It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a new Disney fairy tale film premieres, we drop everything to go see it.
Disney’s new live-action reboot of “Cinderella” made nearly $70 million its opening weekend, according to Variety.com. Whether it’s a brand-new storyline like “Frozen,” or one of Disney’s newly commissioned, live-action reboots, we are all suckers for a fantastical happily ever after.
Disney’s fairy tale narratives have become inseparable from the average American’s life. Many women grew up with Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White and Aurora, dressing up as princesses at Halloween and wanting nothing more than to find a handsome young man to help them secure their happily ever after.
The limitations and dangers of a woman modeling her life after a Disney princess have been critically examined time and time again. We’ve all heard the importance of women not relying on men to support them and that women need to save themselves. What we’ve heard less often is the effect that Disney stereotypes have on men.
Youtube star Laci Green recently approached this concept, stating that almost all of the Disney heroes are white, tall, muscular and handsome. The few Disney men who don’t fit that physical mold are depicted as the weird sidekick or a villain. The Disney heroes are also historically terrible at taking care of themselves or keeping a clean home—which I suppose is acceptable since our beloved princesses are so domestic.
Yes, the Disney princess stereotype limits women to passive, domesticated trophies who are entirely at the whims of the men in their lives, but are the stereotypes presented through characters like Hercules and Prince Eric just as damaging?
Disney heroes must always rescue the damsel in distress. They are supposed to be emotionally level at all times and prepared to handle any crisis that is thrown at them. On top of that, these classically handsome heroes are expected to provide for their beloved princesses once they get their happily ever after.
That’s a lot of responsibility. And let’s face it, that ideal is simply not possible for a lot of men in the world.
If it’s unrealistic to expect women to be domestic goddesses with 18-inch waistlines, then it’s also unreasonable to expect men to be Prince Charming. So the next time we sit down to watch the next Disney hit, let’s remember to leave the gender roles—for both women and men—on the screen.