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Disney challenges stereotypes of women, but doesn't change the mold

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Monday, Dec. 1st marked the start of the 25-day countdown to Christmas for many and the most eager participants are children awaiting the magic of that day. To celebrate this festive season, Disney released a holiday-themed movie, Frozen, based loosely on Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen. As with several of their recent movies, Disney chose to depict the heroines within this movie as stronger, more independent women who do not rely on princes to save them or the plot.

However, there is just one problem. Although Disney shifts the characters and values within these movies, it does not change the same cookie-cutter mold that it has been using for all female characters since the beginning of Disney. Both Elsa and Ann boast the same enormous, wide-eyed expressions, long flowing hair, and waists that even the tightest corset could never construct, which Disney has formulated as essential qualities for their heroines to possess.

The question remains then: how does it help to make Disney's heroines more independent, if the success of their characters is still dependent on their attractiveness? Obviously, it helps the Disney franchise, because they can easily sell dolls and costumes from the movie, marketed to young girls who have been sold the idea that every little girl should be a princess.

However, consistently marketing this same image of female beauty to young girls is not only irritating from a feminist standpoint, but also dangerous. There is already considerable evidence suggesting that 70% of girls by adolescence are dissatisfied with their bodies, which is a significant risk factor for disordered eating, dieting behaviors, and eating disorders. This body dissatisfaction is often created by the internalization of the 'thin ideal' as it is represented in the media, and young girls seem to be most vulnerable for internalizing these images.

Even though Disney is representing this thin ideal through cartoon images, they are still providing ideals that girls compare themselves to, as shown by the dolls and costumes that are already on sale and on the holiday shopping list. Disney knows that it has a market of young girls who want to look 'just like' Elsa and Anna, and they are capitalizing on that.

Although I applaud Disney for its efforts to change the character formulation of its heroines, I think we as a society also realize that it is time to change the actual mold they use for those heroines. Our children deserve to see representations of themselves, rather than ideals that they can never possibly achieve.



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