Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Educational Specialist (EdS)

Department

Department of Graduate Psychology

Advisor(s)

Renee Staton

Deborah Sturm

Abstract

The media plays an essential role in determining people’s schemas of the real world, assumptions about cultural ideals, and perceptions surrounding body image, gender roles, and the idealization of love (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2008; Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, & Thompson, 2004). Children in particular are vulnerable to these messages due to their high consumption of media and their cognitive development (Agarwal & Dhanasekaran, 2012; Herbozo et al., 2004). Disney is one the most powerful aspects in children’s media and their princess phenomenon plays an essential role in perpetuating stereotypes by having their heroines embody submissiveness, being young and thin, and attracting love interests (Do Rozario, 2004; England, Descartes, Collier-Meek, 2011).

There are three different eras of princesses: the first one includes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty; the second one includes The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Mulan; the most recent era includes The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Brave, and Frozen. Research has shown how the Disney princess has evolved over time and is breaking certain stereotypes; however the most recent era lacks scholarly research (England et al., 2011). Given the power these films have on children’s psychological and physical health, this is an area that must be examined.

This project researches body image, gender roles, and the portrayal of love in the most recent era of princesses. Research was done by exploring newspaper articles, magazine articles, websites, blogs, and scholarly articles to discover how this era is portrayed. It was found that these five princesses represent progress in the Disney franchise by encompassing both masculine and feminine traits (Rome, 2010). The portrayal of love is also revolutionized in this era by going beyond the romantic type and incorporating familial love and self-love (Law, 2014; Rome, 2013; Saladino, 2014). Body image, however, is the one frontier that seems to lack progress. The Disney princess still seems to encompass unrealistic body features and is often sexualized in her movements. In order for Disney to continue their progressive movement forward, it is recommended that they create more realistic and well-rounded female characters.