It seems harmless fun when we see littlegirls joyously prance around in a costume version of the iconic ball gown oftheir favourite Princess, but in fact these characters are shaping theidentities of younger generations and introducing repressing concepts such asgender roles, patriarchy, beauty standards, insecurities andself-consciousness.
In Disney films women tend to be definedas either the perfect princess (waiting to be saved and married) or a villain(labelled so due to their appearance, age and lack of husband). There is noquestion that attractiveness is the key ingredient in both Disney heroes andheroines. These characters are idolized by millions of children with many littlegirls dreaming about becoming their favourite Princess, and with each Princessdisplaying the typical Westernized standard of beauty – petite waists, prettyfaces, dainty features, big eyes, long hair – children are presented with avery narrow-minded and limited view of what is considered ‘beautiful’. They areforced to believe that to get their happy ending they must fit the image onscreen. Consequently, if they don’t, that leads to questions such as ‘why is myhair not as beautiful as Rapunzels?’, ‘why doesn’t my tummy look like Ariels?’and thus begins a life of comparison, insecurity and self-doubt.Up until The Little Mermaid, all of the femaleprotagonists were bland and defined entirely by exterior beauty.
Immediate assumptions about Snow White are made the moment she appearson screen. Her pale skin represents her purity, her large eyes and rosy lipsembody femininity. The audience is informed of her angelic nature through herappearance alone and sympathy is gained without her actually displaying anypersonality. The movie begins with Snow White singing “I’m wishing for the oneI love, to find me, today” as she stares at her reflection the water. Coincidentally,Prince Charming hears her song, takes one look at her and begins singing thather love possesses him.
Her beauty alone is the driving force of this “love”, suggestingthat the essential ingredient in finding your ‘true love’ is to embody thebeauty standard set out by men. The Evil Queen reinforces the importance ofbeauty in a womans happiness by wishing for Snow Whites death upon the newsthat Snow White is considered more beautiful than she. Redefining herself as ‘the fairest ofthem all’ literally becomes a matter of life and death, which introduces thepoisonous concept of envying another person appearance.