I recently heard a podcast about whether or not the Disney princesses are good role models for young girls. It discussed how these cartoon characters can effect body image and self-worth, and whether Disney is attempting to enforce specific gender roles. The podcast reviewed a study that surveyed girls ages three to six. They showed the girls pictures of ballerinas of varying body types and asked the girls to identify the ones they felt looked most like princesses. Most chose the skinny ballerinas, and the researchers theorized that this was because they had been influenced by Disney's animated ladies. The study, however, did not account for the other types of re-enforcement the girls might be receiving or not receiving at home and at school.
One example they provided was that Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" attracts Gaston with only her outer beauty, and that this sends the wrong message to girls about the importance of looks. I felt that they failed to recognize that Gaston is the dim-witted villain in the story and that the Beast actually appreciates her literary intelligence, but more importantly it seems that parents now want the media to raise their children for them. Why aren't parents teaching their children that they should value character, intelligence and creativity over outer beauty? Why have parents assigned Disney, or any other form of children's media, the task of instructing kids on how to be their best self?
When I was growing up, my parents took their role very seriously. They set expectations and guidelines for me to follow and always enforced those ideas themselves. If there was a movie they didn't think supported those ideas, I wasn't allowed to watch it. My parents also took the time to educate me on the fact that movies are not representative of real life, and that there are more important things than being pretty. I watched Disney movies and never had conflicting body image issues, and never felt that all I could accomplish as a female would be to get married.
Here's another example. A few months ago, a woman's group wanted to sue Hooters because they felt it wasn't child appropriate. If you have a problem with Hooters, then don't take your kid there! Set the example for you children and uphold those rules yourself. That's what being a parent is about. Don't expect society to do the job for you.