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Disney princesses are still a favorite, reaserchers discuss negative influence

In research conducted by Dawn Elizabeth England, Lara Descartes and Melissa A. Collier-Meek in their article entitled “Gender Role Portrayal,” the authors explored the feminist criticisms and claims of negative exemplification for young girls through Disney princesses. According to England, Descartes and Collier-Meek, the princess promoted the idea of wanting to explore and was portrayed as independent and assertive.

Freshman linguistics major Luisa Garcia says Ariel is her favorite Disney princess because Garcia loves to swim and do anything related to the sea.

“I thought I was Belle growing up,” said Belen Garcia, junior biology major.

According to the authors of “Gender Role Portrayal,” Belle was the first princess who displayed high intelligence rates.

“Though, this was used in the film to characterize Belle as strange and served to separate her from the other villagers,” the authors said.

However, this does not make a difference to interdisciplinary studies graduate student Christina Funkhouser’s admiration towards Belle.

“Belle loves to read. She’s not just a pretty face, even though she’s that as well. She’s intelligent and creative (her dad is an inventor). She’s loving and accepts others for who they are,” Funkhouser said.


Charleen Rollins, freshman music performance major, like many of the students mentioned, chose a princess she most related to.

“I act like Cinderella and can relate,” Rollins said.

In “The Cult of Disney Princesses,” author Anaya M. Baker refers to Cinderella as submissive and that she was displayed this way through her acceptance of excessive domestic work without complaint, seeming to even enjoy it by singing and smiling.

“There’s the passive heroines, the ones that embody goodness, beauty and charm, who do very little besides sit and wait for rescue or true love in the guise of prince charming,” said Baker in her article.

Unable to associate themselves to princesses as much as girls, guys express different reasons for their favorite Disney princesses.


“Jasmine’s more adventurous than the other ones. All the other ones are preppy,” said Anthony Portillo, junior mechanical engineering major.

Rather than relevance, some girls favored princesses for reasons of moral values or lifestyles.


Freshman education major Andrea Perez chose one of Disney’s new princesses, Tiana, and said that she was hardworking by taking the first step to getting what she wants.

“Gender Role Portrayal” authors said the princess in “The Princess and the Frog” was “career-oriented, which initially prevented her from socializing and pursuing romantic opportunities.”

They also said the prince was the first to stray from perfection as he was “unable to financially support himself,” along with other characteristic portrayals.

Apart from showing independence and a “hardworking” attitude, there is a greater complexity to the princess.

“She is shown sweeping and cleaning several times, actions not seen since the early Disney films,” England, Descartes and Collier-Meek said.


Although not technically a princess, many chose Mulan as their favorite.

Disney does list Mulan on the official list of Disney princesses, but excludes characters such as Nala from “The Lion King” and Eilonwy from “The Black Cauldron.”

According to Dr. Gail Dines from Wheelock College in her article “Mickey Mouse Monopoly,” Mulan portrays a “real, independent” woman, but that “after the war, she goes home, (and) those expectations of femininity are exactly the same. It’s as if it never happened.”

In an article entitled “Mulan Teaches Us to ‘Be a Man’… Until You Have to Be a Woman,” Jillian Schmidt responded to Dr. Dines.

“’Mulan’ may have a shitty ending, but that doesn’t mean that the movie holds no feminist merit… she is the girl who tells us we can when society says we can’t,” Schmidt said.

In “Evolution of Disney,” princesses also show societal progress. Author David O’ Conner said Walt Disney was not an “anti-women’s rights advocate,” but was simply “a product of his time.”

Whether you relate to, admire or apathetic about the Disney princess franchise, it remains influential and popular within the Disney Company and it’s UTEP’s homecoming theme.

Nadia Garcia may be reached at [email protected].

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Disney princesses are still a favorite, reaserchers discuss negative influence