Ask anybody in my generation, and they will tell you that Disney is our childhood. Now, because I lived in Turkey for the first nine years of my life, my childhood was a little different than the average American’s. I never watched the “classic” Lizzie Mcguire moviesand while I knew people who played with Pokémon cards, I never played with them myself. But Disney was definitely a part of my childhood. I watch Mary Poppins or The Aristocats now and all the memories come flooding back. Nostalgia is a beautiful thing. And Disney is the best agent for bringing that nostalgia.
But as I’m growing up (I can’t say that I’m all grown up; I haven’t “become” anything yet!), I’m starting to see the holes in Disney’s stories. It started in 7th grade when they told us that Walt Disney was racist and that we could see that in Dumbo, Fantasia, and many others. And of course, I’ve always disagreed with Disney’s endorsement of the idea of “love at first sight.” I recognized early on that there was something wrong with the idea of loving someone for their physical attraction, even if I couldn’t necessarily articulate it at the time.
Then, a couple summers ago, I was able to articulate my dissatisfaction. I ranted about how society values physicality instead of character, brains, or talent. It was relieving to get that off my chest when I’d been internally ranting about it for years. I thought I was done after I wrote that post. I wasn’t.
You see, Disney doesn’t just endorse love at first sight or the glorification of our physical selves; it also restricts the female image. Now, who are the obvious female Disney characters? The princesses, of course! What do the princesses do? Practically nothing. Well, Mulan saves China, and that’s kind of awesome (though she technically isn’t a princess).
But just think about it: as a young girl, which characters am I bombarded with the most? The princesses. And that’s cool, I guess. But then what’s my image of a princess? A girl who wears pretty dresses and falls in love. Maybe I’m a bit bookish, so I connect to Belle. Or maybe “I have a dream,” and my affinity lies with Rapunzel.
But ultimately, their happy ending lies with the fact that they have their man. Is that seriously all we girls are supposed to do? Let’s just completely disregard the fact that real-life princesses are strong, intelligent leaders who do way more than just try out fancy hairstyles so they can go to balls while wearing their way-more-than-humanly-tight dresses. And Disney isn’t the only culprit. We are literally surrounded by movies and books and this and that that tell us that as women, our life’s greatest achievement is true love. Which it’s not. We may be loving creatures, but we don’t need to be defined by our quest for romantic love. We can be strong, fearless, clever, funny, happy, and successful, all without romantic love or all the other stuff that’s been shoved down our throats.
Now I have also watched some really awesome videos recently saying similar things from a man’s perspective. I really enjoy that insight because I think it’s important to realize that the fact that Hollywood has weak female protagonists doesn’t just affect women; it affects men, too. And because I’m not a man and cannot speak to the men out there without feeling super biased, I’ll just give you those links here:
We can all be real, strong princesses (and princes, for that matter). Let’s not wait for the clock to strike 12 before we figure that out.