I can't remember a time when Disney wasn't part of my life. Like me, generations of kids worldwide have grown up in its presence. Whether it's the classics, the TV shows and cartoons, or rushing to the movies to see the latest lovable tale, Disney is a household name that carries weight with countless.
That weight lies in its beloved characters; Disney gives its audience people to aspire to. I've always looked up to Cinderella, who's kind and humble, and Belle, who's smart and unafraid to be different. I've grown up wanting to be adventurous like Rapunzel and independent like Tiana; Pocahontas and Jasmine urged me to stand up for myself, while Mulan showed me I can do anything (with a little effort and a new haircut). Disney uses this wide of array of personalities to preach acceptance and give girls role models.
While each princess is unique and represents different traits, there's one thing these heroines and damsels share - body image.
I didn't truly understand it then. Playing dress up or singing the songs of my role models was innocent. There was nothing wrong with wanting to be Snow White or Aurora - who didn't? But when the dresses came off and the pretending ceased, the desire didn't. I grew up wanting to have perfect hair and could never understand how Ariel could brush hers and not look like she stuck her finger in a socket. I coveted a lovely heart shaped face with a natural blush, yet my face's only red when I'm out of breath. Even earliest in my youth I would've given anything for perfect eyebrows that frame big beautiful eyes and mile-long lashes - except I was too young to do my eyebrows and no one's lashes can span that far. But most of all? I wanted the perfect body. Even when I was too immature to understand body pressure, I knew I didn't look like them.
My waist will never be that thin. I still struggle finding the right bra size, let alone a perfect chest. No amount of makeup or hair product will help me achieve their perfection. So how is it the girls I've always looked up to can portray such unobtainable physiques? These women are supposed to be symbols of self-acceptance - they're meant to teach girls to love their quirkiest aspects. However, rather than teaching us to love what we have, they've ignored the need for body positivity altogether.
Where's the Disney movie about the real struggles that females go through to become confident? Disney princesses certainly don't know what it's like to hide behind baggy t-shirts out of shame over their stomachs. They'd never cry looking into a mirror because nothing they put on looks cute and they feel completely undesirable. These are characters that girls of all ages want to be, yet they can't connect to one of the biggest battles of self-acceptance that we face day to day.
What is Disney doing by handing us "down-to-Earth" princesses to act as our positive influences when in reality they're untouchable? It is wonderful that they want us to speak out about our inner qualities, but what about their contradictions on the outside? Are we ever going to have a Disney princess who looks like a real girl and experiences the true coming of age struggles females across the world fight? Until they show the world that all bodies are to be loved, what is Disney doing for us? It's not okay to preach that what's on the outside doesn't matter; we should instead be teaching that all appearances are beautiful in unique ways, just as personalities shine in different lights.