Disney, Let’s Get Real!


The un-real world of Disney Women © Disney

The un-real world of Disney Women
© Disney

Note:  November 25th, is the U.N.’s International Day To End Violence Against Women. In recognition of the day, something I believe is important every day, I plan to share a few posts this month that look at how women are viewed and treated in society– and how that may contribute to the problem.

When women are sexualized and compartmentalized, on so many levels, it’s not hard to see why they are victimized in such huge numbers.

I’m not an expert on the topic, and I’m sure there are much more complex theories out there; however, whether it’s unrealistic Disney characters or how our girls are expected to dress at school, these issues are relevant to the larger issue of inequality and abuse of women. Join the discussion! Share these posts, or contribute your own thoughts in the comment section.

GIPY

Tinker Bell by GIPY

I grew up on Disney and their magic. Every Sunday night, I waited for the iconic music and the image of Tinker Bell, spreading pixie dust over the Disney castle, to make my weekend complete. I ached to go see that castle in person, and was sure Tink was real. Though a tad haughty, she remains my all-time favorite.

As an even younger child, some of my earliest memories are of dancing around my paternal grandmother’s cast iron coffee table, as my brother and I listened to the albums Bambi and Mary Poppins… yes, albums. They came with color print inserts, that you could follow along on. My brother and I made our own fun– imagining the hunters coming or skipping with our invisible kites. We sang and danced for hours in that tiny living room, swept up in the magic that Disney does so well.

My maternal grandmother took me to Disneyland when I was five and a half, and my new baby sister’s birth required that my mother rest. My aunt Pam was only 11, and we were “tickled pink” to be in the Magic Kingdom! I can still remember the Small World that made mine grow exponentially, and my determined effort to be as cool as my aunt. Later, our family would visit Disney World– which truly is worlds bigger than the land that started it all! To this day, the clean perfection of Disney World does something to me that doesn’t exactly gel with my other world-views. I know it’s plastic; it’s a money pit; it’s un-environmental on a million levels– I know all the reasons why Disney World should annoy me, but I love the place, and the sense of fantasy that comes back to me when I’m there.

As my own children were growing up, they too were fans of the Disney franchise. Each new movie swept them away, and I got to continue seeing them, in the name of parenting. Principessa, my now 24 year-old daughter, and my first-born, was totally besotted with The Little Mermaid. She would stare at the screen in a trance. She knew every word, every song– every gesture. When Belle came along, she learned to twirl around our small living room in Chicago, and yell “the beast!” She posed for most pictures with her hand tilted under her chin, á la every Disney heroine ever seen. And my boys were no less enthusiastic about Lion King, Aladdin, and each of the Toy Story movies. Disney has been a part of my life for… all of my life.

The making of a princess: 

However, it didn’t take becoming a parent to notice some Disney trends that have certainly challenged me. It has always bothered me that Disney feels compelled to kill off mothers. Hello? What’s up with all the dead mommies, Walt (and all the Disney guys since)?  Snow White (the first Disney full length film): dead mom, evil step-mother (Freud would have a field day!); Bambi: slaughtered mom; Peter Pan: lost boys– no mommies; Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin (neither Aladdin nor Yasmin had mothers)… character after Disney character without mothers.

Beyond the lack of mother figures, or mean step-mother figures, it’s hard to be a mother of a daughter and not notice that most of Disney’s female characters are demure, sexualized, and beautiful… unnaturally beautiful. They all have doe-like eyes, tiny waists, perfect bust lines, gorgeous hair– they’re all just a tad too… perfect. And while I know they’re cartoon characters, they are all just perfect in a way that just isn’t… real. What does that teach our daughters about how they look and how they should act, to appear more like the characters they admire?

Recently I’ve seen two separate visuals about the ways in which Disney women/girls are portrayed in highly unrealistic ways, that perpetuate unreasonable expectations for young girls, and admittedly, each picture and point had me nodding my head and wondering how I allowed my own girl to idolize these unreasonable standards of femininity, and how did those early messages influence how they feel about themselves in life, when they don’t look like the heroines they have admired. Poor Barbie has taken a beating in recent years, but Disney remains a favorite.

What I find most disturbing about these photos is that once you look at the images on the right, the “realistic” animations, the originals look so wrong– actually the originals are much more distorted than I realized before. And, the “realistic” characters are not way out there folks; their bodies are adjusted to a fairly slim version of real. Why oh why can’t Disney just do it real in the first place? (images from Loryn Brantz at Buzzfeed)

I know this blog post isn’t going to change the world; it isn’t going to change violence against women, or how they’re viewed, and it certainly isn’t going to change the “magical world of Disney–” but it’s a step forward.  From an early age to now, it’s been a love-hate affair for me, with Disney. While I have long enjoyed their special brand of magic, as a mother, as a woman, I wish they would use some of their immense influence, to lead the way in bringing stronger female role models, who do not represent a distorted physical image, that is impossible to attain. What an incredible thing it would be, if Disney stepped up and helped a new generation of girls and boys see that girls are not just delicate, pretty things, who win in the end by batting their eyes and finding a prince, but by being determined, intelligent, adventurous, and strong– in bodies that are strong and accurately represented.

As we look at the continued assaults on women, all over the world, and how girls and women are viewed, maybe it’s time we all take a closer look at what we set in front our daughters, as examples of femininity, from the start.  The characters in these animated movies are often some of the earliest role models and heroines our daughters, nieces, sisters… we, see and try to emulate. They sing their songs; dress like them for Halloween, and carry them in their hearts as the young women they look up to. That has been true since I was a girl. It’s time that we all get real, and help girls and women see themselves as the strong, capable, beautiful people we are… just as we are– not as some artist imagines us. Disney, let’s get real!

For a compelling look at one family’s withdrawal from all things Disney, check out this blog: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/one-familys-bold-experiment-year-without-disney

These visuals are pretty compelling as well! Is it that hard to be real in that magical world?

Ariel

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
BuzzFeed / Walt Disney Pictures

Jasmine

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
BuzzFeed / Walt Disney Pictures

Belle

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
BuzzFeed / Walt Disney Pictures

Pocahontas

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
BuzzFeed / Walt Disney Pictures

Cinderella

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
BuzzFeed / Walt Disney Pictures

Snow White

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
BuzzFeed / Walt Disney Pictures

Mulan

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
BuzzFeed / Walt Disney Pictures

Aurora

If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes
Walt Disney Pictures
If Disney Princesses Had Normal-Size Eyes

Also read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/30/disney-princess-real-waistline_n_6076634.html

*     *     *

fanpop.com

fanpop.com

Make me smile; and HELP ME REACH MY GOAL:  I’d love to see the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I’m forced to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think. Honest, positive or constructive feedback is always welcome. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014  Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
Aside | This entry was posted in Awareness, Beauty, Blog, Blogging, Honest observations on many things, Life, Musings, My world, Natural beauty, Tales From the Motherland, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Disney, Let’s Get Real!

  1. mamaheidi60 says:

    No ads, but all your awards cover the photos on the right. The visuals look the same in the Before and After. Am I missing something? Other than that, of course, your comments are spot on! I have banned Disney in my classroom from Day One. No Disney books. And no McDonald’s toys. And every now and then I revive my reference to the great blog post: A year without Disney. http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/one-familys-bold-experiment-year-without-disney

    Like

    • Heidi, thanks for the feedback! This post was not suppose to “publish” until tomorrow, but I seem to be having issues with all kinds of programming stuff! I’ll check out the problems with the photos, etc. The before and after should definitely look different. In the body size ones, you’ll notice the subtle waist line change. It is subtle but based on “more realistic” body sizes, for girls that age. When I look at the images, I can see the differences. They didn’t do anything with the arms and necks though, and that seemed odd to me. The eye one was very obvious. If it’s not on the blog, then something’s wrong. Arrgh. I may not be seeing what you are.

      I loved that blog series about a year without Disney, when it came out, but forgot all about it. I followed it for quite a while– brilliant! I’m going to add it to the post. I’m not at all surprised that you have your hand on the pulse. You know I love what you do with and for children! Thanks!

      Like

  2. Bravo to you to take on Disney. I have yet to see Frozen. It’s the only movie my grands have seen (2/6 of them anyway). Curious to see it now.

    Like

  3. Ha! Well first of all, koodos to young Principessa with the hand. I think young Duckling had missed the beat during her golden age.

    But wow. For me, I remember just adoring Cinderella .. Blonde hair , blue eyes ? I was certainly very fascinated with the first blonde haired blue eyed gal I had seen when I first came to Canada. Unfortunately, she was very frail and thin as well, feeding further into the frenzy. I think for lack of better words, intrinsically knowing I couldn’t have the above I almost adopted a false sense of humility to mirror cinderellas genuine kindness..just another kid taking things all the wrong way. If Disney was trying to inspire some moral in otherwise more honest children, they certainly missed the beat with the Duck.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ME says:

    I’ve noticed how the earlier princesses (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) were not as warped- looking as those made in the era of photoshopping everyone. My children all ways preferred the animal based Disney movies, maybe talking animals were more realistic to them, although the mom thing was going on in Bambi too but Lion King did off the dad; then of course Simba had to go through his drop out phase that the princesses are never shown participating in because men are the answer to all their problems and you can’t be lazy and catch a man!
    Of course my son’s favorite movie at 3 was “Wayne’s World” and my daughters would pick “Charlie’s Angels” so not all succumbed to the Disneyfied world.

    FYI-You’ve won so many awards the “after” stills are covered up by your commendations. Keep up the great work!

    Like

    • ME, thanks for the wonderful feedback; these are some great points! I almost commented on the fact that Simba’s mother is left cowering from Scar, even though lionesses are known for their strength, cunning and leadership. Hmmm… way to make the ladies victims, Disney!

      This post was not suppose to be up until Friday– damn! I’ve adjusted the images so they fit better, and my awards are where they should be– off to the side! Thanks for the great feedback!

      Like

  5. hbksloss says:

    While I too was raised with the Disney mantra, I never got sucked into it, not did my kids. We took them reach to the parks but neither loved them the way that other kids seemed to. My son’s favorite character we meet was Tigger but he really didn’t trust any of them with those huge heads. Since none of us love the rides, neither complained about not going again, which was fine with me!

    Like

    • I’ve always admired those families who are able to avoid Disney’s strong pull. Admittedly, I’ve always felt torn between my childish love and my adult disgust. I certainly don’t think that all that is Disney is bad, but there is work that they really could be doing! It would be so great if they would truly a stand and work on strengthening young girl’s healthy sense of self. What an amazing stand they could make. Thanks for your feedback, Heidi; as always, it’s much appreciated. 🙂

      Like

  6. Mike Lince says:

    I see where feminist issues arise around Disney portrayals of women in their films. Our niece, now 5 y.o., is captivated with these princesses. Dressing up and getting to apply makeup is a huge deal for this girly-girl. Boys, on the other hand, get tired of Disney pretty fast, which is why the animators and the amusement park planners had to come up with Cars, and more recently, Planes – a less successful sequel. Boys quickly graduate to video games, a whole ‘nother story.

    I don’t blame Disney for the exploitation aspect of women’s roles through their movies since they are reproducing age-old fairy tales that addressed the cruelest and most fearful aspects of human behavior. The original purpose of those tales was to help children talk about the scariest things in life, things that were too hard for them to grasp in the real world. I think we overlook that aspect of Disney’s animated films, which do not shy away from portraying violence and cruelty so vividly.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that the princess images in Disney films are too perfect. Heck, even the live princesses in full costumes at the Disney parks are stunning. And having raised daughters, I am sensitive to the impossible-to-achieve standards of beauty through the media that girls are bombarded with, which I think is the most insidious form of exploitation.

    I applaud you for addressing women’s issues under the banner of the U.N.’s International Day To End Violence Against Women, and I look forward to upcoming stories that shine a light on the darker side of the exploitation of women, whether it be via legislation, human trafficking, or anti-social behavior. – Mike

    Like

    • Mike Lince says:

      ps – I had an album of the Sleeping Beauty soundtrack, a movie that my grandmother took me to see at the old Blue Mouse Theater on 5th Avenue in Seattle when I was five y.o. I still remember Once Upon a Dream as vividly as Jiminy Cricket singing When You Wish Upon a Star. 🙂

      Like

    • Thanks Mike. I think that Disney doesn’t really target the original fairy tales in the most helpful way– yes, those stories were meant to bring home important life messages, but too often Disney’s message is that beautiful girls find a prince, and need a lot of help along the way. True, Bambi’s mother dies in the way so many deer die, but that message doesn’t really help human children. While I love Disney for the magic that I still feel with their animation, parks, etc, I DO BLAME THEM for the exploitation aspect. I don’t think their story messages justify their means. In fact, I think they often miss the mark on the message too. You know I think the world of you, but we were bound to disagree sooner or later. 😉

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  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    Those before and after images are really eye-opening (no pun intended considering the before shots show how ridiculously big they make the characters’ eyes). I really enjoyed this post because this is a topic that lights my fire. I don’t have daughters so I haven’t had to battle the issue with them, but I have had to try and explain to my sons over the years about these false portrayals and the unfair expectations they create.

    There’s an interesting book on the topic you might enjoy. It’s called “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture” by Peggy Orenstein. It addresses the issues along with the author’s own struggle to keep her daughters away from the commercialization of these images. No shocker that she isn’t successful. The images and products are everywhere.

    Great post, Dawn!

    Like

    • Carrie, this post went up a day early… not sure how. But I’ve added a link to another blog, about a family that went without Disney for a year. It was fascinating when I first read it a few years ago, but I’d forgotten about it. Admittedly, I have long had a love-hate relationship with Disney! There are things I love, and then these issues just make me crazy. These are such deeply ingrained issues! The blame does not all go to Disney, but they could do so much more good than they do. Such a complex issue, that should be simpler… or could be.

      Like

  8. Pingback: Disney, Let’s Get Real! | Love All Blogs

  9. Psychobabble says:

    Disney was also a huge part of my childhood. I wanted to be Ariel, and even put my feet through a diving ring in the pool to create my own mermaid tail.
    As I got older, I did appreciate characters like Belle and Mulan (and later Merida) because they got to be a bit more bookish and/or outgoing and independent. My goal as a parent is to help my kids put warped images like these into perspective and to get them to think critically about the media.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks M. It’s interesting to me… I’ve been thinking a LOT about sexuality, body image and women/girls lately. I saw a lot of things differently before I had my own children, and a daughter, in particular. While I see both sides of several of these issues, I do find myself increasingly sick of the “warped images,” that can impact young people so much.

      Thanks for the feedback. I love hearing how other people view this, and I really appreciate the support.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Greta L says:

    I absolutely agree that Disneys representation of women is gross – and not just women, Disney is also incredibly racist. But I strongly disagree with your statement about what we teach girls contributing to violence against women. Does it contribute to self-inflicted violence? Absolutely. But male violence against women has nothing to do with what we teach our girls, and everything to do with what we teach boys and men. Too often I hear the conversation about violence against women or rape culture starting with a conversation about women… When It should always always start with a conversation about boys and men. Why we teach THEM and let them get away with is what matters. Yes we should talk to girls about unnatural standards, self esteem, fat phobia etc. but we should never tell our girls that dressing like Cinderella makes them less strong or makes men more likely to hurt or disrespect them – that is on the men, always.

    Like

    • Absolutely! Greta, welcome to Tales From the Motherland, and thanks so much for this thoughtful, intelligent comment. I really appreciate the effort to contribute to the discussion. Yes, I think I really overlooked that point, but agree with you entirely. I, in NO way meant to suggest that dressing like a princess makes them “less strong or makes men more likely to hurt or disrespect them,” and I agree completely that this is on the men and boys who inflict the violence (when discussing abuse). My intention was to look at how the warped/distorted representation of women as looking a certain way sets up a perception (by males) that this is all women are: sexually attractive beings, who need saving, and are less intelligent, less strong, and then beholding to men/boys. The images, I think, create a false sense of what girls/women are about.

      However, while I agree that ultimately it has “everything to do with what we teach our boys,” I don’t agree that it has “nothing to do with what we teach our girls.” If girls are taught that they must look a certain way to be attractive, and that demure, helpless behavior gets them saved, then they are more likely to see themselves as less capable than males, and helpless against violence, subjugation, dominance, etc that is directed at them by men. YES! It is truly on males to not do these things, to change the way they think and behave, but it can’t help to be using Disney (or any other examples) characters that, in some cases, perpetuate that myth of weakness and passivity. This post could have, should have included more discussion along these lines… but there’s another post that needs to be written! Thanks for your very insightful thoughts; I really appreciate you taking the time.

      Like

  11. etomczyk says:

    Never had a problem with the Disney images being too much for my girls–they weren’t obsessed with them. What was far more damaging were the photo shopped images in the teen magazines that they compared their middle school bodies too. I personally think that porn (almost considered a right of passage for boys) leads to violence against women through its complete and total objectification. For instance, I am horrified that 50 Shades of Grey is accepted as a cultural phenomenon. You can’t tell me that bondage as entertainment doesn’t lead to violence against women. It’s horrid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, AMEN, Amen! On all counts. I believe porn leads to all kinds of ideas about women, by young men, and it’s shocking to me that 50 Shades could go from being a soft porn book to a an acceptable R movie. Whoa. Amen! (But then, you must know by now, E, we see eye to eye on many things!)

      Like

  12. mamaheidi60 says:

    As the discussion has focused on violence against women and Disney’s part through the portrayal of women, I will just say that I was raped nearly 45 years ago. I wasn’t raised on Disney, never went to Disney movies. But I was raised to believe that my own behavior was to blame for the assault. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was a prevalent understanding on the edge of women’s liberation. There weren’t any messages to me at the time that it wasn’t my fault. Personally, yes, we need to raise our boys to respect women, but seriously – we need to raise all of our children to respect one another, opposite sex, same sex. We need to teach children from day one that no means no, etc. My other objection to Disney is truly the marketing, materialism. The biggest change I’ve seen culturally in my many years of teaching is that boys, preschool and early elementary, are able to put on costumes with clearly feminine looks – swishy dresses, high heels and though they giggle, no one makes a big deal out of it. No one shames them for trying on other behaviors. It will change as they get older, they may be exposed to taunts as they get older, but I do see a change in the little groups I work with. So much work to do! Anti-bullying, acceptance of diverse gender expression, etc., etc. Bogs like this certainly help engage us all in those discussions! Thank you Dawn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heidi, I am deeply honored that you would share such a vulnerable and painful experience here. I really do believe that sharing helps us all become wiser and more compassionate about this kind of violence. It hurts me deeply to think of you being assaulted like that. As for the other thoughtful points you’ve made here, I can only say: Amen! Thanks so much for contributing to this discussion. xoxo

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      • mamaheidi60 says:

        Several things led up to this opening up. With my mother’s death, I have processed a lot of the oddities in my upbringing. The news reports about rapes on campuses, so many having something to do with the Greek system, I have felt compelled to be more open here. The woman at the University of Virginia’s case last week just really made me realize I needed to speak up. When appropriate. When I think the audience will listen. Thanks for the opening! xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think your story is so powerful, and potentially healing for other women, who have not been able to share. I had a very frustrating, but interesting, talk with my 18 yr old son last night about the “rape culture.” Not surprisingly, he and his friend didn’t “get it” and didn’t think it was “real.” They were both compassionate and horrified that women are raped, but the idea that there was anything systemic was beyond them… Thank YOU so much for leading a dialogue here. It’s such an important subject, but I really respect how sensitive and vulnerable it is. Hugs. xox

          Like

  13. Great post!! I agree with you on all levels. My son and daughter (especially her) laugh at how I boycutted shows, videos and certain jeans…well, I tried 🙂 I think the get it intellectually but I find they are still influenced by size. My daughter is happier with herself now in her 30’s and it shows physically…accepting her natural curves rather than a pubescent body. I work on a youth line and all too often hear girls wanting to end their lives struggling constantly with their eating disorder. Your post is real. Thank you for sharing such vital information. Now if only more teens watched the movie “Real women have curves”.

    Like

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