By Marley Z.
And they lived happily ever after. But what is “happily ever after”? Through Disney princess movies, little girls grow up watching and learning about princesses and their quest to live happily ever after. These movies present an idealized and romanticized view that established love as the key to happily ever after. The dream of happily ever after through love is, to many little girls, not only realistic but easily attainable. So why is it that so many young girls are heavily influenced by the iconic Disney royalty? This essay will use culture and personality theory as well as feminist theory to discuss the misrepresentation of love in Disney princess movies and the effect that this has on young girls’ and their ideas of true love.
Why are young girls obsessed with romantic notions of happily ever after? A culture and personality theorist would suggest that the cultural significance of Disney gives it the power to influence what is ‘normal’ in society. Therefore, Disney princess culture influences young girls’ ideas of a ‘normal’ romance. The classic representation of romance in Disney movies plays out as follows: Damsel in distress meets boy who saves girl (generally in the form of a daring rescue), girl falls for guy, guy and girl get married, and they live happily ever after, the end. The notion of happily ever after through love is depicted throughout Disney princess movies and when young girls are exposed to this notion over and over again it becomes normalized for them. A standard personality characteristic of little girls then becomes one who idealizes love and romance and believes it to be the perfect solution to life’s problems.
So, the question then becomes, why is this view of love so harmful? A feminist anthropologist would propose that the depiction of Disney princesses in love skews young girls’ views of power in a relationship and leads them to believe they are inferior. A key aspect of romance in even contemporary, and supposedly modern, Disney princess movies is the understanding that a girl needs to be rescued, and that this action is reciprocated through feelings of love. This depiction leads to a normalized unequal balance of power in relationships centered on the idea that men are in power. This idea is then carried over in practice and many relationships are skewed against women. Despite the common cultural misrepresentation of love, it is important to understand that culture is never stagnant. It is always shifting and changing to adapt to society and the individual. Therefore, the cultural stance of girls in relation to romance perpetuated by cultural influencers, such as Disney princess movies, is able to shift towards a more progressive view.
By creating Disney princesses that exhibit strong and independent attitudes about love, culture can influence little girls’ ideas about new ways of romance and relationships, hopefully normalizing an equal balance of power in romantic relationships and downplaying their significance in happily ever after.