The world's most popular production company is also often the most controversial. One of sociology's favorite go-to topics is the affect Disney has on young girls. People often question whether or not children are negatively impacted by the way women are depicted in Disney's most famous movies.
In 1937, Snow White was the first Disney movie to be released. It is a simple story about a young woman who wants nothing more than to cook, clean and sing happily while cleaning up after a group of men.
Fast forward to our mothers' Disney in the 1950's, where Cinderella realizes cooking isn't all it's cracked up to be and decides marrying into a better family is the best option.
Then, years later, we were given the princesses of our generation. Suddenly, Disney gave girls a variety of female characters to look up to. There was Belle, a woman who enjoys learning more than dating; Pocahontas, a peace advocate who chooses her family over her boyfriend; and Mulan, the greatest warrior in fictional Chinese history.
In 1991, the same year Beauty and the Beast was released, the number of American women attending college exceeded the number of males for the first time in history. This number has been steadily growing for the past ten years, while the number of males attending college has remained relatively the same since the 1960's.
The first Disney Princess movie to be released since Mulan was The Princess and the Frog. This was the first princess movie made for today's young generation, and it has developed even further than the movies of the 1990's. The Princess and the Frog features a young woman who not only has no interest in looking for a boyfriend, but hopes to open up her own restaurant. In addition to the first Disney Princess to have a career, she is also the first to be in an interracial relationship.
According to a Princeton, New Jersey study, the percentage of Americans who approved of interracial relationships was 4 percent in 1958, one year before Cinderella was released. In 2011, the percentage of Americans who approve of interracial relationships has grown to 86 percent.
Now, Disney's CGI counterpart Pixar is getting on board with the modern-day fairytale. Due to be released in June 2012, Brave is a new story about a young princess named Merida, a skilled archer who needs to use her fighting skills to break an evil curse.
Incidentally, Brave was announced just one year after the Navy officially put an end to the sex barrier by announcing women would be permitted to serve on submarines. Many people don't understand serving on a submarine is voluntary, as long as a person passes the test to earn his or her "submarine dolphins." According to culinary specialist Chief Petty Officer William Foster, there is no reason women should have been banned from submarines.
"If a woman earns her dolphins, I'll trust her with my life," he says with an attitude that would not have been as common fifty years ago.
So, is it fair for people in the 21st century to be insulted by Disney's depiction of Cinderella? In the 1950's, women really did walk around the house wearing aprons all day. In 2011, women really are opening their own businesses and serving in the armed forces.
It is clear Disney does not support the oppression of women, but instead reflects images of women as they are in each particular decade. As long as society keeps growing and changing in a positive way, so will Disney's princesses.