Disney Romance is Overrated and Toxic

Sana Muneer, Editor in Chief

Many people, including myself, have grown up watching Disney movies, specifically Disney princess movies. While nostalgic and heartwarming, these fairytales are clearly not realistic. In my opinion, Disney princess movies preach toxic, overrated and abusive ideals about what romantic relationships should look like to children.

In the movie, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, the main character is an independent and ambitious girl named Belle. Belle is intelligent and capable, and dreams of living an adventurous life. She rejects the narcissistic Gaston and his offer of marriage; she sings, “I want much more than this provincial life… I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell.” Marriage and children will never satisfy Belle, she yearns for more. When her father is imprisoned by the beast, she bravely offers herself to take his place. The Beast is terrifying and manipulative, and has a violent temper. Belle tries to escape multiple times, a common occurrence in abusive relationships, but somehow Belle falls in love with him. Despite this, she is still his prisoner, and this ‘captor/captive’ relationship is glorified throughout the film. This popular children’s movie is truly a romanticized abuse story, portraying Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is a feeling of attachment a hostage has towards their captor. Exposing children to ‘romantic’ tales like this one is detrimental, and should not be taken lightly. The message of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is that true love can overcome wrongdoings, but in reality, this movie just portrays a man who stops his abusive behaviors and turns into everything a girl wants just based on the fact that he has feelings for her. By showing children these toxic relationships, it shows them that situations will always have a happily ever after- if their abuser is loved unconditionally.

Another example of why Disney romance is overrated and harmful to children is because it glorifies drastically changing yourself for someone else in terms of beauty and status. Princesses are remembered for being stunningly gorgeous, with long flowing hair, hourglass figures, and gorgeous smiles. They are also remembered for ending up with the men of their dreams, and living out their dazzling happily ever afters. This leads children to believe that they must be beautiful in order to find true love- which is not true by any means.

This is portrayed in ‘The Little Mermaid’. At the start of this beloved film, mermaid Ariel enthuses how she wants to be ‘a part of their (the humans) world’, and depicts a bright, curious and ambitious girl. But by the end, we see this fiery redheaded mermaid reduced to a voiceless shell, who clings to her ‘savior’, Prince Eric, casting away her youth for ‘love’. Ariel is a victim of the villain Ursula’s manipulation, who repeatedly tells her that she must trade her voice to grow legs to win Eric’s heart. By showing this relationship between Ariel and her insecurities and Ariel and Eric, it is detrimental to children and shows them a clear victim of manipulation and society’s expectations that you have to be like everyone else and be beautiful to be worthy of any sort of love.

On the other hand, Disney relationships can be considered healthy in some cases. This can be shown in ‘Moana, who doesn’t have a romantic partner, and who is a strong role model for girls. Her movie is centered around familial relations and embracing her true self. But, the amount of toxic underlying meanings in Disney movies,  and specifically Disney romance is overpowering, and cannot be excused. 

Lastly, harmful Disney romance is portrayed by ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. The Prince in this movie ventures to see a proclaimed ‘maiden who sleeps in a glass coffin’, and then nonconsensually kisses her. There is no suggestion that kissing the maiden, Snow White, will break a curse to wake her up, so there was no reason for the Prince to kiss her- there is nothing romantic about assaulting someone and going on to marry them and live happily ever after. 

Of course, it’s still okay to enjoy Disney princess movies, they are still classics and beloved by many. However, it is crucial to recognize that well-known media, such as these movies, often include underlying, unhealthy and abusive ideals when it comes to romance. No matter what, everyone deserves to be able to live their own happily ever after in a safe and healthy relationship.