Have you ever heard of the “Princess Syndrome”? Even if not by that name, you might be familiar with the fact that many little girls go through a phase where they want to be princesses, getting their own way and looking pretty. Nor is this necessarily confined to young girls. In The Contractual Obligation Implementation episode of The Big Bang Theory, for instance, three women skipped work to go to Disney and dress up as princesses, even fighting over who got to be Cinderella.
Disney is not the only contributing factor in this desire, but it’s certainly a major one. After all, their princesses have been around for decades, to some extent evolving with the times to present different images of how women should behave. Consider the difference between Sleeping Beauty, who simply waited to be rescued by a prince, and later princesses such as Mulan, who fought battles and saved her husband-to-be.
And yet, that evolution has not included body type. Every one of the Disney princesses is slender and beautiful, if in different ways. None have any noticeable physical trait that marks them as different or differently abled, and certainly none of them are plus sized.
Disney is not alone in this. Media portrayals of women almost always show skinny women as the ideal. Even those who have gained weight to play roles (think Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary, or Jewell Staite playing Kaylee in Firefly) don’t look plus-sized at all, just normal. (At least, they do to me.)
Such images are difficult enough to deal with as an adult, but to a child they are even more damaging. And I can’t think of any young girls in the media who are shown as both heavy and a heroine.
Which is why a junior high school student named Jewel Moore has created a petition to ask Disney to create a plus-sized heroine. As she writes:
“Studies show that a child's confidence correlates greatly with how much representation they have in the media…. If Disney could make a plus-size female protagonist who was as bright, amazing, and memorable as their others, it would do a world of good for those plus-size girls out there who are bombarded with images that make them feel ugly for not fitting the skinny standard…. This move on Disney's part would have an amazing positive ripple effect in people all around the world.”
I couldn’t agree more. It wouldn’t solve all the problems, of course, but it would be a wonderful starting point. It might also inspire others to create similar characters, allowing girls and women of all ages to start accepting their bodies as they are, and to perhaps focus on living healthy, rich lives instead of ones consumed by numbers on the scale. It’s hard to say just how far that would go in making other positive changes, but I, for one, would love to find out.