Why Disney Princesses Are Good Role Models for Children | Teen Ink

Why Disney Princesses Are Good Role Models for Children

April 9, 2016
By KristinWu BRONZE, Guangzhou, Other
KristinWu BRONZE, Guangzhou, Other
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

From 1937, when the first Disney princess Snow White appeared in films made by Walt Disney Pictures (abbreviated to Disney below), Disney Princess, as a unique brand, begins to dominate the market of entertainment products. According to the list of the best-selling licensed entertainment character merchandise released by Trade publication The Licensing Letter in 2012, Disney Princess made $1.6 billion in North American retail sales and $3 billion globally, making them the number one brand in the list (Goudreau, par. 1). Though popular, Disney princesses are always in the middle of the argument about whether they, as role models for children, would make positive or negative effects on their adorers. Some people believe Disney princesses are harmful to children’s values, but the opposite that they are good role models is actually more convincing.

A popular argument held by the supporters of Disney princesses being bad role models is that most of the princesses become dependent on another person, usually a man (Estrada, S. Flake, and J. Flake, sec. 1), and they have no career aspiration of their own (Khalid, par. 5). However, this conclusion is not objective enough. Undeniably, there are a few princesses who fit the description above, such as the Sleeping Beauty Aurora and Snow White. The reason to say these two princesses are not representative is both of them are created before 1960s. The first appearance of Snow White can even be tracked back to 1937 (“Disney Princesses”). Children today may like the images of them or have heard of their stories as fairy tales, which were originally published by other people, such as the Grimm Brothers, instead of Disney, but children are more likely to regard more recent princesses as their role models instead of the old ones (“Ranking”). And modern princesses on the other hand, from 1980 to now, from Ariel in The Little Mermaid to Elsa and Anna in Frozen, are all independent and aspirational. One example is Merida in Brave, daughter of a queen, who is willing to trade her tiara for a bow and arrows, striving for the chance to choose her true love instead of putting all her hope on anyone else (“Brave”). Another similar example is Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, who dreams of owning her own restaurant. Tiana works for hours and hours, saving up every penny she makes in order to realize her ambition (“The Princess and the Frog”). Other princesses, such as Mulan and Anna, also earn their “happily ever afters” by their own efforts. And the presence of men in these movies is to show that love does exist and men can be chivalrous. In brief, these princesses teach the young children how to be independent instead of being dependent on others as what opponents claim.

Opponents of Disney princesses are good role models also advance an argument against Disney princesses, claiming that their stories give children unrealistic imagination. In a piece of news from ABC News, the author speaks of the need for “kids to live in real life, not fantasy” (“What’s wrong?”) However, the most important things about these princesses that Disney Company wants to show are not unrealistic. As a matter of fact, most of them are positive for children to expect, such as true love. There’s no wrong for girls to look forward to these wonderful aspects in life, for the cruelty of life is not for their ages to worry about. Moreover, is this kind of imagination deleterious? An article in Reader’s Digest brings about a different light. It has been proven that playing pretend can help children work out their fear and worries while building up self-confidence at the same time (“5 Benefits”). In the long run, allowing a young girl to pretend she is a princess gives her a better opportunity at succeeding in life (Estrada, S. Flake, and J. Flake, par. 5). There even is an example of the benefits of imagination in Disney movie, which is the story of Rapunzel in Tangled, who was trapped in a tower for years, but entertains herself by her amazing imagination (“Tangled”).

 The final argument behind the belief of Disney princesses are bad role models is about their appearance. Opponents point out the princesses convey a message that your physical image is what the society view you as, as most of them recently received makeovers that involved rosier cheeks, longer eyelashes, plumper lips, shinier hair and more hourglass shapes (Estrada, S. Flake, and J. Flake, sec. 3). Opponents also claim that in Disney princess films, everything that is ugly or old is classified as evil (Solanki, par. 4). The opposing contention for this is that people naturally tend to love good-looking things and hate the opposite even in real life. The purpose to create different images of different characters is to convey the qualities of the characters and roles the characters play in the movies better, in order to arouse stronger connections between the audience and the story lines as well as to make the audience feel what the characters feel. Disney princess movies, as which are mainly for young children, particularly, need to exaggerate the images of characters for better understanding. This is a common phenomenon that can be found in almost every movie and even literature work, so it is biased to say that to see Disney princesses as role models will lead to distortion in values. On the other hand, in all Disney movies, the principles like friendship, love, loyalty and honesty are more crucial than simply the appearance. No princesses are chosen for their looks, but instead for being fair, kind and smart. Disney does what they need to do to keep up with the society, while still maintaining the values that the company was founded upon (Estrada, S. Flake, and J. Flake, sec. 4). For example, in Beauty and the Beast, Belle is able to see beyond the hideous and scary appearance of the beast, digging out the side of gentleness and kindness of him. This story teaches children to see through appearance to the real whenever they meet new things and people, which is just the opposite of what opponents claim. Therefore, children can learn many valuable qualities from the princesses instead of doing what opponents expect, focusing only on their beautiful appearance.

In conclusion, it is evident that Disney princesses are actually very good role models for children, and the opposite is not compelling. Adults should feel happy about their children to adore Disney princesses because they can learn a lot from the princesses about compassion, strength and having faith in others, which are necessary lessons in children’s lives. As Andy Mooney, the chairman of Disney consumer products worldwide, once said about his princess creations, "They are caring, they are loving, they are friendly, they are courteous" (“What’s Wrong?”).

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