It would be an understatement to say the media has some influence on the general public. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements, movies and television shows that mold our perception of what is or isn't normal; unfortunately, among the most vulnerable to these false expectations are children and adolescents. As someone who has grown up watching the classic Disney princess movies, I am very familiar with the feeling of idealizing what I saw on the big screen. As I grew older, I realized the fictitious characters I once held in such high regard before weren't always the best role models. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out the latest Disney princess is a fierce Polynesian who definitely does not fit the profile of traditional characters.
Moana is just the next character in a string of Disney's modern female protagonists, which also includes Elsa from Frozen and Merida from Brave. What is so refreshing about these new wave of characters is that they exemplify strong qualities we should be teaching our children — especially our girls. While the children of my generation were growing up, the majority of female characters were docile, lacked ambition and, frankly, made horrible decisions. Take Ariel from The Little Mermaid, for example: In an effort to marry a prince she barely knew, she gave up her voice and lost the ability to sing, which was one of her most cherished talents. Even Belle from Beauty and the Beast, who is known for being the most scholarly princess, falls in love with her kidnapper after being forced to stay in his castle. The overall goals for many of these classic female characters are to find their 'prince charming' and 'live happily ever after,' yet this motif creates the notion that a woman can only find a happy ending by giving up her talents and dreams to be with the man she loves.
Despite what it might sound like, my objective is not to go on a tirade about classic Disney films. In fact, some of the lessons these movies teach are valuable. For instance, some of the overarching themes of many include loyalty, a positive outlook on life and never giving up on one's beliefs. Concepts like these are important to teach to our children, because it is crucial to instill a sense of responsibility and morality in the next generation. However, the underlying messages behind the actions of Disney princesses is far more damaging to the psyche of the young children who are watching them.
This is why it is so essential for Disney — and all of Hollywood — to create films that show women in a positive light. We must provide young children with examples of diverse characters who overcome adversity and pursue their goals. Without more strong-minded and tenacious role models, young audiences will continue to be accustomed to the unfair standards the media has portrayed for decades — and that is an absolute travesty.
Asha Kodan is a freshman biology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.