan, Belle, and Tiana. Tiana, especially, does not center her life around love. In fact, she is also headstrong and determined, driven to start her business and working hard to do so. She works multiple jobs, saving up her money in "Tiana's Restaurant Fund." In facing diversity because of her race, she is not discouraged, and instead decides to work even harder. She has big dreams and is not afraid to live them out. Love finds her, and during her journey, she opens herself up to it, becoming a better-rounded person, one who is willing to work hard for her dreams but still appreciate the love of those around her.
You brought up Tiana in your argument, which was very wise. She is arguable the most well-rounded princess there is. I believe that's because, unlike most of the other princesses, she was not born into royalty but married into it. She had a humble up-bringing that a little girl now a days might be able to relate to. She dreamed of having the things her parents always wanted but could never achieve and she made it her life mission to get that restaurant. She basically becomes obsessed with it though, and it's clear that she over works herself in order to get it. So while she is the best example of a good role model, she is also flawed a bit too with her obsessive personality.
I never said that the princesses lived their lives with the main goal of trying to win over a man. It just so happens though that they do indeed all find love before hitting their twenties. I think this is a rather negative message to send out to the young girls. In today's world it is very unlikely that you meet the man you marry before you are twenty. While this may be based on the time periods that they were in, it's ridiculous because they often are rushed into marriages. For example, Cinderella was rushed into a marriage with a man she had interacted with a whole of one night.
One might say that they are young women because young women by default are more beautiful and lively than their counterparts at an older age and thing brings me to a very concerning point. Why are all of the princesses flawless? They all seems to have the perfect cheekbones and waistlines. Their hair is never untidy. Let's be realistic. Pocahontas runs around the woods with her dark black hair flying behind her and yet it always manages to be pin straight and never knotty looking. The women always have perfect blush. It wasn't until Rapunzel did a princess have a 'flaw' and that was only freckles. They all have similar characteristic which is frightening to me. Similar eye structures This can impose a terrible message for little girls. If they don't fit the criteria of pretty as set by the Disney Princesses, then this will greatly impact their self esteem. It took nearly 80 years for Disney to have it's first African American princess, and nearly just as long to have their other princesses of non-caucasian decent. It makes it seem like you need to be pretty and reckless, or pretty and helpless in order for a prince to fall in love with you. (And most of the early princes are very flat characters so it seems. They don't have developed personalities and makes the princesses falling in love with them appear to be shallow. People can assume that they are only falling in love with them because of their wealth, title, and appearance).
When I mentioned the "teenage rebellious streak," I was referring primarily to the middle-age Princesses, whose stories were retold during the 1990's, a time when teenagers did tend to rebel, certainly far more and more openly than they did in the 1950's. Moreover, Cinderella did have her rebellious streak in that she went to the ball with her Fairy Godmother's blessing, even though Lady Tremaine expressly forbade her to do so.
I also understand how your interpretation of Tiana's fascination with her father's restaurant to be obsessive, but personally, I prefer to use the word passionate. There are people who focus mainly on one life goal, in Tiana's case the goal being to open her restaurant, and are willing to make great personal sacrifices for it to come true. In addition, the fact that the restaurant was a shared goal between her and her father may make it more important that it come true, not just for her sake but also for her deceased dad. In this respect, Tiana's so-called "obsession" with her restaurant may, in fact, be just passion-fueled fervor.
To a certain degree, the decision to make Disney Princesses "flawless" is a conscious decision by the production company to make the character more likeable, thereby increasing the turnout of people who want to see the movie and increasing profit. However, aside from this, while the Disney Princesses are all beautiful, they are rarely aware of this fact, and if they are, they do not make a big deal of it. In Snow White, it is never expressly stated that her being the "fairest one of all" had to do solely with her beauty; it could have been her kindness, her talent, her generosity, her optimism, etc. that brought upon that title. Belle is another princess who is beautiful (her name literally is French for "beauty") but does not care, and her story, as mentioned before, revolves around the theme of inner as opposed to outer or physical beauty.
Also, the thin waistlines and nearly-perfect hair come from times when such was the norm. As a young, Native American woman during the 1600's, it only makes sense that Pocahontas would be physically fit and rather skinny, as she eats healthily and spends the majority of her time running around. Ariel spends all of her time swimming, burning any calories she eats, and unconsciously working out her core. Princesses like Snow White and Rapunzel often spent time brushing their hair or likely having someone to do it for them. In Ariel's case, her hair may not knot while she is underwater, and Pocahontas's thin hair may have been fine enough that it did not easily knot.
In regard to your point about the non-Caucasian Princesses – Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana – it may have taken nearly 80 years to have a Princess who was not white, but that is because social progress does, in fact, take time. Very few, if any, Disney Princess movies were made during the time period between Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid, and once the 1990's came around, there were three ethnic Princesses over the course of the decade. I don't think that the fact that it took until the 1990's for non-Caucasian Princesses to show up on the Disney scene is a racist thing or even based on what is the "right" race, especially since each ethnic Princess has her own characteristics that do not make her much different in terms of personality than the white Princesses.
Additionally, while it may not be the most common for young women to find love and to marry before 20, it was certainly still possible. And in the times during which the stories were set, it was likely. Many people are "high school sweethearts" or met in college, and so this is not a concept that should necessarily be considered bad or dangerous to young girls, as there is a very distinct possibility – and dare I say, likelihood – that it may happen to them.
Finally, I would like to make the point that Disney Princesses are seen as role models for their positive qualities and characteristics. I do not know of a single girl who would say, "Pocahontas is my favorite princess because she has a tiny waist and disobeys her father and falls in love with a white man." That philosophy simply does not make sense. No, Pocahontas would be seen as a role model for her love of peace, her spirituality, her wisdom beyond her years, her kindness, her determination, etc. The positives are what make a person, or in this case a character, a role model; what they've done right makes them admirable, not what they've done wrong.
Overall, I think that Disney Princesses, while improving, are still bad role models for young girls. They are very focused on physical beauty and how it gets you the guy. They also are centered around women who are very obedient and nearly helpless or on women who are too reckless and put themselves in harms way.
As I said before, the princesses all have very similar features. They have big eyes, high cheekbones, small but plump lips and a pointed chin. Recently they have started adding diversity to them, but before 1995 there was no princess that was not Caucasian. This would have given the impression that if you weren't white female with a slender structure, decently sized breasts, and hour glass shape, tamed hair and a clear and perfect complexion (along with the facial features), you were anything but you certainly weren't Princess standards. Which one could derive (especially a vulnerable girl who is in the time of her life when she needs reassurance of her beauty) that because you weren't beautiful enough to be a Princess, you couldn't live ‘happily ever after' or fall in love with ‘prince charming'.
I also believe that the earlier films showcase women who are so obedient they aren't free to express themselves or be who they are. They are so bound by the social conformities that they can't even try to change their own fate. Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, and even Belle are great examples of this. You might question Belle. While she yearns for a better life outside of her ‘small, provincial town', she never actually goes out and finds the excitement she wants until her father goes missing.
In the later films, the princesses become the extreme opposite. It seems the Disney Company was struggling to find a happy medium. These women are reckless and downright put themselves in danger. While it may be for a good cause most of the time, putting yourself between a war that it about to begin or sending yourself out for a war is not exactly safe. In all of the cases, their guardians were just trying to protect them, but that didn't matter. Ariel was out looking for adventure. Belle and Mulan sacrifice themselves for their fathers even though their fathers are elder and have lived their lives. Pocahontas (who is also thirsty for something different) risks her life for the man she believes she loves, but may just be intrigued with because he is exotic.
Overall, I still stand strong in believing that the Disney Princesses are not good role models. They may not be terrible, but they are bad. They certainly show unfathomable characteristics, which can rub off on a na�ve and gullible little girl.
Also, each Disney Princess has at least as many good qualities as bad, and more often than not, their positive characteristics outweigh the negatives. Snow White may be dependent on a Prince to save her, but she is kind, optimistic, generous, thankful for what she has, and willing to dream.
While changing the stories of the Disney Princesses may make them stronger characters and, in terms of the argument you had made previously, better role models, it would also make the character no longer the character. Aurora would no longer be Sleeping Beauty if her curiosity had not led to her that strange spinning wheel.
Furthermore, the majority of Disney Princesses did not focus their lives on finding love or on marrying a Prince. In fact, most found love almost by accident, much like how love generally happens in the real world.
The fact that Disney Princesses usually have one parent, and that this parent is usually the father, may have an impact on what acts are seen as reckless and dangerous. Fathers are oftentimes stricter with their daughters, acting in what they see as protection and safety and benefit, however, in doing this they often sacrifice their daughters' chances of growing on their own, making their own mistakes, and learning about the world for themselves.
In addition, while the Disney Princesses are all beautiful, they are rarely aware of this fact, and if they are, they do not make a big deal of it. Also, thin waistlines and nearly-perfect hair come from times when such was the norm, and many of the Princesses with these characteristics have very clear reasons why. And the non-Caucasian Princesses came about in the 1990's, with a new era of spunky and headstrong Princesses.
The fact that Disney Princesses show love being found at young ages should not be seen as a flaw, since there are many people who fall in love and/or marry young. "High school sweethearts" aren't necessarily uncommon, and so depicting young love and young marriage hardly has any negative influences on young girls.
And finally, it is the positives, not the negatives, that make a role model such. Disney Princesses are valued for their spunk, their independence, their ambition, their longing for adventure, their nonconformity, their inner beauty, etc. These are the traits that young girls hope to emulate. The positives and the things that they have done right are what make Princesses admirable as role models, not what they have done wrong.
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Vote Placed by 1Historygenius 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: What a stupid debate.
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