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Beauty in Disney

The topic of my blog today will probably bring back fond memories for most of us. Recently, in my psychology of women and gender class, we discussed Disney movies and the negative messages they send girls. We already know the damsel-in-distress stereotype. However, has anyone noticed that some of the villains tend to be beautiful women?

Sleeping Beauty – I think Maleficent is one of the greatest villains. She looks pretty cool and she has a very sultry kind of voice that I find very beautiful. Snow White – the evil queen was seen as very beautiful and used to be the fairest in the land. Tangled – I loved Mother Gothel! She was so gorgeous and so fun! Of course, there were the less attractive women – Ursula (Little Mermaid), and Lady Tremaine (Cinderella) being a few examples although I’m caught in between for Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians). However, cartoons are meant to be straightforward. Someone ugly? Obviously the villain. An example being Jafar (Aladdin); he was so very creepy. I have yet to see (to my memory) any attractive male villains. So why have these beautiful women as villains?

Let’s see the fate of these beautiful women, however. Maleficent turns into a dragon – a creature usually thought of as a monster that a knight must slay. The evil queen turns herself into an old hag in order to trick Snow White. Mother Gothel ends up growing so old that all that’s left of her is dust. These aren’t very encouraging, are they? So who would a young girl want to identify with? Most of the princesses seem to always fall for the traps like Snow White and Princess Aurora. Then there’s the villain who ends up losing all their beauty because of their evil choices. I don’t really want to identify with any of them.

Then there’s the question of why beauty matters in telling whether the character is a hero/heroine or a villain. Why aren’t there any princesses who are not known in all the land as beautiful? Why can’t they be plain like most of us tend to be? If you look at more of the recent movies telling the sides of the villains, you can see this affects their thinking as well. In Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, the sister was not really ugly. In fact, she was quite pretty in her own way. However, people kept telling her she was ugly and their Cinderella is very beautiful despite being quite spoiled. These views sink so deeply into their psyche that it affects the people around them and themselves. So what happens to children who don’t fit the society’s views as pretty? They might get the idea that their outer appearance shows their own personalities.

This really needs to change. Beauty is not the main factor to which attractiveness and kindness is judged. The movie Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister shows this perfectly. Cinderella might be pretty but her personality? Not attractive at all from what I could tell. I think beauty tends to be the focus of much of these movies and they’ve only recent begun to change this, like in the 3rd Cinderella movie where her stepsister, Anastasia, shows she does have a kind heart. More movies like this should appear and keep from giving negative ideas to the next generation.

4 Responses to “Beauty in Disney”

  1. Katie O.

    You make such an interesting point here… I’ve always noticed that Disney films present young girls with impossible standards of beauty and that serves to negatively impact young women as they grow up. But I never noticed before that the way villains are drawn reinforces that. I mean, I’ve always understood the beautiful=good, ugly=bad, but I had never noticed that even the beautiful Disney villains turn ugly. It’s such a powerful way to reinforce that we all must be exquisitely beautiful (typically by white standards of beauty).

    • parklena

      Thanks for your comment! Yeah, we do tend to focus on the protagonist aka the princess. It’s sad that horrible messages are everywhere. There are so many ways they could send different and more positive messages. Instead, they just keep telling girls that beauty is everything.

  2. kaycorbs444

    I was thinking the same thing as Katie, extreme emphasis on feminine beauty/delicacy while somehow ignoring the female villain. I think it’s good to bring attention to this issue, particularly when we think of “villains” in society, (predominantly men) who appear in ALL forms, not excluding attractive ones. Women are so misrepresented in media, and for Disney to push these inaccurate images and ideas upon young, impressionable minds is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    • parklena

      Thanks for your comment, kaycorbs444! I did feel very surprised when I realized that some of the Disney villains were actually beautiful but then turned ugly. I hate that the concept of ugliness is linked with evil.


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