On the portrayal of abusive relationships in Disney movies
Teanna Jagdatt // Contributor
Growing up, I loved watching Disney movies. I remember wanting to dress up in fancy dresses, go to balls where I would meet my prince charming, and eventually live happily ever after. As cliché as that sounds, all I wanted to be growing up was a Disney princess. What I didn’t realize was that those movies didn’t resonate with real life as much as I wanted them to. I got so lost in the elegance of it all that I never acquired an understanding of the social issues hidden within those stories. The true vulgarity that Disney was able to hide so well from young people has become more obvious with the help of the remakings of these films.
The portrayal of domestic abuse within the Disney Princess movies has been known to us for a long time, but with the latest live-action recreations of the movies, we are exposed to seeing levels of abuse in many of these relationships. The movie that stood out to me the most in regards to this topic was Belle and the Beast’s relationship in Beauty and the Beast.
Undergoing this type of abuse is normalized, due to society stressing the need to always “do better.” Belle does this not because she doesn’t truly love herself, but because she is seeking kindness and safety in the Beast, and she hopes he will make her worthy of it. She gives up her entire life in order to gain what we see as a fabricated version of love. In the remake of this movie, the main change I noticed was how obvious they made the abuse. Emma Watson’s representation of Belle hides any real emotional or mental abuse with a lot of its moral ambiguity being tampered with.
We see this in many other relating stories, specifically in relationships where power dynamics are tested, such as Ariel and Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid, Cinderella and her step-mother, and of course Snow White and her prince (who she hadn’t even met yet until after he non-consensually kissed her). All of these couples show some tell-tale signs that their relationship somehow possesses either emotional or mental abuse. With that being said, Disney is telling us to seek our worth in an abuser, which is not healthy.
We all have a story that we know and love, and even when the relationship dynamic gets a little uncomfortable, we still get lost within the story. I have a tendency to put on rose-coloured glasses when it comes to love stories. In fiction, there is this idea that power is wielded by one person within a relationship filled with toxicity. You may not have noticed the divide in dominance in many pop culture relationships, but some are more obvious than others. If you still have trouble noticing the abusive and toxic relationships portrayed in some pop culture movies, I suggest you buy Disney Plus and do research for yourself.