A Tale as Old as Time – An analysis of negative stereotypes in Disney Princess Movies

Jolene Ewert, Montana State University

Full manuscript: www.kon.org/urc/v13/ewert.html

Abstract: The Disney Corporation has been entertaining families with animated films since the 1930s. Disney princesses have gained notoriety over the years and even received their own line of products in the 1990s. Disney princess movies and related products have brought in billions of dollars through sales. Disney is a household name, and children all around the world are familiar with the movies. Through content analysis, this study examined the ways in which negative stereotypes are reinforced in Disney princess movies and the effects those stereotypes have on young, impressionable minds.

Introduction This study focused on the top ten grossing Disney princess movies of all time. These included: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mulan (1998), Enchanted (2007), The Princess and the Frog (2009), and Tangled (2010). Each movie was analyzed for its content regarding gender, race, and social class. The princess in each movie was also studied for characteristics and attributes indicating how a “normal” girl looks and behaves. A timeline was implemented to monitor the progress made in depictions of characters over time. The results were then compared with previous research on the topic.

This research is important because children view these stereotypical roles as the right and only way to behave. As researchers England, Descartes, and Collier-Meek (2011) discussed, these commonly portrayed characteristics suggest that “some gendered characteristics are not permissible for the prince or princess to display” (p. 563). So, a prince will not show a loss of power or outcry of emotion, and a princess is unlikely to be seen as a hero or be put into a position of power. If young children see these characters as the norm, their reality becomes skewed. The same applies to the race and social classes depicted in the films. If children don’t look or live like those they see on the screen, they often see something wrong with themselves and develop self-esteem issues.

Read the full manuscript: www.kon.org/urc/v13/ewert.html