Female Body Shape and Young Girls Essay

Disney films display a wide range of values and lessons for the children watching. They promote good over evil and happy endings. The Disney princess films are especially influential for young girls. They promote the image of the princess. This ideal image of what a girl is supposed to be is used over and over in their films. Many young girls grow up with this image in their heads, which leads to them becoming unhappy with themselves.

As girls become older they see the changes their bodies go through and they cannot sustain this unrealistic image of the Disney princess. If you line the princesses up chronologically, in the order their movies were released, some things become strangely apparent. Look at their waistlines – although Snow White starts off incredibly thin, as time goes by the princesses only get thinner and thinner. The 1960s are when the real thin idealcame into its full force in our culture – is it a coincidence that Disney princesses had started shrinking in the decade before?

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Its true that culture informs media, but it goes the other way too – little girls who grow up idolizing impossibly thin princesses become young women who perpetuate and buy into the idea that thin is the only acceptable form of beauty and one should strive to be thin, regardless of the price. Obviously Disney is not the only perpetrator of this ideal (but considering its constantly growing power, revenue, and influence it plays a large role) and all little girls do not grow up and internalize this message, but enough of them do to make a difference – as evidenced by the shifting ideals between 1950 and 1960.

It’s come to my attention that throughout the years the Disney princesses’ waists have shrunken, and no one has really noticed. Maybe this is because throughout the years the “ideal” woman’s waist has gotten smaller and smaller. The first Disney princess, Snow White, appears to have a rather normal, animated character’s waist; a waist that’s actually attainable for real, human being women. However, flash forward 13 years and Cinderella’s waist is smaller than Snow White’s, and from there the waists get smaller and smaller for each princess. ach and every one of these princesses still embodies a beauty ideal that is unachievable for real women and girls. While I understand that they are cartoons and a certain suspension of reality is expected and accepted – do their waists really have to be nearly as thin as their arms? Why can’t we have an average sized princess, or even an overweight princess? Disney has made a great step in attempting to break down racial beauty stereotypes, now, why can’t we continue that momentum to encompass weight (among many things) as well?

It’s part of this culture that encourages girls to define themselves through beauty and sexiness Physical Stereotypes The first stereotype evident in The Little Mermaid is about body image and physical appearances. Like all other Disney princesses, Ariel comprises all the typical characteristics of a beautiful girl, an important trait for Disney princesses (Welsh, 2011). Her figure is slender, with a very small waist. She has big blue eyes and long luscious hair. In addition, the prince, Eric, also contains characteristic of what a handsome man should look like.

He has dark hair and eyes, with a built body figure. Children, mostly girls, often look up to Disney characters, aspiring to be and look like the princesses they see on TV (Lamb, Sharon, Brown, & Lyn, 2007). By illustrating the main characters with such conventional flawless features from bone structure to body shape, it gives children the impression that they have to look the same if they ever want to find love, be happy, or resemble the princesses they see in movies. Other than simply their basic features, many other aspects in the movie reemphasize the importance of body image.

For one, Ariel’s body features are further provoked by what she wears. From waist up she only has shells to cover her breasts. This shows girls that it is okay to show off their bodies in public. Second, Ursala, the sea witch, tells Ariel “men don’t like woman who talk,” when convincing Ariel to give Ursala her voice. Ursala also refers to a merman that is to thin and a mermaid that is too fat as “poor unfortunate souls” and shows Ariel how she used her magic to change their body shapes and make them happy. Finally, Ursala tells Ariel not to “underestimate the importance of body image. These messages from Ursala imply that a pretty face and a nice figure is all you need to find love and impress a man (Maio, 2008). She stresses that Ariel, and all girls, should use their bodies to provoke men, giving kids the impression that woman are objects; intelligence and personality are unimportant and disregarded. The Disney princess films influence young girls on issues of body image and self worth.

The princesses in the films are ultra thin and have a beautiful appearance. The women in the films are depicted as either desirable or undesirable. The desirable nes get the prince while the undesirable ones do not. Young girls relate the undesirable women characters to their appearance. They understand that if they are not beautiful like a princess then they will not be desired by a prince. This idea is what affects many girls as they grow up and begin to interact with men. The films show that them princes go after the beautiful attractive females not the ugly one. Men want an ideal female image as their princess. “The body beautiful is woman’s responsibility and authority. She will be valued and rewarded on the basis of how close she comes to embodying the ideal” (Balsamo 70).

Women are subject to being viewed as an object. The more attractive the woman is the closer she is to embodying the ideal. Only then when she is close to the ideal image will she get her prince. In Disney movies, powerful female enemies are unattractive, creating an association between looks and wickedness (Lamb, Sharon, Brown, & Lyn, 2007). In The Little Mermaid, Ursala, the sea witch, is very fat, has an unappealing face, a deep voice, and “clothes” that are in dark colors. It creates the impression that looks can identify ones personality, and that if someone has “non-princess” features, they are probably evil.

In addition, the adult evil woman is always jealous of the young female heroine (Lamb, Sharon, Brown, & Lyn, 2007). In The Little Mermaid, Ursala is jealous of Ariel’s voice and takes it from her as a payment for giving her legs. Second, the concern isn’t just that the heroines are princesses. It’s that with characters like Sleeping Beauty and the Ugly Stepsisters, “good characters often are depicted as beautiful and thin, and attractiveness is associated with sociability, kindness, contentedness, and success. In contrast, evil is linked more readily to obesity, cruelty, and general unattractiveness. Most of Disney movies include scenes where beauty is overtly cherished as desirable. InBeauty and the Beast, Gaston comments that Belle is “the most beautiful girl in town, and that makes her the best. ” Cinderella becomes prince-worthy by donning a gown. And it was scenes like this–with a clear value placed on attractiveness–that were shown to the young girls. The Disney princess films influence young girls on issues of body image and self worth. The princesses in the films are ultra thin and have a beautiful appearance. The women in the films are depicted as either desirable or undesirable.

The desirable ones get the prince while the undesirable ones do not. Young girls relate the undesirable women characters to their appearance. They understand that if they are not beautiful like a princess then they will not be desired by a prince. This idea is what affects many girls as they grow up and begin to interact with men. The films show that them princes go after the beautiful attractive females not the ugly one. Men want an ideal female image as their princess. “The body beautiful is woman’s responsibility and authority.

She will be valued and rewarded on the basis of how close she comes to embodying the ideal” (Balsamo 70). Women are subject to being viewed as an object. The more attractive the woman is the closer she is to embodying the ideal. Only then when she is close to the ideal image will she get her prince. However, regardless of the positive aspects of Disney films, recent research evidence shows that young children perceive more than just shapes and colors in an animated feature film. There is a possibility that youngsters can correlate characters’ body masses with a particular personality.

According to studies performed by Francis M. Berg and presented by Amy Voltava of MotheringMagazine, children were shown drawings of many differently proportioned kids, and some “as young as six described a child with a fat silhouette as ‘lazy, dirty, stupid, ugly, cheats, and lies'”(Berg qtd. in Voltava par. 3). To connect this idea to Disney films, one might speculate that children would view Disney heroines the same way if artists sketched them as overweight and physically imperfect. Therefore, one might suggest that Disney aggravates children’s tendencies to view female characters in this manner.

Yet, since Disney films are geared toward children, many of which, one might argue, make a natural connection between physical attractiveness and goodness, one might feel that Disney animators have good reason to illustrate female characters with “hourglass” waistlines, long, silky hair, and flawless skin. For example, due to Francis Berg’s findings, one might argue that due to audience expectations of the typical Disney princess as a symbol of flawlessness, the Disney Corporation would not benefit economically from films that portray heroines as less-than attractive or overweight.

Giroux suggests, “[Disney’s] authority is also produced and secured within the predominance of a broadening media apparatus equipped with dazzling technology, sound effects, and imagery packaged as entertainment, spin-off commercial products, and ‘huggable’ stories”(Giroux 25). This suggests that if animators did not portray its females as “dazzlingly” beautiful, the Disney Corporation might not attract as many consumers and, therefore, would not “sell well. ” Giroux quotes Eric Smooden, author of Disney Discourse: “Disney constructs childhood so as to make it entirely compatible with consumerism”(Giroux 29).

In Aladdin, although the villain Jafar is not a female foil to Princess Jasmine the way Ursula is to Ariel, one might realize that Jasmine’s beauty as well as her “puppy dog eyes” give her an “aura of innocence” while Jafar’s unpleasant, sharp features add to his villainy With knowledge of these facts, one might take a look at animators’ sketches and storyboards to analyze the realities behind Disney films-particularly The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Pocahontas-and affirm that the portrayal of heroines in these films creates an idealized image of the female body type.

This image becomes a prime factor in teenage eating disorders and depression. Therefore, one might insist that the public has a significant reason to show concern about the messages these animated films deliver to young female viewers. Some people challenge the latter thesis. Indeed, a number of individuals enjoy Disney films and regard them as a source of “good, clean fun. ” According to Naomi Rockler of the Journal of Popular Film and Television, when the editors of a critical anthology on Disney films handed their students a number of critical essays on animated Disney films, “many reacted skeptically”(Rockler par. 2).

Because Disney has become recognized in households across the world for the past seventy years, it is not surprising that a large amount of individuals might find it difficult to delve beneath the surface of these seemingly “innocent” films. Rockler adds that many students complained, “‘You’re reading too much into this film’ and ‘You can’t say that about Walt Disney'”(Rockler par. 3). Rockler asserts that “[t]hese students cite four easy pardons for their pleasurable participation in Disney film and its apolitical agenda: ‘It’s only for children, it’s only fantasy, it’s only a cartoon, and it’s just good business'”(Rockler par. ). Others, Rockler states, link Disney and other popular culture with “fun, entertainment, and escape”(Rockler par. 7). With catchy songs, beguiling characters, special effects, and heroes who always defeat the villain, a number of viewers might find the average Disney film to be a short-but- rewarding escape from reality. However, while Disney profits from “selling” its eye-pleasing heroines in the form of dolls, merchandise, and their onscreen appearances, several preteen and teenage girls become “disillusioned. ” For example, teenage girls may feel they cannot compare their bodies to those of Ariel, Jasmine, and Pocahontas.

Specifically, The Media Awareness Network article titled “Beauty and Body Image in the Media” reports, “Research indicates that exposure to images of thin, young, air-brushed female bodies is linked to depression, loss of self-esteem, and the development of unhealthy eating habits in women and girls (M. A. N. par. 3). Therefore, due to the fact that animators illustrate the Disney princesses as equally “thin, young, and air-brushed,” one might show strong concern about the physical and psychological wellbeing of young girls who view these films.

In addition, according to a Girl Scouts of the USA study called TheGirls Speak Out: Teens Before Their Time, “girls as young as eight speak about dieting and watching calories”(GSUSA 17). In this study, one fourth grader said, “I want to be thinner,” while a girl in the fifth grade said, “I’ve been counting calories. I’m doing 1,000-1,200 calories a day”(GSUSA 17). The findings from this study suggest that teen and preteen girls may even develop eating disorders if they desire to be come physically similar to the Disney princesses, all of whom have “unattainable physiques” that can only be created by animators. Since Disney Princesses have been around they have all had the same basic body shape, thin. And for the longest time they were all dominantly white, as were their princes. What this teaches young girls is that in order to find prince charming, they need to be white, pretty and thin. This kind of ideal is what causes eating disorders and the over-sexualization of young girls. Young girls are programed with an unrealistic view of body image at a young age that they can carry with them throughout their childhood. This causes them to engage in bad diet habits, and begin wearing makeup and an extremely young age.

If we look at the example above of Kim Kardashian dressed up as Jasmine we can see that there is hardly anything to her costume. What kind of image is this for her young fans? This costume promotes that it is okay to walk around with minimal clothing on to get attention. That is not a message that needs to be sent to young girls. Jasmine’s outfit in the movie is not near as revealing as what is being seen in the photo of Kim Kardashian above, which is disturbing because a lot of girls look up to the Kardashians and strive to be like them.

With this image out there we need to educate young girls that while this sort of thing may be in the media, it is not reality nor is it something that should be a reality to them. Young girls are feeling more pressure than ever before to achieve the Barbie weight due to the images seen in our daily media of celebrities who strive to look thin and “beautiful”. Little do girls know that Barbie is an unrealistic and dangerous size. If Barbie’s measurements were to be adjusted to life size, She would be 6 feet tall, 101 lbs. with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist and 33″ hips. According to South Carolina Department of Mental Heath: Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents. * 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. * 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight. * 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight. * Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

* A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover. The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders): * Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. * In a survey of 185 female students on a college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight, and of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.

Cinderella influences young girls into believing they need to be beautiful and have nice clothes to be able to get their prince. They less attractive characters did not have a chance with the prince. Young girls will see that and worry about their own attractiveness. The issues of weight and body image begin at a young age. Young girls begin early in learning to control their weight” (Bordo 99). Princesses are thin and if your not thin then your not a princess, your one of the less desirable characters. Young girls take these notions into their teen years.

They face “the embarrassment of eating ice cream in front of the male students, the pressure to take just a salad, or better yet, refuse food altogether” (Bordo 130). With the pressures of looking ultra slim like a princess, girls face many hardships regarding their weight. After so many years of being brainwashed into thinking that there is a certain way that women are supposed to look, young girls begin to look for ways to mirror the women in the media. Individuals become confused about what is healthy for their body.

This confusion causes people to develop dysfunctional eating habits and change psychologically. The fear of gaining weight is not gender specific; however, eating disorders are more prevalent for females. Females feel the need to be accepted by males and the rest of society. Males are more immune to the pressure of societal acceptance. It is proven that women in our society overestimate their body size therefore, being thin becomes the goal and thus the eating disorder is developed (Comer, 260). As a result of society and the media, eating disorders are becoming rampant in America.

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