If you had asked me what my favorite movie was when I was five years old, I undoubtedly would have answered, “The Little Mermaid,” or “Pocahontas.” If you ask any other little girl today, her answer would probably be very similar.
There is nothing more typical than a little girl fantasizing about being a Disney princess, buying all of the latest Disney merchandise, and begging her parents to take her to Disney World. A kid today is practically a walking advertisement for Disney products!
It’s clear that Disney has become a huge part of our society. The animated Disney movies have become such classics, and I get the feeling that they are going to stick around for quite some time.
Growing up during the time when the animated Disney classics were being produced was the best thing ever for a little kid. The movies provided an exciting world of imagination, an opportunity for adventure, and an outlet for creativity.
Take a minute to think about the basic story behind many of the Disney movies, like The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Aladdin. The plot of most of the movies were generally the same, with a princess playing the damsel in distress, hoping for her prince charming to come save her, eventually living happily ever after.
When you think about it, the story lines seem cliché, but they really did make for great movies. Regardless of the plot, each movie always taught its viewers a valuable life lesson.
It is interesting to look back on the classic Disney movies now with a more critical eye. There are clearly gender stereotypes portrayed in the movies, for example how the strong man is always saving the weaker woman.
The women in the movies are idealistic; they are attractive princesses, with exaggerated hourglass figures, long hair, and beautiful singing voices. The characters in these movies are so stereotypical, and those stereotypes can influence the mind of a small child so easily.
If you have any doubts about the stereotypes in these movies, take a few minutes to look at this video! It does a great job visually illustrating just how apparent these stereotypes are in many of the most famous Disney classics.
Just as viewing violence in movies influences children to be more aggressive, seeing all beautiful women certainly influences a young girl to be self-conscious of the way she looks. It’s the same for young boys as well. Seeing the overtly aggressive, masculine figures in these movies undoubtedly effects them, too.
Children are like sponges, and the things that they see in movies can have such profound effects on their perception of themselves and the world around them.
Even today, as Disney produces newer movies that differ greatly from those old Disney classics, the same concepts hold true.
As newer movies and television shows are produced, it appears as though Disney is branching out from the traditional character types and story lines. Regardless, Disney is still producing movies aimed towards young kids which are very influential, like Hannah Montana and High School Musical.
I can see the effects of these new movies in young kids today. I work at a daycamp during the summer, working with a group of four- and five-year-old girls. When I ask them what their favorite movies are, I am disappointed to hear answers like “Hannah Montana” or more often than one of the classic Disney princess movies.
Although the most popular Disney movies are always changing, my campers are still decked out in all of the latest Disney gear just like I was, wearing Camp Rock T-shirts and carrying The Jonas Brothers backpacks.
With everything from The Disney Channel, Radio Disney, and Disney World, Disney is an incredibly successful and overwhelmingly powerful company, and it has a huge influence over the youth population of the past, present, and future.