"I view the child's mind as an empty slate, one that is easily written upon but not as easily washed"
-Nicholas Salmond, Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child
Good morning my beautiful fugdies:)
I wrote an article for a website called Adios Barbie, Ill link it when its published, analyzing the weight fluctuation of different Disney starlets from different generations (spoiler alert: the new gen is much thinner than the previous, how shocked am I!).
But for some reason, picking the Disney Channel apart made my brain wander, and I started thinking about the animated movies that marked my childhood, and what their body image impacts might have been. We all know how perfectly beautiful the princesses were, it's in their job description, but what about the villains? What physical and psychological characteristics do we associate with evil, and how does that play out in our lives?
Where our insecurities lie
Yes, we know, our insecurities are the product of years and years of brainwashing, marketing, image manipulation, down with the media! and all of that fun revolutionary finger pointing.
But before we were reading magazines, or scrolling down pages and pages of Tumblr thinspo, we were watching animated movies. We all had our favourite, we knew every line from every song, we had the lunch boxes and the pyjamas, oh how harmless it all seemed!
The pointed chin, thin lips, overarched eyebrows, sharp features, and large nose play key part in most of these characters, and certainly none of them can be found in their good heroine counterparts. Isn't it odd that many of these features are some of the most common female complaints? Nose jobs, lip injections and (I am guilty of this!) eyebrow waxings, tweezings or pluckings are high in demand cosmetic surgeries and alterations, but what is inherently "wrong"about those things? Do these insecurities stem from our childhood, where a prominent chin meant bad news?
Agism and Sexism
Another recurrence I was sad to discover was mature age. While the pretty, pretty princesses are fountains of youth, the villains are often much older, leading the viewer to associate unattractiveness with old age, as though once you cross the 40 year old threshold, you are not only ugly, but a bad person?
Nicky, good friend of mine, brought up the fact that the young Disney girls' happy endings involved being saved by a man, and riding off into the sunset, because clearly there is no such thing as being a happy strong, single, independent woman. No, those are called villains. Yes indeed, the female antihero cannot be bothered by men, she is much too busy focusing on her own aspirations. DISCLAIMER, I'M NOT PROMOTING MALICIOUS AND DESTRUCTIVE DREAMS, but I do think those sexist messages teach us something about the way we envision our happiness as women.
There is one thing though that really made me think twice about my theories.
The grand majority of the female evil doers are scarily, unrealistically thin, so wouldn't that disprove my theories? If skinny is wicked, why is it one of our society's most prized commodities?
Well first off, the princesses aren't exactly heavy either, so their isn't as big a contrast, and therefor an association, between good and evil.
But further than that, I only have shots in the dark:
- perhaps their ridiculous thinness was indeed promoting a healthier body,
- or maybe the sharp, "cutting" angles and shapes of their bodies are just ecstatically more menacing.
- it could also be a sign of destitution; most of the classic Disney tales are set in historical contexts where many people struggled to eat on a daily basis, therefor being plump and well fed was a sign of wealth.
I would put my money down on the 2nd, but feel free to enlighten me with other hypotheses!
So who was your favorite villain, and what do you think their impact was on your body image?