For class, I wrote a letter about Disney princess body portrayals. I am passionate about this issue because I have struggled with body image at various points in my life. I am not blaming Disney for that, but I do think the media has played a HUGE role in making me feel like my body is not good enough. Here is the letter I wrote:
Dear Robert A. Iger,
I would like to offer some feedback concerning portrayals of females in Disney films. I have been impressed by movies like as Brave and Frozen that feature girls who are not stereotyped as the damsel in distress with love-at-first-sight syndrome. Specifically in Brave, I appreciate that Merida is depicted with a realistic waistline and body type. She is also spunky and different, with great character development throughout the movie. The first time I watched Frozen, I was so excited about Disney princesses whose sole purpose was not to win the prince. The film was about love between sisters and I felt like I could really relate because I have a close bond with my sister. Thank you for stepping outside the box and introducing more complex and deep characters and plots. These are the kinds of movies that I really enjoy and that I want my future children to enjoy.
While there are many other things I truly appreciate about Disney films, such as the prosocial behavior of characters, I would like to bring some criticisms to your attention. I am currently enrolled in a university class that explores the effects of media on human development and I have analyzed some components of your Disney princess movies and advertising through that lens. Growing up, I idolized Disney princesses and wanted to be just like Ariel or Belle. However, as I have come to view the princesses more critically, I am disappointed. Most Disney princesses have extremely unrealistic and impossible body proportions that can really skew girls’ perceptions of body image and expectations. What is stopping Disney from widening waistlines to a normal proportion? I would like these “role models,” that are so influential for young girls, to be normal body sizes and types! Even in movies such as the new Cinderella, the use of a corset to create a ridiculous, though not fake, “ideal” or standard, in my opinion, undermines the good message of the movie. I think it is more detrimental to see a real person achieving that sort of proportion than it is to see a cartoon depiction. I am afraid women will feel inadequate because their normal waists cannot look like Lily James’ corset-tightened waist on an empty stomach. The diversity of ethnicities, social economic statuses, and roles of females have all been great improvements, but the body types of these princess protagonists continue to be disproportionate, misrepresentative and irresponsible portrayals of “normal” bodies. I would like to see that change made in future films.
Additionally, I am frustrated that the advertising and merchandise of more realistic characters are changed and sexualized. Taking Merida as an example again, her body type in the movie is more normal, but her picture on certain products or merchandise is grossly skewed to the typical Disney princess unfeasible waistline. She is also made to look like an adult, with make-up and a more revealing dress. I think this is sending the wrong message to young children and teens. I think you are doing a better job with producing some more realistic, relatable characters, but the body type depictions must be improved as well. Children look up to and idolize these characters and giving impossible standards may possibly lead to negative outcomes and unhealthy self-images for children starting at a young age. Please consider making changes in your future productions.
In conclusion, I believe you are producing great films and improving by creating more complex female protagonists, but there is a real need to examine the messages you are sending by creating impossible, unrealistic body types for these characters. Thank you for making family-friendly films with good values and I hope you will continue to do so while making improvements to benefit the young viewers you target.
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