Most of us grew up watching the classic Disney movies: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Lion King, Mulan, etc. As young children, these fairytales were fun to watch, entertaining us for hours. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly become aware of just how sexist most of these Disney movies actually are.
In nearly every Disney movie (although, the company is making some improvements with more recent films), there is a Prince Charming. He does not get a name- he is simply Charming. This shows you just how shallow this character really is. In none of the movies does the Prince develop a complex character, or think for himself; rather, he sees a woman that he desires and decides that she must belong to him.
While that is certainly problematic, the main issue with Disney’s films is that the main female character’s sole purpose in the story is to find a man. Let’s take Cinderella. She slaves away in the house all day, but instead of dreaming of getting out and running her own business, for example, she dreams of finding a prince. Another case: Sleeping Beauty literally will never get to live out the rest of her life unless her “true love” finds her.
What this is teaching young, impressionable girls is that they should strive to get a man’s attention. Very few Disney movies focus on the female character’s brain, or personality. In my evaluation, nearly all of these characters are horrifically vapid; they have no personality, and the sole point of their story is to find their prince and live happily ever after. We tell girls that they should work hard, not to do well in life and be successful on their own merit, but to get a prince to marry her. These stories continue to reinforce the message that a woman needs a man in order to have a “happy ending.”
Now, there are some Disney movies with redeeming qualities. One example that comes to mind is Mulan. She dresses up as a man (incredibly progressive for the time the movie was made), and fights in the army. She saves her country, and gets national recognition. While certainly an inspiring role model, even SHE ends up seeking the approval of a man.
I’m not saying no one should watch Disney movies. There are certainly appealing qualities to them- they are fun, they make us believe in magic, etc. But while watching them, especially when our children are the viewers, we have to be aware of this inherent sexism at play. We want to make sure that young women know they have more to aspire to than to be the wife of some “prince.” They are not required to get their happy ending the Disney way; any ending is happy, as long as the woman is satisfied.