Sleeping Beauty

 

Again, another Disney film without a single person of color.

Largest problem with Sleeping Beauty aside from the lack of diversity: the awakening of Aurora through a true love’s kiss. Because men hold the key to everything, yes? Also there is a large amount of heteronormativity at play. As a baby, when the curse is softened by a good fairy from death to sleep, the good fairies and the king and queen assume the kiss will be from a man? Yuck.

My second largest problem is that Aurora, our princess, literally does nothing but sing, be pretty, talk about falling in love, and sleep for the entirety of the film. Talk about a lame representation of the female gender. Here we have another princess that encompasses the cult of womanhood, being small in stature, tiny in waist, conventionally beautiful, kind, talented, etc.

Again Disney has our young princess fall in love at first sight, conveying an incorrect message to our children: that love is easy, that it happens instantaneously, that it will be based entirely on what you look like, and that it will be the pinnacle of your life. Was I the only one that was disillusioned by this “true love” thing while experiencing relationships in real life?

Disney is also buying into heterosexism with the film and perpetuating it. Heterosexism is the belief that relationships must always be in terms of a man and a woman. Maleficent, spurned by men, is perceived as out of control and evil. She is green in color and looks nothing like our beautiful princess. Maleficent is perhaps, however, the coolest antagonist of a Disney princess film.

Although this movie is old, released in 1959, it is entirely problematic that Aurora is only 16 years old when she “falls in love.” While aging may have been different in the late fifties, our kids NOW are watching and absorbing the messages from this film. At 16, they are still a kid. Love is entirely out of reach psychologically, as children develop well into their early 20s.

 

Feminist rating: 0/10

Passes Bechdel Test (with flying colors)

Fails Racial Bechdel Test

 

 

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The Disney Villain and Representation

Disney villains are not friendly people. They’re villains, why would they be? But typically in a Disney story villains represent anti-white culture. Disney villains and Disney heroines/heroes have have some obvious discrepancies in physical appearance. While heroes and heroines are attractive to white culture, villains are anythingbut. Let’s take a look at a few villain/hero comparisons.

ariel ursila

Here we have Ursula and Ariel, side by side. Ariel is a conventionally attractive white girl (minus the giant fish fin) with a tiny waist and big blue eyes. Ursula is non-white colored, with heavy lidded eyes, and obese in size (therefore contributing to stereotypes and discrimination against fat women). The representation of evil in The Little Mermaid manifests itself in the form of anything different than mainstream white culture.

aladdin jafar

Next we have Jafar, the villain from Aladdin. Again, we have the heavy lidded eyes and dark skin. It appears that he is wearing eyeliner on his eye lids (ergo, Jafar is feminized; femme male = bad/evil), and his features are distinct and very non-white. His eyes are also elongated in comparison with Aladdin’s. Aladdin bears the conventional white boy features and charming smile. His skin is lighter, eyes are larger and rounder, and all around he has a more mainstream look (read: the white boy look). Even though Aladdin is a PoC, he is distorted to fit white morale.

maleficent aurora

For a third comparison on the strand of Disney villan vs. Disney hero/heroine, here we have Aurora and Maleficent. Maleficent’s distortion is less prominent than the two previously discussed villans, but she still possesses heavily lidded, elongated eyes and non-white skin. Aurora is drawn in the traditional princess sense, with large, round eyes and tiny waist.

The effect on children on perceptions of those with white skin and non-white skin must be profound. If they are constantly surrounded by images of people that are different being portrayed as evil and mean, then they will become socialized to view them as evil and mean. In contrast, if the child has similarities with the villians in regards to appearance, the effect on how the child will view themselves has to be negative.

I know that I was profoundly affected by the portrayal of Disney villians. I was socialized by Disney to believe that I could only find happiness in life if I looked like their protagonists. When I gained weight as I got older, I bought into stereotypes that are perpetuated by Disney villians like Ursula and even Ratcliffe, from Pocahontas. How could I possibly be a good person with all this fat when all the fat people I saw as a child were evil?

I will continue a discussion of Disney villian characteristics in a later post. Until then, compare and contrast villians/antagonists that you are surrounded by. How are they alike? How are the different from the protagonist? How does that affect you?