When it comes to gender roles, Disney’s glass slipper doesn’t always fit

Zofia Kayian, Staff Writer

We all know and love the momentous franchise that is Disney, but have we thought about how the innocent Disney movies affected us as children? Disney movies, especially the older ones, have a pattern: a girl is in trouble and a boy rescues her. This pattern creates gender roles.

Gender roles are a set a social expectations that are assigned based on your sex. For example, the clothes you are allowed to wear, the sports you are allowed to play, and the encouraged careers you can pursue.

Children incorporate the movies they watch into their play and identity development. When I was young, I watched Disney movies all the time. I remember watching Cinderella clean floors and wait for her prince, and thinking I had to be this domestic and otherwise naive girl. Older Disney movies make the women look less like a hero and more like a damsel in distress, waiting for their knight in shining armor, who, might I add, was always white.

The princess movies are the real classics in Disney, and maybe when we were young, we loved them. But now, take a step back and think about how the princesses are portrayed as perfect, sending a message that anything less is unacceptable. Girls look at these characters and think that is the way their lives should be. Some may want to be princesses, but for those who do not want to live like that, the stereotypes make them feel as if there is something wrong with them.

Women are pressured to act and look like what is perfect in the male’s eyes, causing women to become submissive and men to become dominant. This is a platform that leads to gender inequality.
No matter how sad the truth is, if a female is not a perfect, submissive girl, she stands no chance compared to the princesses in Disney movies. These stereotypes make us believe that a docile woman and male savior is the ideal life for all of us.

These stereotypes also put undue and often forgotten pressure on boys. While girls feel as if they need to be saved, boys are pressured to be a strong, almighty savior, which not all boys are. All the Disney princes are tall, muscular, handsome, and almost always white, which makes boys who are lanky and do not have leading man looks feel inferior and weak.

Even though these stereotype have existed in Disney films for years, I am optimistic about the future of Disney films. Little girls have new heroes to admire like Elsa and Anna from “Frozen,” and Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog.” In “Frozen,” Elsa uses the true love between sisters, not from a romantic interest, to save her dying sister Anna. Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” stands out from the other princesses because she is a mixed race princess.

Disney has definitely been changing for the better, but they still have a lot to change, including the lack of mixed races and sexual orientations. I wonder what Disney movies will be like ten, twenty years from now.