Monday, March 15, 2010

Disney gets sexy

The last two weeks I have made a few comments (here and here) about Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, which I read with interest over the summer.

As many of you know we have two daughters, and we are in the 'princess' and dressing up stage with both of them. We were given Disney princess playing cards as a gift last year, and it intrigued me to see the change in Disney's portrayal of women over the decades, which can be seen directly by each Disney princess.

Start with Snow White, which was first released in 1938 (and re-released in 2009). She was a rather demure figure, looks like a girl, hardly any bust, has sensible shoes, and while thin-waisted has a reasonably accurate figure for a teenager.

Next we have Cinderella, which was released in 1950 (re-released in 2004) & Aurora, Sleeping Beauty (1959, re-released in 2008). Both still have discreet tops, but are much bustier. Their waists are also getting thinner.

After this point, Disney has a break for about 30 years, and returns to the scene with 3 bestseller movies in 3 years:

There is Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989), Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991) and Jasmine (Aladdin, 1992). Note that:

- their bustlines are more defined, larger and are much more on show,
- their waists are getting even thinner, and
- their eyes are really big, compare their eyes from the earlier version - if you had eyes that large you would look very strange!

I am willing to acknowledge that Disney has at least got more multi-cultural in the last 20 years, with Mulan (Chinese, 1998), Pocahontas (Native American Indian, 1995) and Tianna (African-American, 2009). However, none of them have really been raised to the same 'Princess' status, and all of them are still beautiful, thin (especially impossibly thin-waisted) and buxom.

I am not planning an all-out campaign against Disney. I don't really care enough! However, I do think it's helpful to be aware of these trends and be able to point them out to our sons and daughters. To encourage them to ask questions about what they watch, and the messages they are given:

- Do you think it's important that she is pretty?
- Do you think the movie is telling us it's important that she is pretty? Why?
- Do you think she is happy because she looks pretty?
- Do you know anyone who really looks like this?
etc, etc

Also, I am not banning such movies from our home, the ones that we have seen (which are only a few), have redeeming qualities of characters that you can emphasise, and they are fun! They have great music and are fun to watch.

However, it's yet another thing that I keep in mind as I continue to ponder the sexualisation of girls and how the media have helped it along.

*Pictures from
Research done with Wikipedia and the Disney websites.

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