Study Shows People Are Unnecessarily “Critical” and “Dismissive” of Disney Princesses

disney princesses study
Credit: Disney

Many have long believed Disney Princesses were not very productive characters for young girls to model themselves after. However, a recent study has called into question these biases against Disney princesses.

Disney princesses have long been hailed as some of the most controversial fictional characters there are in pop culture. Some argue that there is a romanticization of young girls being courted (think of Rachel Zegler and her comments about Snow White). Others criticize the white-washing and racist stereotypes in various Disney films. Think of the criticism often levied against Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, or any other Disney princess movie.

Even this year, there was a video going around on social media of how depictions of Disney princesses’ noses were harmful. However, recently, one study has spoken out against this.

disney princesses

Princess Tiana, Rapunzel, Princess Jasmine, Mulan, Moana, and Belle are some of the well-known Disney princesses / Credit: Disney

Recent Study Shows Disney Princesses Do Young Girls a Lot of Good

However, despite these criticisms, a recent study shows that Disney princesses actually do young girls a lot of good. The study from the University of California Davis (UC Davis), done in conjunction with researchers from Brigham Young University, suggests that “a favorite Disney princess can positively influence a young child’s body confidence and diversify their play.”

The study explains that children who favored “average-bodied” princesses were most likely to have “improved body-esteem” or body image. This said, thin princesses did not adversely affect young children.

Snow White, Belle Pocahontas, Tiana, Merida, Rapunzel, Mulan, and Cinderella at the Disney Parks

Snow White, Belle Pocahontas, Tiana, Merida, Rapunzel, Mulan, and Cinderella are all official Disney princesses / Credit: Disney

Perhaps most importantly, frequent play with princesses enhanced the positive effects of body image on a young girl, particularly when participants played with “average-bodied” princesses—think like Moana.

“People are critical of Disney princesses,” commented Jane Shawcroft, a doctoral student researcher in the Department of Communication, who was the lead author of the paper; however, the research suggests parents should give these princesses another look and chance.

The study comprised 340 Denver-based children and their caregivers. The study took place from 2020 to 2021. A little more than 50% of the children in the study were girls, and about 84% were white.

Princess Tiana

Princess Tiana / Credit: Disney Parks Blog

“Princesses with average body size created a protective effect, strengthening how confident children feel about their own bodies and freeing them to play in different ways,” Shawcroft commented.

“With children’s media, people tend to be critical or dismissive of what kids, especially girls, like,” concluded Shawcroft. “Disney princesses really matter to young children, and we should also recognize that media centered on women and that tell women’s stories are important.”

heart attack ems disney world

Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Disney


About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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