For most of us, Disney was an extremely large part of our childhood. As a young girl I was OBSESSED with all Disney princesses, Sleeping beauty, Ariel, Snow white, and Pocahontas. From ages 2-5 I genuinely don’t think I left the house without a costume dress and my plastic glitter heels. For years, Disney has been an enormous influence and source of happiness for all ages all over the world. However, the company has come under criticism in recent years for its lack of diversity, and representation of minorities in their films and TV shows.
One of the most significant criticisms of Disney’s lack of diversity is their portrayal of people of color in their films. Many of their older films, such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Cinderella,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” feature only white characters. Although some of their more recent movies, such as “Mulan” and “The Princess and the Frog,” feature non-white lead characters, they still inaccurately portray the cultures they represent. For example, “Mulan” includes many stereotypes about Chinese culture, including the idea that women are inferior to men. “The Princess and the Frog” was a great step in the right direction for Disney because the main character was a black princess! Except she literally spends pretty much the entire movie as a frog, rather than showcasing her culture.
Disney’s lack of diversity is not just prevalent in their movies, but is also reflected in their television shows. Many of their popular shows, such as “Hannah Montana,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” and “Good Luck Charlie,” feature primarily white casts. Even when the shows do have minority characters, they are often portrayed in stereotypical ways, such as the sassy black sidekick or the nerdy Asian character.
Disney’s lack of diversity is really quite upsetting because it’s such an influential part of my childhood as well as many others. It makes me sad thinking about how while I was so excited to see a new Disney princess come out, other children my age were just wondering why it was another white person. When kids see few characters who look like them, they may begin to feel excluded and marginalized. This lack of representation leads kids to having low self-esteem, and a sense of not belonging. It is also maintaining harmful stereotypes which is a big part of bullying for younger kids.
Thankfully, Disney has made some efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in recent years. Disney’s decision to cast Halle Bailey, a young Black actress, as Ariel in the upcoming live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” is a crucial step towards inclusivity and diversity in media representation. By casting a Black actress as Ariel, Disney is providing representation for young Black girls who have not traditionally seen themselves reflected in Disney’s princesses. It sends a powerful message that anyone can be a princess, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Normalizing diversity in media is essential for creating a more inclusive society. I think the decision to cast Halle Bailey was such a great resolution to normalize diversity representations in the media. Disney is one of the biggest corporations in the world, ultimately setting an example for big companies like them.
They have also created shows such as “Andi Mack,” which features a diverse cast and tackles issues such as coming out as gay, and “Raven’s Home,” which features a predominantly black cast. They have also included LGBTQ+ characters in some of their recent films, such as “Onward” and “Frozen 2.”
After doing some research on steps Disney has made to become more inclusive, I have found out that they have partnered with advocacy groups such as GLAAD, the NAACP, and the Trevor Project to ensure that their content is inclusive and representative of diverse communities.
As one of the world’s largest entertainment companies, Disney has a responsibility to do better and create content that is welcoming and inclusive to people of all backgrounds. Disney has the power to shape cultural norms, so by promoting inclusion and diversity in its content, Disney can help to foster a more equitable society. Some criticize Disney as being too little, too late, and not enough to make up for the company’s long history of exclusion. Do you agree? The people in charge of Disney at that time are long gone, so I can see they are trying to reverse the damage that has been done but really all they can do is be more inclusive from here on out.
6 thoughts on “The Happiest Place on Earth?”
I definitely agree and feel like once we all started to grow up, those “rose-colored glasses” started to come off and we all started to see Disney for what it really was and is. I love Disney but agree that there’s a long way to go still.
I’m glad you included information about the new remake of The Little Mermaid! It makes me so upset & angry that people are hating on her when it’s so important for this kind of representation, especially for young girls.
This was a well-informed blog post! I enjoyed the references you chose to discuss. I found that this post touched on many relevant feminist issues.
Thank you for this post!! I also grew up looking up to Disney Princesses and it is heartbreaking to see the extreme lack of diversity in films and shows.
This post is awesome! It is a good start for more change. I feel like for our generation acknowledging that change needs to happen and it needs to be more inclusive is really cool. Being so young and being blind by the lack of diversity is sad knowing that others didn’t have the same magical experience.
I grew up loving the Disney company and of course, their princesses. I think it is wonderful that Disney casted Halle Bailey as the next Ariel and I honestly can’t believe so many people have had a problem with a young black girl playing Ariel on social media platforms. I remember watching a TikTok of a toddler watching the trailer of the new Little Mermaid and getting so excited that the princess looked like her, since Disney mostly only represents white girls as being princesses.