Gender Stereotypes and Roles Changing in Disney Movies

Disney movies are loved by people of all ages throughout the world and are some of the highest-grossing films in the industry. However, Disney movies began imprinting on our brains since we were children, filling our innocent heads with gender stereotypes and gender roles. Gender stereotypes are shared beliefs about the traits, qualities, and tendencies associated with different sex categories. Some stereotypes women and girls have to face are have to dress in feminine ways and being polite, accommodating and nurturing. Older Disney movies princesses were characterized by gender stereotypes: they were weak, controlled by others, emotional, frailer, passive, complaining, domestic, and more troublesome than the male characters. A perfect example of a stereotypical weak Disney princess is Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was created back in 1937. Snow White shows multiple gender stereotypes about women; physically, socially, and relationships. More recent Disney princess movies like Tangled, created in 2010, begin to break those gender stereotypes and roles for women. Comparing the two Disney princesses enlightens how female stereotypes are changing over the years.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is based around a young girl, Snow White, who has an evil jealous queen who plots to kill her/put her asleep. Snow White was taught as a child that in order to be a “good girl” she must obey what she is told to do. She ends up running away and living with seven men dwarfs. “A woman is considered to be a homemaker, naive, and lacking in common sense” (Harrison, 2012). Snow White makes an agreement with the dwarfs, they will keep her safe if she does the cooking and cleaning for them. Snow White became the stereotypical “honey I’m home” wife who stays in the kitchen doing the cooking and cleaning while wearing a perfect outfit. A social stereotype about women is that women are supposed to cook and do housework while men are supposed to go to work. For example, Snow White would stay home cooking and cleaning while the dwarfs went to work in the mines all day. Back in the 1930s the women were suppose to make sure the house was clean and a hot dinner was made before their husband come home from a hard day at work. In addition, to being a “perfect” woman, is looking presentable at all times and ultimately looking better than everyone. Snow White’s physical appearance fits the stereotypes of women. For example, Snow White is naturally beautiful she is very skinny, has unrealistic naturally red rose colored lips, skin white as snow, hair black as ebony and never looks bad. This is where the evil queen in the story fits in. The evil queen becomes obsessive of her appearance in the mirror and very jealous of how beautiful Snow White is. In a UMW blog, Ms. Andersen states, “The story gives women mixed messages saying not to obsess about looks but be beautiful, and portraying a woman as the heroine, but still saying disobedience of the women’s roles will lead to punishment” (Andersen, 2009). Snow White broke the rule the dwarfs told her, not to let anyone in, she was punished by getting poisoned from red apple that the evil queen tricked her into eating. When Snow White is under the sleeping spell in the glass coffin waiting for her true loves kiss shows the stereotype women have in a relationship. Snow White is waiting for a man to come save her or help her, she didn’t do anything but wait. This is showing that women must need a man to help them from any bad situations and that women can help themselves. The story Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs assumes the stereotypical roles of women dictated by society instead of creating a world of pure fantasy.

In contrast, Tangled, is a progressive Disney movie that challenges gender roles and stereotypes. Rapunzel isn’t a typical Disney princess awaiting her prince to come save her and swipe her off her feet to live happily ever after. Throughout the movie Rapunzel transforms from an innocent, dependent girl into an adventurous, intelligent young woman who discovers the dangers of the world for herself. Rapunzel shares similar attributes as Snow White like, being very skinny and having white skin.  Rapunzel as well runs away from an evil villain, her stepmother who kept her hostage in the tower all of her life. Unlike Snow White, Rapunzel was brave enough to break free of the tower and adventure into a town she has never been too. Rapunzel broke the social stereotypes of women by not staying inside cleaning and cooking but by making her own adventure to see the floating lanterns, that she has dreamed about since she was a little girl gazing out the tower window at the floating lanterns. Not only does Rapunzel break the stereotypical “I’m home” wife but she changes the traditional princess appearance. Yes, of course Rapunzel is a beautiful, skinny, blonde, big green eyed girl, I mean come on she is a princess. For example, if you look closer to her appearance Rapunzel is constantly barefoot, which is unheard of for a princess to do and she doesn’t wear make up. Also, her hair is disgustingly long and she has worn the same dress for years in the tower, which means her hygiene cannot be the best. This is showing that women do not have to look perfect to be a woman. Just because you may not look perfect all the time doesn’t make you less then a woman you already are. Lastly, Rapunzel is fearless when it comes to fighting she doesn’t run away or get scared and hide. For example, when Flynn broke into the tower Rapunzel was very aggressive and beat him up with a frying pan. Being aggressive isn’t a stereotype women have at all. Women are supposed to be weak and gentle compared to a man, not beat them up with a frying pan. Rapunzel broke the generalization of a Disney princess by being different and not following the gender stereotypes.

When comparing the two Disney princess movies you saw how the gender stereotypes significantly change. I believe that Walt Disney used the social role of theory to help make all of his Disney princesses because if you look at the older Disney movies the women tend to follow the gender stereotypes and roles. But when you look at the more recent Disney movies the princesses are breaking the stereotypes. This is happening because society (women) is changing the gender stereotypes and roles for both women and men


Andersen, A. (2009). Traditional Female Gender Roles in “Snow White”. Retrieved from:

Harrison (2012). Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. Retrieved from:

Wilson, N. (2010). Disney’s Gender Roles Remain Un-Tangled. Retrieved from: