Portrayal of Women in Disney Films through the years

                                                                                 Has the portrayal of women in Disney films changed over time? In my opinion, Disney films have improved their female characters, although it has taken them many years. Snow White was the first princess film Disney created, it came out in 1937, so that means women were seen as dull, quiet, and as inferior to men in those times. During the early 20th century, women’s role were to be housewives, have children, and take care of their husband’s, thinking was something they weren’t suppose to do, they had to leave that to the men. That is why Snow White is portrayed as a housewife, she cleans up after the seven dwarfs while they are working. They make her character very naive as well because she eats the apple that the evil witch gives her without having second thoughts. In the end Snow White is saved by the prince. Why does the prince appear at the end? why didn’t he appear during the middle of film where the whole problem occurred to save Snow White before? They had to end it by boy saving girl, like the typical movies made during those years.

         Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are portrayed in similar ways as Snow White. They both, at the end marry their prince and live happily ever after, after being saved from the evil women who tried to destroy them. These three princesses are saved by either a prince or rats, they are not saved with ideas that occurred to them, or actions that they came up with.

       Disney princesses begin to change quite a bit in the year 1989, when The Little Mermaid came out. The difference Ariel has with the rest of the other characters is that she is not obedient or submissive, on the other hand, she is defiant, stubborn, and curious. However, the film still portrays women as dumb, and that the only way they can get a guy is by their looks. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is smart and not interested in marrying the handsome guy all the girls in her town are interested in. She prefers to read a book than to go out with him. The people from her town criticize her because they find it odd for a woman to be smart, have dreams of her own, and to read so much. Belle falls in love with the Beast and I think it would have been a good ending if the Beast didn’t change into the handsome prince because it would show that looks are not important when it comes to true love. Although Belle is very different from the other princess, one thing they still have in common is that at the end they all marry.

      In 1995 Pocahontas came out and it was the first film that Disney created were the princess does not marry the prince. Pocahontas had the choice to leave with John Smith and have a “better life”, but she decides to stay with her people. Another film that showed change in women’s roles was Mulan. This film came out in 1998 and it is the first film that Disney created, were a woman is seen as capable to take on the role of men. Mulan becomes a soldier in the Chinese Imperial Army but she has to be disguised as a man. She goes against society’s expectations, instead of preparing to find a good husband and training to be a good wife, she rescues China. She is the first princess who does not need to be rescued by her prince. She is also another princess who does not marry at the end of the film. 

        Another film that came out recently where the Princess is portrayed very differently from the first princesses that came out is Rapunzel from Tangled. In this film Rapunzel is the first princess not to fall in love immediately with the handsome prince or in this case a robber. She is the first princess who fights the guy and distrusts him. This movies portrays Rapunzel like women act in this century. Women don’t fall in love immediately with the first guy they meet and marry him promptly. When Rapunzel and Flynn do fall in love, Rapunzel still has doubts if his love for her is sincere. Disney films have had many changes over the years and hopefully they will keep improving the portrayal of women.



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One Response to Portrayal of Women in Disney Films through the years

  1. Disney has helped in the forming of young minds in the role of women in our society. While their portrayals are not perfect, it is still better than many of the films out there today. I like the current Disney princess Dejah Thoris in Disney’s live action film, “John Carter” (of Mars). She is totally independent, a fighter and an equal to the hero. A true modern woman. I’m hoping for more of this attitude as the next crop of “princesses” come out this year.

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