Let It Go: What is the "Disney Princess Effect"?

Let It Go: Thoughts on the Disney Princess Effect by Tree Hut Wood Watches

We admit it...here, at Tree Hut, we're suckers for happy endings. Everyday, we see countless romantic engravings that reflect upon life, marriage, anniversaries, and more. Every woman feels like a princess at her wedding, especially when she gifts her husband a watch engraved with "Finally found my prince." We love helping create sweet memories like these.

Tree Hut Watches Featured at Josh and Jaylyn's Wedding | Image Courtesy of Gem Photography
Naturally, as the sentimental bunch we are, we're also huge Disney fans. That's why we couldn't help but notice the recent controversy brewing over the "Disney Princess Effect." A recent study out of Brigham Young University, entitled "Pretty as a Princess: Longitudinal Effects of Engagement with Disney Princesses...in Children", suggested that obsessing over Disney princesses at a young age may have long-lasting effects in terms of body image and performance of stereotypical duties. For example, the female preschoolers studied were more likely than boys to insist that cooking and housekeeping toys were for girls only -- these attitudes persisted when researchers studied them again a year later!
This is just one study, but it reflects upon the greater conversation our culture is having about the effects seemingly innocuous media could have on children. Kids are like sponges and during those first crucial years, the brain learns morals, language, and social skills. Accordingly, the study also showed that because Disney princesses are almost exclusively slim, tall, and beautiful, little girls adopt this as their ideal standard of beauty.

 

Am I the one not surprised by the results of this study? Hopefully, every parent is aware of the subliminal messages Disney princess movies carry. Disney itself is even aware of it; their portrayal of princesses have changed drastically over the past 70 years. For instance, Snow White (1937) cleaned, cooked, and cared for men, which was expected of women in that decade. Sleeping Beauty (1959) naturally sought the affection of a prince because that movie was released in the 1950's -- the pinnacle of the decade of the housewife and cult of domesticity. 

But this decade's princesses, like Elsa (Frozen, 2013) and Moana (Moana, 2016), are spirited, goal-driven teenagers who have ambitions of their own and solve problems without the help of a man...much like today's young women.

Moana, the new 2016 Disney princess

 So we say...

"Let It Go. I am one with the wind and sky." Frozen lyric engraving on a wood watch.

In this case, we think that art reflects life. Perhaps it's better to treat the older Disney movies like the relics they are: remnants of a historical, gendered past our culture is trying to supersede. Like everything, Disney princess movies should be watched in moderation. Have conversations with your kids about what these movies represent after watching them. Get real: talk about how animations are never truly realistic and how "the past is in the past." Stop the pattern of negative self-esteem and stereotypical behavior right in its tracks. Meanwhile, we'll be waiting for more diverse Disney princesses.

But if your girl wants a fairytale wedding, that's okay too. And we'd be happy to host it. ;)

 

* The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Tree Hut Co. as a whole.


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