From princesses to heroines: Disney seeks to inspire young people with "princesses" of flesh and blood

(CNN Spanish) — The concept of the princess waiting for a prince charming has changed in the world of entertainment, along with the times and societies. And now brave women, like María Carolina Rodríguez, Aranza Méndez and Kesia Souza They have taken the place of classic princesses in the stories that inspire girls and boys around the world.

That is the intention of the Disney Princess “Time to Celebrate” campaign, which aims to motivate thousands of young people in Latin America to fight and pursue their dreams, setting the example of these real-life heroines who found inspiration in Disney princesses like Belle, Mulan and Moana.

“They’re kind of blurring the lines between what a princess is and all the other different qualities,” Dr. Sarah M. Coyne, a professor of child development at Brigham Young University’s (BYU) School of Family Life, said in an interview. with CNN. “What I think is that they’re sending messages of what you can be as a woman, a princess, a warrior, a fighter, a scholar, you know, all kinds of different things,” she added.

While Disney princess culture has been widely criticized for allegedly reinforcing gender stereotypes, a study tells a different story.

“Surprisingly, and contrary to hypothesis, early involvement in princess culture was not associated with later adherence to female gender stereotypes in characteristics and behaviors,” reads the research led by Dr. Coyne. , who has studied the impact of princess culture on children in the short and long term.

The study also suggests that early interaction with princess culture tends to be positive for children in the long run. For example, children who participated in princess culture tend to be more receptive to feeling and expressing their emotions within their interpersonal relationships.

The study published in July, which involved 307 children who completed a series of questionnaires on two occasions 5 years apart, also showed that princess culture tended to be related to the development of positive body esteem. long-term for those from low socioeconomic status.

“Some of the shows have positive messages about inner beauty. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a very good example of that, like looking at the heart and not the person’s appearance,” said Dr. Coyne.

Everyone can be princes and princesses

Aranza Méndez is a champion and leader in robotics, and this year she will participate in the Dubai International Astronautical Congress.

“The truth is that all of us by chasing our dreams and by having certain goals and that desire to want to achieve our dream makes us all be princes or princesses,” said 18-year-old Aranza, who fell in love with robotics at a very young age ” because it was like giving life to the things that I imagined”.

The young Mexican said she identified with Bella, a character from the 1991 film “Beauty and the Beast,” because “they think I’m in another world, because it’s the world of men or robotics, where they’re not used to seeing girls and well I identify with her because what we both do is: we are in our world and we don’t look at what others think, but rather in our passions and continue with it”.

Since she was 7 years old, Aranza has been a student of RobotiX, an organization that promotes and promotes technological education.

“I realized that robotics could actually be used for good that would help the world create solutions that would help both natural disasters and people with disabilities. And that’s when I said ‘I think I’m helping the world with a talent that I have acquired’ and well, I like that”.

Aranza has been part of the high-performance representative teams in different national and international robotics competitions and this year he will participate in the International Astronautical Congress, an aerospace industry event to be held in Dubai.

The resilience of an athlete

María Carolina Rodríguez has won 25 medals at the national level and hopes to one day represent Colombia at the Paralympic Games.

“Resilience is the desire to get ahead as a result of something bad that happened or something you’ve been through, not exactly bad. For example, in my case it was cancer. That didn’t stop me from continuing to fight for my dreams, to continue giving joy to my family,” María Carolina Rodríguez, a Paralympic swimmer for the Bogotá team who, at 18, has won more than 25 medals at the national level, told CNN.

In 2016, María Carolina was diagnosed with cancer in her left leg “to be exact, an osteosarcoma of the tibia and fibula that led to the whole issue of chemotherapies, but unfortunately they were not enough and they had to amputate my leg,” says María Carolina, who initially thought that he would not be able to return to his training, but with the support of his family and friends he was able to resume his great passion: swimming.

Like many young women her age, María Carolina grew up watching Disney movies and found a source of inspiration in Mulan. “[Mulan] She was stronger, she thought more about her family, more than about her,” says María Carolina, who said that, like Mulan, everything she does is focused on her family, on “making them feel proud.”

The Paralympic athlete, who in the future hopes to represent Colombia in the Paralympic Games, said that she would like to see a Paralympic character among the protagonists of a Disney movie. “I feel that the characters, both Paralympic boys and girls, with some kind of disability don’t get the recognition they deserve,” said María Carolina, not without first expressing her disgust at the word “disability.”

“I feel like the ‘dis’ should be a bit smaller and the ‘capacity’ in all caps, [en] great because the capacity we have is very great and people tend to limit us in their own eyes,” he said.

A more diverse future

Julian Kesia Souza dreams of being a professional soccer player and making history in women’s soccer.

“I would like to see real-life princesses disappearing from the fairy tale without losing the essence of princess, woman and warrior. Well, that’s incredible,” 18-year-old Brazilian soccer player Kesia, who would like to see more stories with, told CNN. characters who face real circumstances, psychological challenges and who face prejudice from society “because women and princesses in real life are not as fragile as some people say”.

It is true that some of the Disney princess films, mainly from the first generation, show women as helpless and submissive, while men are portrayed as brave and strong people. However, in more recent movies such as “Frozen” and “Moana,” Disney has moved away from such portrayals.

“For example, fathers are portrayed as more feminine—more forgiving, loving, and self-sacrificing—as time goes on. The male leads are also changing, as men come from lower income classes, work alongside women, and show a more moderate physique (rather than very muscular),” highlights the study by Dr. Coyne.

The research concludes that princess culture may have a positive effect in reducing adherence to hegemonic masculinity norms “particularly in boys.”

“Children who liked Disney princesses at age four tended to have more progressive attitudes around gender. Specifically, they were more likely to believe in equality, to have egalitarian attitudes toward men and women,” explained the researcher. Dr. Coyne.

For her part, Barbara Smith, senior manager of integrated franchise marketing at The Walt Disney Company, told CNN that over 84 years the stories of the princesses have evolved “to reflect the particularities of the times and the diversity that makes up our audience.”

“All of them, regardless of the era to which they belong, represent stories of courage and kindness and reflect positive values, which undoubtedly contribute to the construction of a more just and equal society,” added Smith.

And while Disney has been criticized for its practices of “queerbatingAnd for falling short when it comes to representing the LGBTQ community, Dr. Coyne sees the potential to diversify her characters.

“We have so many LGBTQ youth who don’t see themselves in children’s programming, so I think it’s a positive move and I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney was more explicit,” Dr. Coyne said.

Smith indicated that Disney has a responsibility to tell stories that promote the inclusion of all people and that reflect the diversity of its audience. “This is a long-term commitment, which is part of a gradual but constant process, in which the adaptation of our entertainment offer is contemplated to reach our entire audience, of which the LGBTQI + community is undoubtedly a part”, he pointed out.

This year, Disney released the short film “El Princesito” a story that addresses gender identity and questions hegemonic masculinity. The short film is part of a collection that, according to Disney, aims to tell stories that represent the real diversity that exists in society, as well as give a place to voices that have historically been ignored.

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