While it’s been around for a while, I highly recommend this post about Disney princesses.
The problem isn’t a new one: Disney does not always promote positive images of women. It was a problem they inherited from the source material: folk stories do not always promote positive images of women.
While the Disney princess is all very terrible, not a lot of attention is placed on the Disney villain. The default position is: if they’re male, they’re English; if they’re female, they’re hot. This was particularly the case in early films: Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) and Grimhilde (Snow White). Both evil, both smoking hot. There’s a bit of deviation, but not much.
What’s interesting is that these female villains are very overtly sexualised. They’re powerful and attractive, thus they’re evil. The objects of the prince’s desire are cute, innocent, and require protection.
In recent times, Disney has changed its focus. Instead of presenting princesses as an ambition for young girls (‘This is who you could be when you grow up if you shut up and look pretty’), it now presents teenagers as peer ideals to teenagers (‘This is who you could be right now if you buy enough cosmetics and seek the attention of the opposite sex’).
Not a lot is positive coming out of the culture machine, but raising consciousness inspires a very useful dialogue without having to dismiss the source material entirely.
Also, this image is awesome: