As women, we strive to prove societal stereotypes wrong, working to be the greatest we can be. The world of Disney was not always a realistic place for women. Sure, as children, we fell in love with all the characters and wanted to be just like the Disney princesses; but societal stereotypes, especially gender roles, played a huge part in early Disney films. Understanding this allows us to feel empathy for those around us who struggle with their identity because of the films they see that send the wrong message.
For example, most of the films portrayed women as helpless and weak. Those two words are probably very harsh considering the topic they are describing. However, it wasn’t until later that Disney began creating strong, independent female leads such as Merida in the film, “Brave” as well as Elsa in “Frozen”. These two princesses were a representation of what women strive to be and teach children to never give up on their dreams because of stereotypical societal expectations.
Aside from this, there was still a “blatant lack of diversity amongst characters” which sent a bad message to all young girls (Griffin). Not only were a majority of the Disney princesses white, but they also held the expectation that women had to be skinny and beautiful to be accepted in society. This unrealistic expectation hits hard for a lot of women and really affects their view of themselves and their identity.
Feeling empathy for these women can help us understand them as well as open our minds to the other side of a single sided story. Another issue in the Disney film industry was the fact that male characters had a majority of the lines despite the movie being centered around the life of a young woman. “The Little Mermaid” was the first film in which the men significantly outspoke the women in Disney movies (Guo). It includes Ariel without a voice for a majority of the film. This was not the only Disney movie in which women spoke less than me; in fact, it started a trend.
In the five Disney movies that followed, women spoke even less and men had three times as many lines as women (Guo). Men have always had the upper hand over women for years now. In order to stand up against this, women, as well as men, must stand together no matter what race they are. Empathy for what a woman has to go through in society can make them feel more accepted and understood. Knowing that they are not alone, will give many women the confidence they need to strive for greatness.
Griffin, Hannah. “The Danger of the Single Story in Today’s Society.” ImPossibilities, 8 Oct. 2016, morrison.sunygeneseoenglish.org/2016/10/08/the-danger-of-the-single-story-in-todays-society/.
Guo, Jeff. “Analysis | Researchers Have Found a Major Problem with ‘The Little Mermaid’ and Other Disney Movies.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Aug. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/25/researchers-have-discovered-a-major-problem-with-the-little-mermaid-and-other-disney-movies/.
Tags: Empathy RHS