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The Message Disney Is Sending Girls Today Is Worse Than the One It Was Sending Years Ago

(H.K.)

One of the things I would oftentimes hear millennial women tell me is that after some time of being in the dating pool, they realized their standards for men were far too high. In the beginning, they would break up with men for not measuring up to the standards they had set, but as time went on it became clear that they never would. What they had envisioned was more fantasy than reality.

“I blame the Disney movies I watched as a kid,” I’d hear a lot of women say.

I couldn’t help but agree with them. Women wanted Prince Charming, a perfect picture of a man who isn’t just rich and powerful but also extraordinarily handsome, and romantic, and would sweep her off her feet and take her away on a mighty steed to live happily ever after.

Life is far more complicated. Men aren’t perfect and shouldn’t be expected to be so. We’re not all rich and powerful, and expecting a storybook romance out of us is unfair. Finances, jobs, stress, and more get in the way. The mighty steed of pure white hair and flowing main is more likely going to be a dirty truck or affordable sedan.

What’s more, at some point, relationship troubles will rear their heads. The issues that come with the honeymoon phase ending and the real work of being in a relationship beginning are always difficult for both parties. The early Disney movie “happily ever after” trope is a fantasy, and it’s a fantasy that took a lot of women my age by surprise.

Moreover, it also gave them the idea that they were perfect princesses just like the ones displayed in the movies, and when they found out they weren’t the picture of perfection and couldn’t live up to those standards, it generated a bit of bitterness and anxiety about self-image.

As a male of the species who endured some of the conditioning Disney inadvertently put on women in the early days of our childhood, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic. If my daughter ever watched these kinds of things, I told myself I’d be sure to give some kind of realistic context to the story and let her know that what she’s watching isn’t a good representation of reality. Fantasy is good fun, and something I very much enjoy watching myself, but it’s not real.

But if things keep going as they are, then it’s unlikely that my daughter (should I have one) will have to deal with this. Instead, she’ll be dealing with an entirely new type of pressure from companies like Disney, and this time it’s not inadvertently giving her unrealistic standards, it’s purposefully doing so.

Today’s characters show women as all-powerful and infallible. They’re automatically loved by everyone and the only exceptions to this are because the people who don’t love them are evil and are good for nothing but being defeated. They’re taught that they shouldn’t be apologetic and that their truth is the truth.

Look at the characters Disney is pumping out today. The live-action Mulan is exactly the kind of person I described above. Disney/Marvel’s Captain Marvel is the same. In fact, in many different properties, you’ll notice women always being tougher, smarter, and morally superior to men. They’re nearly flawless, with usually their only issue being the fact that they don’t believe in themselves enough.

While I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to spread the message of believing in oneself, when it’s paired with the idea that you’re perfect and you can only get more perfect, and that moreover anyone who challenges the idea that you’re perfect is a bad person, you’re in the midst of programming a monster into being.

What happens when the cycle repeats and these girls become women, and these women learn hard truths?

You’re not perfect, you’re not infallible, and being a woman doesn’t automatically make you smarter or more deserving than a man. It definitely doesn’t make you stronger and tougher than one and you’re very likely not going to be able to overcome one physically if you get into an altercation.

When life causes them to fail, and fail repeatedly as life tends to make everyone do, they’ll be shocked and at a loss as to why. They will not have been prepared for this and they will be hit harder than they should have. The bitterness the women in my generation experienced will be nothing compared to what future generations did.

They were explicitly told by people they trusted that this is how the world works…but it doesn’t.

It’s my opinion that women should absolutely be empowered and emboldened, but what’s lacking is tempering these encouragements with reality. They are not these fantasy women in the movies who are all-powerful, beloved, and undefeatable. They are human, and every human must work, earn, and strive. Failure is inevitable but failure isn’t the end, it’s just a stepping stone. Sometimes, you will be wrong and that’s okay. It’s part of the learning process.

A woman who learns lessons like these will be far more powerful than her peers.

It certainly works for men.