We all know the story.
The princess is trapped in a crappy situation, and then she meets her prince. They fall in love, and they live happily ever after. Ah! They’re displaying the quintessential romance, at least in the eyes of children. However, as those girls and boys grow up, they realize that the reality of love is much more messy, complicated, and confusing.
Unfortunately, Disney likes to portray the impossible. The creators of what are deemed “timeless classics” (e.g. Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, etc.) are pushing one type of relationship—a white, heterosexual marriage cut and dried. That’s it. That’s all, folks. No matter how many times Disney changes the character, setting, or scene, people can expect the same ol’ plot. Belle may have brown hair, and Cinderella may have blond hair, but they might as well be twin sisters. Snow White may live with dwarfs, but Ariel also lives with cartoonish cuties, too. However, Disney’s repetitive characters are the least of its problems.
The storylines may seem just as innocent as the princesses themselves, but they have their racist, sexist, and homophobic undertones, too. While the pretty pinks, chirping birds, and high-pitched voices are hypnotizing, they’re just skin-deep distractions. Of course, kids can get lost in their own reveries of fairytale romances, but adults can see the BS from a mile away.
Hopefully, Disney’s princess movies will become more inclusive. They’ve been taking baby steps with blockbusters like Moana and The Princess and the Frog, but Disney still has more steps to take.
15. The Little Mermaid
Have you ever hailed The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel as the queen among princesses? If you’re one of her biggest admirers, then you might want to watch the cartoon again. She’s shown as a ditzy and spoiled mermaid who has “daddy issues.” Yet she’s perfectly fine to make a pact with a sea witch, find a handsome man, and declare her love for a stranger she met?
14. The Princess And The Frog
When Disney announced that The Princess and the Frog would debut with the protagonist as a black princess named Tiana, people thought the corporation was making strides. Then they saw the movie. While they saw Tiana as the brave heroine, they saw her male counterpart’s complexion.
“Black Voices, a Web site dedicated to African-American culture, faulted the prince’s light skin color,” an article of The New York Times states.
People were upset because Disney has yet to produce a black prince, a man who would be in positions of authority, wealth, and power. While white princesses have been paired with white princes, the first black princess was paired with another seemingly white prince.
If you’ve ever watched the little elephant, Dumbo, reunite with his mother, then your tears of joy may have probably blinded your vision and clouded your brain. However, you should go back and re-watch the movie. Dumbo‘s laden with racism. According to VH1, the crows represent more than cartoonish songbirds. The article explains, “The cartoon crows speak in heavy southern African-American jive, [and] the leader of the crows is named Jim Crow, which was also the name of the laws that brought segregation to the South. The crows are also portrayed as dim-witted, annoying, and lazy.”
12. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
The classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been one of Disney’s most profitable movies to date. However, the princess and her friends have problems beyond the evil witch and her poisonous apple. The real issue lies within the word “dwarfs” and how the archaic term can be offensive, especially to men and women of shorter statures.
“Monfort Hall in Leicester, England, has announced that there will be no dwarfs in its Snow White Christmas pantomime because the word ‘dwarf’ is too offensive,” an article states.
However, the word is just one part of the problem. The “seven dwarfs” in the movie are all portrayed as infatuated minions who express their childlike wonder of Snow White. While they’re supposed to be men, they seem more like innocent children.
Who could forget about the dashing Aladdin, hilarious Genie, and gorgeous Jasmine? They were the best trio of any princess-themed movie. Alas, they were also victims of Disney’s blunt digs. In the opening prologue of the cartoon, the “Arabian Nights” song played. The tune was catchy, but also highly disturbing.
Even Disney recognized the song’s racist undertones.
“The Walt Disney Co. said Friday it will alter two lines of the lyrics in the animated musical ‘Aladdin’, which some Arab-Americans have criticized as racist,” states an article of the Los Angeles Times.
When children are hearing (and repeating) the phrases, “Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home,” then they’re already accepting ugly (and untrue) stereotypes of Middle Eastern culture. Disney should be ashamed.
10. Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella, Etc.
All of the aforementioned princesses have dealt with their evil foes. Ariel was battling a purple Ursula, Snow White was battling a sinister queen, and Cinderella was battling an abusive stepmother. The mean-spirited and cold-hearted characters looked and sounded different, but they had one trait in common.
They were old.
Maybe there was always a reason children were fearful of older men and women. When they’ve watched movies that show aging characters as evil incarnate, then they’re going to be scared of their long-lost grandfather or great-grandmother. While Disney’s been linked to racism, the corporation’s never been associated with ageism.
9. Beauty And The Beast (Musical)
When the musical Beauty and the Beast hit theaters, people were ecstatic. Their favorite “tale as old as time” was finally getting the airtime it deserved. However, critics were quick to add their opinions about the pitfalls of the film. The biggest disappointment was LeFou, Disney’s first gay character. With a name that literally means “the fool,” Disney was going to get flack, regardless.
Could Beauty and the Beast have represented the LGBTQIA+ community with a person who was…well…not such a complete fool? After all, LeFou had a myriad of issues that went beyond his name. Movie Pilot‘s Eleanor Tremeer put them in perspective.
“Imagine yourself as a young gay kid. Now, kids are calling you LeFou in the playground, mocking you for being just like that funny, weird, baddie from the movie. Although LeFou might make the heroic choice in the end, the fact is that he’s a figure to be laughed at. And by making him gay, Disney is associating that ridicule with queer people,” she writes.
8. Lady And The Tramp
Has the term “puppy love” ever been more accurate?
Lady and the Tramp was about two dogs who fell in love, but their romance was plagued with a few bumps in the road. They had to dodge stray animals, the pound, and Siamese cats. Named Si and Am, the two sisters bullied Lady into running away. They were always getting her into constant trouble, so she had to leave the two mischievous pets who were an embodiment of Asian stereotypes in American culture.
“Everything about the cats is rife with offending stereotypes, because not only did the animators give the cats ‘slanted’ eyes, but they sing in broken English with a harsh Chinese accent,” a Screen Rant article explains.
7. Peter Pan
Can somebody include Walt Disney in the Lost Boys’ club? If his cartoonish characters have yet to disappoint you, then you should remember that his movie, Peter Pan, a film that gave hope to the misunderstood and neglected everywhere, portrayed indigenous people in the most misunderstood way.
“As the main characters of the film appropriate Native American culture via featherhead headressings and tomahawks, none of Tiger Lily’s people speak. Only the male chief Red Man speaks, and he does so in a stereotypical, broken jargon,” a Mic article relays.
In particular, Native Americans have fallen prey to American judgment. While Americans have no problem dressing up in brown leather and plastic feathers for Halloween, they’re just promoting the tired stereotypes of “Indians,” the moniker first coined by Christopher Columbus, a man who thought he had discovered India, and not the U.S.
6. Princess Of North Sudan
When a father’s daughter told him she wanted to be a princess, the man flew to the Middle East to claim land between Egypt and Sudan. He made her dream come true. However, what’s a dream without Disney? When the story caught wind, Disney saw dollar signs in the air. The corporation had another hit in the works, but people were less than thrilled.
They took to the online realm to voice their concerns.
“Some people are upset by this news. They see it as Disney glorifying colonization and white supremacy. Just look at all these Twitter reactions,” one article stated. As the writer of the article wrote, people already know of Pocahontas. They don’t want to see a sequel.
5. Sleeping Beauty
The important Vh1 article “The Biggest Lessons Disney Movies Taught Us…That Are Totally Sexist” brings up a good point. Sexist attitudes towards women can be found almost anywhere, yet everyone’s already aware of rap lyrics and Donald Trump.
However, Disney’s an unusual place that comes to mind, even though the corporation’s princess movies are rife with classic sexism. In one Sleeping Beauty scene, Aurora’s found in a comatose state. She would only wake up if she was kissed by her true love.
While a simple peck seems innocent enough, the reality is that Disney just made a G-rated version of her horror story. In the original narrative, an unconscious Aurora is raped by a king she later marries.
Whether she was kissed or raped is beside the point, though. She was violated in both of the tales. The message is a hard pill to swallow. Not only are women dependent on men, but they’re also beneath them.
4. Beauty And The Beast (Animation)
When Belle met the Beast, their relationship seemed like a fairytale. After all, he was the tall and muscular prince who was a certified bad boy, but with a soft spot. He was willing to fight for her. Hell, he was willing to die for her. However, true love’s power conquered even death. They ended up together in the end, and they lived happily ever after.
Beauty and the Beast may seem like the paragon of fantasy. But if the duo were to live in the present day, Belle would’ve been pressured by family and friends to leave. The Beast was very controlling, manipulative, and angry. He trapped Belle in his own castle and he forced her to stay in his home. She was kidnapped and her dying father was worried sick about his daughter. The animation may look like a romance, but NO. The cartoon should belong in the horror genre, instead.
While the racism, sexism, and heterosexism of Disney movies can be so in-your-face that you want to flip the bird to your television screen, you may feel the opposite when you see Mulan.
The female protagonist is strong, humble, and empowered. She’s focused on defending her family, friends, and herself. She could care less about a man. She was the man, literally.
You probably thought she was a bada*s beauty, and then you read a movie review via an Asian blog. Then your perspective changes, and you feel like an ignoramus. According to 8Asians, Mulan’s just another tired and offensive stereotype. “It’s possible to care about family and to bravely run off into battle in the place of daddy without being a stereotypically subservient Asian daughter chewing her nails off over ‘family honor’,” the writer states.
Mulan herself was just a tiny part of the problem, though. When Disney portrayed nomads as barbarians, or when Disney chose “animal dung” versus traditional oil to illuminate the Great Wall of China, the message of Mulan highlighted disrespect and disregard, and not honor.
When my friends and I talked about our favorite Disney princesses, I would always gush about Belle. They would always gab about Cinderella. She was the quintessential example of a blond beauty who married into wealth. She exemplified the American ideal of success and attractiveness, so no wonder my childhood friends wanted to be her.
However, would anyone really want to be her? She was trapped in a horrid situation where she toiled as a slave to her stepmother and stepsisters, and her only reprieve was the hope of true love.
Ugh! When she met her Fairy Godmother, she just wanted that one chance to meet the prince at his party. Like what the VH1 article stated, why did she wish for a dress and carriage? Hell, she could’ve wished for her own palace, relatives to be banished, or parents to be alive and well again. Cinderella could’ve screwed Prince Charming later, but only after she got her heart’s desires. Until then, screw Prince Charming!
1. Song Of The South
Yes, I know Song of the South is far removed from the idyllic castles, high-pitched vocals, and bright pastels. Forget about the princesses and princes, though. Think about the main character Uncle Remus, an African-American man who happily tended to privileged white children. But, wait! There’s more. Aside from the portrayal that he was “happily working on a plantation in the post-Civil War South,” the movie also sent a message that black men and women were supposed to be content as subservient and submissive. Yeah! Has Disney ever created a more cringe-worthy movie? Possibly.
There was that one scene in Fantasia when a black centaur was joyfully filing the white centaur’s hoof. But, you know, no biggie.
Maybe Disney can just suck on a big, fat Pepsi.