In the last decade or so Disney has done its best to bring diversity to its leading ladies. But there is one thing these princesses all have in common. They define beauty as flawless. But beauty isn’t flawless. As humans, we are full of flaws and imperfections in our skin. Disney has the ability to affect how a young girl perceives herself and if they don’t act on that chance they aren’t practicing good corporate citizenship.
Two major “image” changing articles about Disney have come out in the last week. The first one is from Jewel Moore, a young lady who launched a petition on change.org to have Disney create a plus-size princess. As of Feb. 7th the petition has 26 thousand supporters. Moore writes in the petition “It’s extremely difficult to find a positive representation of plus-size females in the media. If Disney could make a plus-size female protagonist who was as bright, amazing, and memorable as their others, it would do a world of good for those plus-size girls out there who are bombarded with images that make them feel ugly for not fitting the skinny standard.”
I believe this is a wonderful idea! Creating a character that supports a positive plus-size (or atomically correct size) role model would be very powerful for young girls who suffer from body image. According to Health Research Fund, 80 percent of women say that all forms of media make them feel insecure. 42 percent of girls from first through third grade want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10 year-olds are afraid of being fat. Body image is fussed over at every age in a girls life. Having a princess who is brave, daring, intelligent and just slightly over her BMI would mean the world to girls. A unofficial image surfaced on Pinterest and Tumbler shortly after the petition gained national media attention.
The other princess change making the rounds on the internet is Alexsandro Palombo’s disabled Disney Princess. It calls into questions the meaning of beauty. Is a princess still a princess if she is missing an arm, or is in a wheal chair? The answer is yes. Yes – You are still jaw-dropping beautiful if you are paralyzed or an amputee.
When Disney said anyone can be a princess, did they mean it? If they do, I hope to see a leading lady who falls under a nontraditional idea of beauty.
To Disney’s credit, they participate in “Let’s Move” and “World Wide Day of Play” which encourage kids to lead healthy and active lives. Then many Disney or ABCfamily shows address disabilities in at least one episode per season. A very well rounded list of Disney CSR can be viewed here. In fact The Walt Disney Company, Microsoft, BMW and Google all tied for first place in Reputation Institute CSR of 2013. But if the past is any indicator Disney won’t drastically change its image of a princess.
In early 2010 this image surfaced on Facebook from a family who’s daughter was undergoing chemotherapy treatment and asked Barbie to make a bald doll.
What these three examples are asking for is a different standard of beauty from characters that are influential on young girls body image. After all each of these girls are beautiful, and they need to be labeled as beautiful.