Is Disney Responsible for the Brainwashing and Corruption of Children’s Minds?

Kaitlin Lyons, Features

Disney films are appreciated by audiences young and old. These films have been passed on from generation to generation, and even older Disney films continue to re-release time and time again. It is hard in our society to come across a person who has not grown up watching these beloved movies. However, Disney captures viewers at a young age and fills their minds with unattainable standards and stereotypical societal “norms.” Exposing children to the influence of these films may corrupt their minds into thinking one way instead of allowing them to develop an individual mindset.
The Little Mermaid is definitely a fan favorite, but somehow people overlook the fact that the story screams to children, “Hey, It’s totally cool to disobey your parents, abandon your family, and change who you are completely. Especially if there is a cute boy involved!” How will children watching this develop a rational thinking process? “Disney influenced me lot as a little girl,” stated TERRA senior Evelyn Poyato, “I always thought that if I wished something over and over again every day, that it would just happen to me without me having to do anything.” Children are simple minded and are easily influenced by anything going on around them. At younger ages, they are like sponges soaking up every idea and piece of information they are introduced to. Disney as an entertainment industry is not obligated to incorporate proper values into their films, but considering that their target market is at a very impressionable age, they should.

Disney also teaches girls that to be a pretty Disney princess, they have to have the size-0 look. Extreme thinness is replicated by every princess to come out in theaters. When the children who watch these princesses grow to be women, they wonder why their waists aren’t the width of a can of soda. All the princes and male protagonists have similar typical builds; tall and slim yet muscular. For example, Aladdin from Aladdin, Flynn Ryder from Tangled, and Tarzan from Tarzan. When people are constantly introduced to these body types as children, they grow up thinking that those are the body types that are average and expected of them. The fact that a variety of body types are not represented in films adds to this problem (such as per shaped figures, curvy figures, etc.). Magazines, television, and other forms of media also contribute to cultivating a self deprecating mindset. This can lead to insecurity and self-loathing later in life. By representing heroes and heroines with the “ideal” body types, children are being brainwashed at a young age to what looks are “acceptable” by society, because according to Disney films, ugly people are evil, and being unattractive is immoral. Although in some films like Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame it is conveyed that how a person looks does not matter, as long as their personality is good and pure, this however does not change the fact that in most Disney movies, the villain is either one of these three things; overweight, old, or hideous. Examples of these are Ursula from The Little Mermaid, The Evil Witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the evil stepsisters from Cinderella. Children are taught to fear “unattractive” people and praise those who are beautiful, when in reality, of course, a person’s appearance has nothing to do with their mind or personality         Disney films also impress gender roles into kids minds, especially young girls. They implicate the idea that bravery, heroism, and adventure are all things for men, and it is necessary for a woman to find a man who can rescue her in times of peril. When asked about his role in society, Daniel Hernandez, student at Florida International University Stated, “Disney showed me that I have to be brave, but protective rather than heroic.” Newer Disney films have thankfully been taking a different route in allowing the woman to become the hero, or allowing both male and female characters to collaborate and save the day together (For example, Frozen, Brave, Princess and the Frog). Hercules, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, The little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Aladdin are just some examples of Disney movies still loved today that portray set gender roles. In these movies, the woman is portrayed as helpless while the man is strong and heroic.

Of course, Disney doesn’t make all these things up on their own. Disney movies are a reflection of the time during which the film is released. Disney works with the media in a cycle of events; first people become a part of a trend or movement, then the media and Disney pick up on it and advertise it back to the people, who are influenced by the advertisement and become even more involved in the idea. Ideas about gender roles in the 1950’s were much more stereotyped than they are now. Through the years, extreme thinness became popular in the 1980’s and 90’s, therefore Disney introduced characters that demonstrated this body type and as women became more independent in society, we see the female characters become more outspoken and heroic throughout the years. Although films are now more reflective of a society with more progressive ideas and less negative values, older ideals are still represented when viewing older films.


Young adults today who grew up watching Disney movies may still be influenced by the ideals put in their minds, and may still correlate these ideals to how they should be seen and should act in their daily lives. People think they must be attractive to be important. Woman think they need a man before their lives can have meaning. The films which most people see as happy and cute may be the starting point for the societal beliefs to be first implanted in the minds of the population, followed by magazines, television, and general media.