What’s sex got to do with…Disney princess movies?

 

Sexual socialization starts at birth according to social constructs, and influences people’s perception of how men and women should behave in society. It has a particularly strong influence during adolescent sexual development because the observations children make significantly impact their perception of what is normal and accepted. Noting the behavior of men and women in the media and in real life, children learn how society expects them to perform, in order to gain approval from others. As a result of sex socialization, there is an emphasis on heterosexuality and conforming to male and female stereotypes in today’s society (known as heteronormativity).

Sexual socialization in Disney movies subconsciously compels people to view heterosexuality as normal, as it aligns with the sexual orientation of all the Disney princesses. There are no lesbian princesses, and this instills the idea in young children that it is better to be heterosexual, as the princesses they look up too. It is also notable that all the Disney princesses fall in love with people of the same race. Majority of the Disney princesses are Caucasian and marry white men. This supports the idea of white supremacy, as white people dominate the media. Nevertheless, in Princess and the Frog the prince and the princess are both African Americans; this movie is relatively new and shows that society is advancing. However, none of the Disney princess movies tell the story of an interracial couple.

 

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Furthermore, the portrayal of princesses in Disney movies conforms gender stereotypes. For example, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White all do household chores, confirming the stereotype that women stay at home and take care of the house. Additionally, there is an emphasis on external beauty and the need for women to find a man to save them from their adversity. Women are portrayed as vulnerable, gentle, and dependent upon men, while men are portrayed as strong, masculine, and saviors of women.

Growing up, I idolized all the Disney princesses, and wanted to emulate them. I dressed up as Sleeping Beauty for Halloween and had my own pair of glass slippers like Cinderella. I think I was heavily influenced by Disney movies, as the they had a lasting impression on my perception of how love should be. It was not until I questioned social constructs, that I realized that Disney princess movies are not representative of society.

Do you think Disney princess movies influenced your views as a child? Do you think that society will ever overcome gender stereotypes? If so, how long do you think this will take? How do you think men and women should be portrayed in the media?

4 thoughts on “What’s sex got to do with…Disney princess movies?

  1. I agree with this completely. I was actually just thinking about this the other day! I watched Disney Channel religiously as a child and for example with Hannah Montana, I used to be obsessed with her to the point where I would dress in her style to school (now I look back and I don’t know what I was thinking haha). But anyways, when she had her first kiss I remember watching that episode over and over again and thinking mine was going to be just like that. But then when it actually happened and was nothing like Miley’s I was upset. I feel like the Disney movies take up so much of little girls time and lives that they need to be more realistic because it just stages disappointment.

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  2. I think this post brings up some very valid and relavent points about how young girls in particular are socially constructed from a very young age. I loved all of the Disney movies when I was growing up and the princesses in particular had me dreaming of marrying my own prince charming someday. As twadhawan mentioned in the above comment, real life relationships are never quite like the flawless simplistic bliss of the Disney versions. This emphasis on marriage being the ideal way to your “happily ever after” reminds me of the article that we recently read in class about how marriage is a very influencial social institution that is engrained into us from a very young age. Marriage in itself is not a bad thing however the socially constructed ideas and concepts that generalize the act of marriage and what it is supposed to look like play into heterosexual normativity and steriotypical gender roles. One Disney princess that I don’t think supports the gentle and helpless female steriotype is the less prevalent but equally beloved Mulan. Personally Mulan was always my favorite princess when I was little and I think her ability to take action and compete both physically and mentally with men actually sends a positive message to young girls.

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  3. I really enjoyed this analysis. I have always questioned what the Disney movies and princesses actually taught as us impressionable children. The typical Disney princess is usually in distress and the man and/or prince comes to her rescue and improves her situation. I think you brought up a good point about the gender stereotypes that the princesses play into. I never thought about that aspect of the princess stories, but it is interesting that in most of these stories, the princess is seen cleaning, washing, or doing some kind of household chore. I think it is also a good point that it not only confirms heterosexuality as the norm, as they are all heterosexuality relationships between the princess and the man, it also suggests a certain idealistic love characterized by grand romantic gestures and unrealistic expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

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