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The effect of female Disney characters on young girls, are they bad role models?

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I am an A level media studies student, working towards my January examination on my critical research. i have chosen to research the effects Disney films have on young girls, and whether the characters' images have an effect on how young girls feel about their own body image. Do these characters, who generally have a large chest, a tiny waist and red pouting lips, display the wrong ideals about body image? Do children subconciously look up to these Disney princesses and wish they had a waist that small?

In previous years, i have studied the effects modelling and celebrity media coverage has on teenagers and their body images, but i have never thought to look into smaller children, and the effects a supposed harmless cartoon film can have on how they view themselves, and how they want to look when they're older.

There has been some talk of how Disney films contain refrences of Nazism, and how Walt Disney actually purposely used Nazi ideals in his films as a sort of subliminal message. However, has anyone ever thought about the images of his female creations, and how their cleavages, tiny waists and pretty eyes may actually effect young girls?

id really appreciate someone elses view on this topic
help me out

XXX



"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



Hi Jenniferrr and welcome!

I'm doing a BA-thesis in somewhat the same area as you (portrayal of females, but in a different type of movie), and my teacher suggested looking at Visual and other pleasures by Laura Mulvey, as it is a central work in the area of women's portrayal on screen. I don't know if it deals with Disney or animation even (haven't read it yet), but you'll very likely find some background and theories that might prove useful. Another useful source might be Feminist film theory: a reader by Sue Thornham (ed.), which contains essays on the topic.

For as far as I can recall the Barbie-image for the female-'hero' is indeed in all of the Disney-movies and yes ofcourse that is going to affect those who watch it. On the other hand the villains have different appearances. Ursula in the little mermaid is a clear opposite with her large body and gray hair. However, if I recall correctly, there are also some scenes in which we see Ursula put on make-up, so here they relate make-up and false appearance (also when she later transforms into a human) with evil and the ideal is more of a natural beauty, rather than a constructed one. Other villainesses (?), such as Cruella de Ville, are rather slim and perhaps even thin, so perhaps it's also worth looking into that?

Those are just some thing that spring to mind, in a hurry as well as I am almost late for work now :P. Hopefully it'll help you make a nice researchpaper, and perhaps you can even post it here when you're done
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It'd be interesting to ask some young girl viewers what they think themselves, and you must be young enough yourself Jennifer to remember what you thought of the females in Disney films.

Haven't the females got a lot more sassy since my childhood when I remember thinking that far from wanting to be Snow White, I thought she was the wimpiest girl I'd ever seen !



Originally Posted by JENNIFERRR. View Post
I am an A level media studies student, working towards my January examination on my critical research. i have chosen to research the effects Disney films have on young girls, and whether the characters' images have an effect on how young girls feel about their own body image. Do these characters, who generally have a large chest, a tiny waist and red pouting lips, display the wrong ideals about body image? Do children subconciously look up to these Disney princesses and wish they had a waist that small?

In previous years, i have studied the effects modelling and celebrity media coverage has on teenagers and their body images, but i have never thought to look into smaller children, and the effects a supposed harmless cartoon film can have on how they view themselves, and how they want to look when they're older.

There has been some talk of how Disney films contain refrences of Nazism, and how Walt Disney actually purposely used Nazi ideals in his films as a sort of subliminal message. However, has anyone ever thought about the images of his female creations, and how their cleavages, tiny waists and pretty eyes may actually effect young girls?

id really appreciate someone elses view on this topic
help me out

XXX
You're doing a research paper and so you ask an Internet forum of people about whom you know absolutely nothing--especially whether or not they are qualified to have an opinion on small girls' attitudes toward female Disney characters? Well, that's the lazy way of doing it--sit at your laptop and pull random comments literally out of the air. Don't bother to do research at your library of academic studies of what influences the self-image of young girls and the impact of media on that image. Don't do any research on Disney and his creations ("they" say his films contained "references to Nazism"--whatever the hell that is. Did "they" also tell you that the State Department recruited Disney to make pro-US cartoons to be shown in South America during World War II to combat fascism in those countries?). Or even for gawd's sakes poll a bunch of young girls about what they think about Disney characters.

Film school must be a lot easier than college or even high school where instructors insisted that I define my terms prior to research. For instance, to which female Disney characters are you referring? Snow White in the 1930s is very different from the more liberated Pocahontas in the 1990s. And not all Disney females are slim--look at the evil Mim in The Sword and the Stone or the female octopus in The Little Mermaid or Cinderella's fairy godmother or the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty. Even if you stick with Disney's lovely leading ladies, were they really proportioned so differently from the leading ladies in John Huston's films or any other directors? Is Cinderella any thinner than Julia Roberts or does she have bigger breasts than Dolly Parton? It's interesting that the inflatable life jackets worn by sailors and airmen in World War II were nicknamed "Mae West" rather than Snow White. And how does the influence of Disney characters seen on the screen compare with the influence of Barbie and other dolls with unrealistic figures that girls hold in their hands, play with, and even take to bed?

And are today's pre-teen females more subject to influence by Disney characters than were their mothers and grandmothers who saw many of those classic characters when they were children? I suspect that Disney's characters have remained constant and that it's our society and modern concepts of beauty and children that has changed.

Time to shut down the computer and go to the library for some serious research of your topic.

Last edited by rufnek; 09-09-08 at 04:29 PM.



Registered User
I think that you will find that the smaller girls are equally infuenced by the same media as their older sisters, maybe Disney is influntial and maybe not. Where I live I have not noticed a Disney influence but then I live on an island and perhaps we are luckier here and the influences of mainland Britain can be later in arriving.



rufnek, dont you think you're being a little overbearing and judgmental?

I dont think there is anything intrinsically wrong with asking for opinion (and you cant get more readily available and wider opinion than on the internet), assuming you also have, or plan to have the other supporting information (acquired by research) at your fingertips.

There is a place for polled opinion. I'm not sure how statistically accurate it will be, but assuming that it is filtered through the lens of additional/greater information, there is a place for it.

I just dont assume Jenniferrrrrr will base her entire thesis on the replies of forum members, nor do I assume that she hasnt done, or will not do additional research. That would be really bad (F Paper bad).

Telling her to is not only making an assumption that she hasnt/wont, but is also kind of begging the question.

Other than that, I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject matter, because you seem to allude to greater knowledge. Seems interesting. Of course, if you are really just concerned that your depth of knowledge and ideas are simply going to be plagarized, then, by all means, dont.
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I'm hard to get, Steve. All you have to do is ask
I don't really think ruffy is out of line mack. He wasn't even rude, really. This is a movie forum after all and every couple of months it seems we get a lot of these same little "questions" and they always say the same things. In fact I believe someone was on here last year asking this very same question or one very close to it. If these folks really wanted to discuss this issue that would be one thing. But no, the vast majority of these I've seen have been exactly like this one. They make one post and then some people come in and give up their time and do this persons work for them (so to speak) and we never see them again unless they have another "question" they need answered.
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I feel you Powdered, and maybe Im not here enough - but who in god's name could really write a thesis off of some answers they got online?? At most, they can get ideas for research, or have a thought they never considered presented to them. Everybody isnt [Insert Age Bracket Here], nor have they "arrived."

And the people here seem to be seriously invested in how much they know about movies, and they actually KNOW A LOT. Why would it ever be a bad thing for a person to consult an expert? It weirds me out for an expert NOT to want to be consulted.

I can see it now:

Person X: I'm an expert on the movies.
mack: Oh, cool. I'm doing a research paper on (blah, blah, blah, blah, movies, blah blah), and was wondering about your take on this angle of approach about (blah blah)?
Person X: Screw you, Loser. Go study it yourself!
mack: Uh......ok?

I could care less about somebod's research paper/thesis. I actually think it is an interesting question, but I hardly know anything about the subject (other than subjective impression). I would've liked to follow any discussion on the matter. I dont guess that will happen.

Last edited by mack; 09-09-08 at 09:52 PM.



Hope for the best and plan for the worst...
I think that the online arena is only going to grow more and more, and I see nothing wrong with asking opinions of people whom are members of a movie forum about their thoughts on movies, be it Disney or otherwise. Where I do see a problem is if one is treating the question as either an interview or a statiscal thing or a place to steal thoughts. If you use anything from this site then include it in a bibliography. If that is done I have no problem. All that being said n stuff:

It is not just Disney films although I know that is your focus, I see my grandaughter (she is two) copy more of what her mother does than anything she watched on the tube, be it Disney or otherwise. I see no indication, as of yet, of her seeing anything other than a "fun time".

Now, boys on the other hand are just little unoriginal beasts .
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Personally, I believe that the "body image" thing is a little played out. Guys & girls alike, at some point feel insecure about their image, blaming the media is a bit of a cop-out. Children should learn to deal with their self esteem. There is always going to be some form to aspire to, whether it is a boy wanting bigger biceps, or a girl wanting a bigger chest. It's the kids that need to have their value reinforced, not the media that needs to be altered. If kids were instilled with these ideals, then the media would be of no consequence.
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...uh the post is up there...



You looked good, awful good.
Originally Posted by JENNIFERRR. View Post

There has been some talk of how Disney films contain refrences of Nazism, and how Walt Disney actually purposely used Nazi ideals in his films as a sort of subliminal message.
I want to start with this comment. To me, it sounds like something somebody connected to Disney via the content of Leni Riefenstahl's films. I will be the first to admit that I've never heard this charge rationally leveled at Disney, but if you understand the charges against Riefenstahl that her filmic presentations of "perfect" bodies in both Olympia (my vote for the most artistic depiction of sports in film history) and her "home movies" and photographic essay books of the Mesakin Nuba tribe in Africa, her detractors pretty much believe that they can find Hitler's desire for a "perfect race" to be present in all her work, even if it's a non-white race.

Let's look at Riefenstahl and compare her to Disney, at least visually. You be the judge.

Here's Riefenstahl:



Here's Disney:



I will admit that there may be some similarities, but I find far more differences. In fact, I want to discuss them right now, but I believe we would have a better discussion if others shared what they think first. I'll sneak out that Disney's heroines (when they aren't animals, or maybe even if they are, seem to be fair-haired whites, but after his death, the studio seemed to include heroines of color more often, even if a gypsy is blue-eyed.) I shall return irregardless.

This is somehow an examination of how Disney is supposed to be pro-Nazi. WTF? (I really worry about the way people process information.) Click "Play" if it doesn't automatically start up in ten seconds.
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ed5_1173409405


Also, if the Nazi angle is something you still believe you want to pursue, check this.

I hope this stimulates something positive!
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Last edited by mark f; 10-27-08 at 09:06 PM.



I am half agony, half hope.
When my daughter was young, the only thing she was concerned with from a Disney film were the dresses that the characters wore. We had to buy several so we could put a different one on her long enough to wash the one she had been wearing.

I beleieve that if a parent does their job, that a girl will feel beautiful no matter what she looks like. Don't all little girls feel like princesses? I know I did.

When you get to adolescence, that's when the opinions of the world at large start to matter. Magazines, music videos, and ads, all work to make a girl question her self-concept. That's the evil here, not Disney.

I think the portrayal of Disney Heroines as pretty is to show their inner beauty. The evil characters are almost always unattractive, or at least severe looking to show their true ugliness inside.
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Hello Salem, my name's Winifred. What's yours
Firstly I'd like to say that I seriously doubt anyone bases an essay entirely on forum responses and there's no harm in asking people their opinions.

Secondly, I'm doing Film Studies at university so I'm actually in a position to lend this person a hand so its not a stupid idea to throw a question out there to see varied responses. You never know who maybe reading.

I would suggest really looking at Laura Mulvey's work - shes the tip of the top when it comes to feminist film readings.

Something you must remember about Disney is that for every leading lady they draw they have a real life model to pose for them in the studio - one could argue that they are drawing a real woman and not just an idea of a woman.

I would also suggest a poll of currently young girls and older girls, the contrast of image as well as disney that they're seeing because of the different times may contribute to what they think about women.

When writing a critical/research essay you've got to break down your questions. You said:

Do these characters, who generally have a large chest, a tiny waist and red pouting lips, display the wrong ideals about body image?
Are the characteristics you mentioned really wrong? how are they wrong? Are they fitting with the social image of women at the time they were drawn? e.g. Mulan would have never flown with a 1940's audience - not only was she Chinese but she also pretended to be a man, unusual in animation too, and this would have been a deviation from the traditional image of women in society.

We dont want to promote anorexia or anything like that but at the same time we have a childhood obesity problem - could your essay apply to this e.g. would it be better to have a chubby princess? Or is it better to have a slim, beautiful princess who always gets the guy?
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Who can take Disney females seriously? They are nice to look at but that's all.

I remember an English cartoonist got a job at Disney about 15 years ago. He sent in some drawings of original characters, just copying the basic generic face of the Disney females.

Tinkerbelle gets a makeover:


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Miss Kitty gets a makeover:




.:*why So serious*:.
You're doing a research paper and so you ask an Internet forum of people about whom you know absolutely nothing--especially whether or not they are qualified to have an opinion on small girls' attitudes toward female Disney characters? Well, that's the lazy way of doing it--sit at your laptop and pull random comments literally out of the air. Don't bother to do research at your library of academic studies of what influences the self-image of young girls and the impact of media on that image. Don't do any research on Disney and his creations ("they" say his films contained "references to Nazism"--whatever the hell that is. Did "they" also tell you that the State Department recruited Disney to make pro-US cartoons to be shown in South America during World War II to combat fascism in those countries?). Or even for gawd's sakes poll a bunch of young girls about what they think about Disney characters.
Who says She isn't doing all the other research too, i am actually her classmate, i introduced her to the forum, this forum is a gethereing of people interested/experienced and knowlegable of the media, all she is asking is:
id really appreciate someone elses view on this topic
An opinion on the topic.
not for you to Critisise destructively, and not to do thge work for her.
Thanks all, some really good ideas though here.



okay okay
for starters, i cannot persue my primary research on my specific topic, and gain ideas from this forum, if all people are doing is arguing about the justification of me posting a question. yes, i posted a question for help, but only for ideas and a look into some other people's opinions ON MY QUESTION.
i did not, however, ask your opinion on the reasons for my post, or for your comments on my methods. i really appreciate you guys that have helped me, it has been very useful, thankyou.
this is not my only method of research, and you claim i know nothing about this website, yet you know very little about me.

thankyou for your constructive comments

x



love you passarelli



just because some people believe that alevel students are lazy and just using forums to get the answers to there work, doesnt mean that jen is exactly the same to other alevel students

she is a very hard working student and has already carried out several other forms of reasearch by asking people on their own oppinions