Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Disney’s princesses and the wishes of women

with 9 comments

Time and time and again, I stumble upon blogs, newspaper articles, and similar, with a thesis along the lines of “Disney and its unrealistic princesses teach little girls what they should like.” (with many variations on who is the culprit, what age the women are, and other details).

Every time I read something like that, I have a near identical comment in mind:

You assume that the girls/women are altered by Disney/whomever. Stop to consider the far more likely explanation that money-makers simply happen to know what women like—and have done the complete opposite: Altered the message to fit the women.

In order to save some time in the future, I have written this post instead, for easy linking. (If you have found this page over such a link, please bear in mind that a one-size-fits-all is rarely a perfect fit: Apply the principles, not the details, to the post in question.)

Disclaimer: I do not claim that this is necessarily a one-way street, but fully acknowledge, e.g., that Disney can affect the girls. My point is rather that the opposite, by Occam’s Razor, should be the default assumption, that the burden of proof is on those blaming Disney, and that, even to the degree that a two-way street is present, the effect of the girls on Disney is likely to be the considerably stronger.


Written by michaeleriksson

July 16, 2010 at 1:03 am

9 Responses

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  1. almost every girl wants to be a princess, especially young girl, and wanted to marry someone who is very friendly, like a prince .. so, some of the disney movie is a dream girl


    July 16, 2010 at 4:51 am

  2. Just as men are affected my media as well. Women are not the only one with this romantic view of life. Men ejoy being heroes (whether that mean thorough strength, success, etc…). Plenty of movies glamorize men who are womanizers. it really goes both ways. Media is EQUALLY a part of our (men and women)socialization. Your rant is only an expression of your own socialization of what a man in a relationship should be based on your personal experiences.

    • Everyone is affected by media—that is not the issue. The actual issue is that gender-feministists have created a pseudo-scientific theory about “gender as a social construct”, which denies or severely understates biological influence on human characteristics and behaviours. (Even in the face of investigations into the effects of pre-natal testorone levels on future behaviour, toy preferences in extremely young children, male and female roles in other cultures or in an evolutionary perspective, etc.)

      Disney’s princesses are but one example of this, and the resulting problems, to the detriment of both men and women, go far beyond debates about cartoons.

      In a nut-shell: Women, on average, by their nature, want to be beautiful; men, on average, by their nature, want to be heroes. Such basic characteristics can be weakened or strengthened by media, but are not created by media—and the reason media play on them, is that this has proved successful. Other, more superficial, characteristics may possibly be created by media, but the basic characteristics are not—and, paradoxically, it is typically these basic characteristics that are attacked as “social constructs” by feminists.

      Your claim about my socialization (by design or accident) drags up a staple of feminist argumentation: Either you agree about X or the fact that you are a victim of X makes you unable to see the truth—we got you coming and going. This is, at best, a specious argument—and definitely not a legitimate and convincing one.

      Finally, for the record, I was largely raised by my mother and grandmother in Sweden (the most feminist country in the world)—and lack of traditional male role-models, male view-points, and similar, were an actual problem in my personal development until I reached an adult age.


      July 21, 2010 at 3:51 am

      • While I detest the idea that the female brain is so malleable that it can be influenced by Disney, I do not wholly agree with your point here, michaeleriksson.

        I do not think that every woman is born wanting to be beautiful. I believe that it really does depend on how a girl is raised. If a girl’s parent sticks her in front of the Disney princess movies before that girl has formed some of her own opinions on life, then those films will influence her. If the parents encourage/continue this influence, then the girl will most likely grow up wanting to be a Disney princess.

        Of course, different people will take different things away from the movies – for example, the first and only Disney movie that I watched as a child was Pocahontas, and I remember liking the songs and the appearance of the “savages”. Nowadays, I sing and have great sympathy for the Native Americans.

      • A brief clarification: I do not claim that every woman/man/whatnot wants to X. It is extremely important to bear the difference between group characteristics and individuals in mind. (Notably, an “every” does not necessarily follow even from an explanation relating to the inborn, because of individual variations in genes, differences in uterine environment, and similar.)


        July 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      • I understand that you are making a generalisation, but do you not think that “money-makers simply happen to know what women like” because they played a role in originally introducing women to what they like.

      • While this could be a contributing reason, it is highly unlikely to be the main reason. Simply put: If you want to make money, is it easier to deliver that which the population already wants or to first convince it that they should want something new (which is then delivered)? Clearly, the former is the answer.

        Yes, there are very many examples of the latter in today’s advertising world; however, even that advertising is based on more basic needs that are not constructed (e.g. the wish for popularity). From my POV, we could on the outside argue that girls (probably grown women too) want to be popular, be attractive to attractive men (be they Aladdin or Sean Connery), or similar; with Disney additionally instilling a belief that being beautiful makes one popular, attractive, whatnot. While I am open to this possibility, it has only a minor effect on the main thought above—and, to the best of my knowledge, being beautiful does make people (women more than men, but men too) popular, even in societies not exposed to Disney.

        A particularly interesting case is Popeye and spinach: At the height of his immense popularity, spinach, in turn, enjoyed a temporary popularity among children. The hitch, however, is that this popularity rested exclusively on Popeye and that no-one else has managed to pull something like that off on a similar scale again. This while the simple addition of more sugar makes a foodstuff more popular with children… Certainly, it is not a coincidence that there is an endless list of sweet, sweeter, and even sweeter soft-drinks, while I have never seen a spinach-flavored one. (And if I did, I bet that the taste would be far sweeter than real spinach…)

        In a similar example, I recall at a very young age pestering my mother into buying a particular salmiak-style candy advertised as “The youths’ favourite!” (or similar). The ads where sufficiently convincing to result in the purchase of one bag of this candy: I put the first piece in my mouth—and was so repelled by the overly strong taste that I did not even finish that one piece. The rest of the bag went uneaten; no more bags were bought. Not even Popeye could have converted me.


        July 24, 2010 at 7:10 am

  3. I think Disney is just using preexisting preferences of women. Princes have status, they are rich, the disney princes are also good looking. They would do very well in the real world too.

    The same with the women. They are beautiful, so men are after them.

  4. […] When push comes to shove, girls are not girlie because they are given girlie toys—but they are given girlie toys because they are girlie to begin with. (Cf. my points on Disney’s princesses.) […]

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