Does Disney Really Hurt Self-Image? Essay

Does Disney truly affect a child’s self-image and their perception of the world? Do all the fairytales trump a child’s view on what reality is like? Children grow up nowadays with Disney advertising, television shows, and movies everywhere; this surely impacts their life in a significant way.

All little girls and boys see are movies about princesses in distress, then a knight in shining armor comes to their rescue. Nearly all Disney movies use this as a basic storyline for their story whether it is in Hercules, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or Aladdin; the main plot of the movie is nearly the same.These recurring themes, which appear in most Disney movies, definitely have an impact on children’s self-image, and cause them to make assumptions of the real world based on this. Much of the media and some parents blame Disney for some of their children’s low self-esteem, however not all the blame can be pinned on advertising companies and the movies that Disney produces; mothers and fathers out there need to take some sort of responsibility for the upbringing of their children’s sense of self-image and self-esteem.Although Disney depicts images that somehow lead children to base their self-image from, parents could make a difference to change how children see themselves.

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There is plenty of psychological evidence to show how Disney movies do effect a child and how it does not; not only that, but not all parents believe that Disney is a prime factor in their child’s development.Disney movies have been around for several decades and prove to be a great hit with children and young adults, however what mixed messages do these “harmlessly” fun films present to viewers? Throughout most of Disney films, the Walt Disney Film Corporation has always depicted their female protagonists with physically flawless traits whether they were the maltreated stepdaughter (Cinderella), or a Native American who lived in the forest (Pocahontas); all of these heroines also have an exaggeratedly thin waistline to add on to their flawless physique.The physiques of the heroines within these film become a desire that most women want; not only is it something that women want, but these movies introduce this idea at such a young age to children which is possibly “a prime factor in teenage eating disorders and depression” (Portrayal of the Female).

Many people would like to believe that none of these things could possibly apply because they say, “it’s only for children, it’s only fantasy, it’s only a cartoon, and it’s just good business” (Portrayal of the Female).Although all this may be true, there is definitely more to be said about the effects that Disney films have on young children. In Heather Longs article, “Do Disney Princesses Hurt Self-Image in Little Girls? ” she says all children enjoy a rich fantasy life when they are young, and according to UCLA child psychologist Dr. Mark DeAntionio, it is perfectly healthy for a child to imagine topics such as Disney movies portray.

From what has been seen in psychology, children who do not have an active imagination and live these little fantasies are more prone to antisocial behavior as well as many other problems.Lee Artz, a communications professor at Purdue University, states, “Of course, viewers young and old recognize animation as fictive, not real: it’s just a cartoon! ” (Artz). The abovementioned statement by Artz is indubitably true because many viewers, including myself believe that it is just a cartoon although a percentage of parents may be beg to differ on the effects of films on children. In Heather Long’s article, it states, “there are many mothers that are concerned that the plethora of princess available on the market may actually damage their child’s self-esteem. Sure there are a ton of marketing techniques out there that are targeted at children and their vulnerability to Disney princesses, but it is ultimately the decision of parents to provide their daughters and sons with choices as well as teach them that Disney movies are really just movies. “The simple fact is that it’s not up to the marketers to provide our daughters with their choices, it is up to those of us who parent them to present them with their choices” (Long).

Some may argue Disney films send a more positive message to young viewers rather than negative messages. Many of the themes in Disney movies are very strong and direct messages and can easily be interpreted by children. For example, in The Little Mermaid, Ariel is faced with the evil sea witch, and in order to make a better life for herself she perseveres and goes through many hard trials until she is able to marry Prince Eric. This is just one of the many films that children have viewed, and most would see the perseverance that Ariel has to achieve her goal.Disney films make children happier more often than make them sad.

Those parents who truly believe these movies hurt their kid’s self image are terribly mistaken and need to reevaluate what kind of values they teach their children. Little girls seeing their mothers putting on a ton of make-up would definitely make a larger impact on the girl than seeing a fantasy character such as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Most children, including my family and myself, view the series of Disney films positively.Even though the artists draw the physiques that characters possess within these films to perfection, it does not necessarily mean that children interpret it to be the ideal physique because at a young most children do not fully understand the importance of physical appearance. It is not the appearance that children are enchanted by, but it is the idea of them; Disney makes a whole new world for children to see, but it is up to parents to show them the difference between the real world and the fantasy world that Disney presents to them through the animation of these movies.Heather Long makes a point in her article; although Disney presents so many views of perfect bodies, it does not mean that this hurts a child’s self-image.

“Looking like a Princess, feeling like a Princess, dressing like a Princess is not about looking and feeling perfect” (Long). Children will see a plenty of other things that will hurt their self-image opposed to these animations such as the ultra-skinny models and the world of fashion that indulges in extremely petite sizes for clothes. Ultimately children realize Disney films are entertaining and they love it.Disney makes their protagonists perfect in every way possible including the appearance of characters and their morality. Some psychologists have studied and found out that children make a connection between physical appearance and the “goodness” of a character or person.

From watching many Disney films, it is realized some characters are drawn as overweight and ugly; some examples of these characters would be Jafar in Aladdin, or Hades in Hercules. These characters are never the main character; they are only the supporting character or the villain within the film.The greatest reason that Disney animation may have for making characters this way is economical reasons; they make the greatest profit from making heroines in movies with an hourglass frame because it appeals to children and makes them want to be like the character, which in turn makes parents buy children toys and dresses from the movie (Artz).

The children want to become like these characters they view. If these characters instill moral values that are positive for young children, what is wrong with making the female animations dazzlingly stunning too?There is nothing wrong with portraying purely fictional characters attractively since the ploy is ultimately about making money for Disney. Parents are fully capable of helping their children understand that physical appearance is not the world. Through psychology, it has been proven that children are already hardwired to interpret attractive as morally good, and ugly or unattractive to be morally bad. Although this may be true, it has also been stated that the prejudices become stronger as children grow older, but I do not hold this belief true.When we are younger, watching Disney movies only helps appeal to what we already hold true, but as we grow older this stereotype of attractive being good does not hold true. In school we realize that attractiveness is not what makes someone good, we learn to get to know someone before we judge them based on appearance.

Psychologically Disney animations are only feeding what we believe, therefore Disney is not corrupting our children’s sense of self-image or self esteem. Essentially, Disney is only providing pure entertainment; animations are just cartoons, it is not real life.Although it is really just a movie and it may not hurt a child’s self-image, it could emotionally scar them in many other ways since Disney films create a sort of emotional connection a child. As a child, Walt Disney was a victim of child abuse, and within his films, this scar from his childhood surfaces through his animation, Pinocchio. Even though children may not understand this right off the bat, it is evident through other forms of expression such as art at school; a child who views too much violence may be drawing violent things within their paintings or sketches.Some censorship in what someone’ children are watching could help to develop better morals in children.

Parents play a much larger role in a child’s life than an animated motion picture; having a child and parenting them goes beyond merely feeding and clothing them. Children see parent’s actions and imitate them, considering it to be right. Right from the start, parents will be the first role models in a child’s life, and as parents they need to be competent enough to teach moral values that the child will live by.

Parents have the ability to inspire their kids and to teach them moral values” (Lane). Good parenting will go a long way, and if done correctly, it would lead to a better society. With good parents, all children could feel confident about themselves and not feel like their self-image is hurt by a mere cartoon.

Disney is not to blame if watching these movies hurts a child’s self-esteem or self-image. No one wants their kid to be the one who does not feel good about how they look; parents should do something about this problem if they do not want it to play a large role in a child’s life.It is fundamentally the parent’s responsibility, and they should stop blaming animations for the insecurities that their children have; they should try to mend the child’s self-esteem and sense of self-image by helping them be more confident about themselves. Parents should spend more time teaching important values to kids instead of letting the kids make their own assumptions about how they are supposed to look.

Although Disney animation is full of perfectly drawn princesses and heroes, it does not mean this is what we need to look like; through good parenting most children’s insecurities could go away. If parents are able to instill good values in their kids, ultimately it could lead to a better society in general.Work CitedArtz, Lee. Critical Arts Journal. N. p.

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informaworld. com/smpp/ content~db=jour~content=a781707912>. Lane, Nigel. “Why Parenting Is Important. ” Ezine Articles. N. p. , 6 Mar.

2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2011. <http://ezinearticles. com/ ?Parental-Responsibility&id=976182>. Long, Heather. “Do Disney Princesses Hurt Self-Image in Little Girls? ” families.

com. N. p. , 3 Feb. 011.

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families. com/blog/ do-disney-princesses-hurt-self-image-in-little-girls>. Palmer, Daniel E. “Children, Marketing To. ” Encyclopedia of Business Ethics and Society.

2007. SAGE Publications. 16.

Mar. 2011. “Portrayal of the Female Body Image in Disney Films. ” Delaware Public Record Search. N.

p. , n. d. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://delawarepublicrecordsearch.

org/170/ portrayal-of-the-female-body-image-in-disney-films/>. Wells, Paul. Animation and America. Great Britain: Edinburgh University Press, 2002.



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