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Princesszilla

15 Nov

There’s a new villain in the Disney world.  He’s not ugly or vicious, at least judging by appearance; he’s not out to destroy anyone in particular and perhaps most importantly, he’s not a he – he’s a she.  She doesn’t appear in films, video games or television shows.  She’s real.  Yes, a real life villain.  Her name: Princesszilla.  The name sounds evil, but for Disney, she’s a “a dream come true.”

Similar to the question of, “When did Disney become Disney?” we can also ask, “when did the princesses become the princesses?”  Belle and Snow White and the rest of the crew have been around for decades, but it wasn’t until 2000 when the new chairman of consumer goods noticed the popularity of the princesses at a “Disney on Ice” show that he suggested marketing the princesses as a package.  The marketing began with a target audience of young girls and tweens, bombarding them with princess-group DVDs, books and other paraphernalia.  Slowly the market changed as older women became more interested and some might say, obsessed, with Disney princesses.  Ramin Setoodeh and Jennie Yabroff talk about Lindsey Timberman in their article, “Princess Power,” a bride whose wedding is taking on an entirely Disney princess theme (1).  The only problem: her fiancé is not nearly as excited as she is.  Her dress, modeled after Belle’s in “Beauty and the Beast,” is set to match the red roses (you might remember the red rose in the movie and the Beast’s quest to find love and be loved in return before the last petal fell, leaving him a beast forever), and Lindsey’s search continues for glass slippers.  Lindsey is not 8 years old, she’s 29.  And she’s still obsessed with the princesses and having a truly fairy tale wedding.  Perhaps her fiancé rescued her from a burning bridge or a giant castle, hence the inspiration.  But probably not.  Lindsey has clearly fallen for the mystical world of Disney princesses and the fun doesn’t have to stop at her wedding.  Sleepwear and houseware are next on the list for Disney’s expansion to appeal to an older demographic.

Disney is well aware of the success and potential for the princess campaign.  How could they not be when, “Princess is a $4 billion business that’s on its way to becoming the most successful marketing venture ever” (1)?

Hooking one consumer at a time (2)

While some parents are worried about the effects of Disney’s messages on their kids (gendered messages, racial stereotypes, the girl needing to be rescued, etc.), for some women the messages might never stop if their infatuation with the Disney empire never stops.  Many Disney fans outgrow the obsession in their teens, but if the obsession never stops, the messages are perpetuated throughout their lives, and their parents probably won’t be there to help block some of those messages.  At that point the children are no longer children, and they are responsible for seeing and interpreting messages.  And, if Disney-obsessed adults start having kids, what will the effect be on their children?  The amount of Disney in their children’s lives will probably increase tenfold, and their bedrooms might end up looking like this:

(3)

So these “Princesszilla’s,” an evil combination of bridezilla and princess, will continue to impose their Disney righteousness on others until they teach their children to do the same.  Although, the princess lifestyle doesn’t seem as glamorous when you look at it this way:

Is this what they're really trying to tell us? (4)

(1) Setoodeh, R., & Yabroff, J. (2007). Princess Power. Newsweek150(22), 66-67. Retrieved from Business Source Premier database.

(2) Cliff1066. (2008, December 19). Look Mickey, 1961, oil on canvas by Roy Lichtenstein. Image posted to http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/3137425672/
(3) Orlando vacation home rental. Image posted to http://www.squidoo.com/orlandovacationhomerental
(4) Jardin, X. (2010, May 24). What Disney princesses teach girls. Image posted to http://www.boingboing.net/2010/05/24/what-disney-princess.html

Disney’s Influence on Young Kids

28 Oct

Initial research of the Disney influence on young girls made it clear that there is no shortage of information or opinions on the topic.  It is certainly a hot topic among parents and educators, despite its seemingly endless popularity.  Parents are aware of the messages being sent to their daughters; messages of powerlessness, the idea that your “Prince Charming” will save you, and body image standards.  The movies portray minorities in stereotypical roles, teaching children from a very young age what to expect of people who look a certain way or have a certain color skin.  Sure, parents are talking about these issues, but why not the viewers, the kids? They’re the ones watching and absorbing the information, but unfortunately, many aren’t consciously aware of the stereotypical and gendered messages being fed to them.

Devan, a mother who blogs on Accustomed Chaos, notes the lack of positive mother figures in Disney movies.  After watching “Chicken Little” one night with her husband and kids, Devan and her husband started thinking about how many movies lacked a mother – they came up with twelve just sitting there brainstorming on their own (1)!  It makes the involved fathers look good, but what does that lack of a mother teach young girls and boys? Perhaps that they can’t depend on their mother – she’ll either die, leave or end up evil?  Maybe the mother is left out of the story to force the main character into independence and maturity, but what’s the rush? It seems like a harsh theme to reoccur so often throughout Disney films.

A video on YouTube called, “Disney: Harmless Entertainment or Stereotype Perpetuators?” very clearly illustrates the racist characters in seven different Disney movies (2).  There’s Aladdin, the supposedly Saudi Arabian boy with white skin and a very non-Middle Eastern accent.  Sebastian, the Jamaican lobster who implies that under the sea is for lazy people who don’t like to work.  And the black crows in “Dumbo” who are experts on things that are “fly” and are led by the head of the group, “Jim Crow.”  Although subtle to young children, and even parents, when the stereotypes are pointed out, one wonders how they could have ever been overlooked.  The video goes on to show other characters created by a racist mindset in “The Jungle Book,” “Chip N’ Dale,” “Fantasia” and “Peter Pan.”

Pro-Disney parents and individuals claim that when you’re young you’re not picking up on these things, so it doesn’t matter that Disney portrays stereotypical and racist ideas in their films.  However, when young kids acknowledge that they’ve never seen an African-American character in a Disney movie, especially not in a positive light (until the most recent, “Princess and the Frog,” of course), there’s a problem.

Kids are proving to be more intuitive than some adults might believe, and Disney is directing them in the wrong direction.  Girls are taught to bat their eyelashes to get what they want; that big blue eyes, a tiny waist and voluptuous hips are standard and that no matter what, they will always live happily ever after.  On the contrary, young boys are taught to be macho, super-strong heroes waiting to rescue girls.  Disney instilling such extreme gender roles in children can assure us that no progress will be made in the future towards equal living for men and women.

Check out this video for a further explanation on racial stereotypes in Disney films.

 

(1) Devan. (2010, March 18). Disney Movies and Lack of Positive Female Influence. Message posted to http://www.accustomedchaos.com/2010/03/disney- movies-and-lack-of-positive.html

(2) Chapstick82591. (2009, December 7). Disney: Harmless entertainment or stereotype perpetuators? Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuUTdaJ_Obw&NR=1