Ah, to be a Disney Girl! To possess beauty so divine it can melt the hearts of charming princes and gruff miners alike. To be able to use the same gift to tame temperamental beasts, while you attract, through angelic song, otherwise timid forest creatures. To know that, in the end-despite the fact that your wicked stepmother has forced you into a life of servitude and an evil queen is seeking your mutilated heart-yes, in the end, some day your prince will come.
The image of the perfect girl according to Walt Disney can be described, with little exception, in this way: she is always pretty, always fair, always model thin, always endowed with a beautiful singing voice and always the victim of some malevolent, often jealous, woman. The Disney Girl also has what one writer says she expected to receive when she became a woman: a life filled with "debonair men so overcome by [her] loveliness they burst into song" (Nirenberg 23).
Though originally products of medieval and Victorian literature, these female characters have been adopted into Walt's family and have so often been dipped in his colorful animation and sprinkled with his magical fairy dust that we have forgotten their origin and given them an identity that can only be described as, well, Disney.
Let's start with the first Disney Girl, Snow White. Now, Snow epitomizes what "gorgeous" represented in the 1930s. In other words, Disney allows her to be a little fat by today's standards (or is it the design of her dress?). Still, most of us agree with the evil queen's magic mirror that this Disney Girl, with her skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony, is, in...
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...art, but with nature's uncontrollable hand, a raving beauty, a Sleeping Beauty, a Cinderella. Or-if you can believe I thought this, with my Black self-a Snow White.
No such thing happened, of course, but then, that is my point. Let's enjoy these tales, but let's make sure-for ourselves and especially for our children-that we understand what is happening here. Though the animation is superb and the stories are full of enchantment, wizardry, and the basic good and evil conflict, we should not be misled into believing that Cindy, Snow, Belle, et al. are the epitome of the ideal woman. Those who do this might find themselves often in the same predicament as that of Cinderella after the midnight chimes: sprawled on their butts in the dust, with their dreams dashed to pieces around them
Nirenberg, Sue. House Beautiful. Aug. 1991: 23+
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