“If you think about that [situation] in a modern workplace, it is a dangerous view to have – if you just carry on being exploited because you think everything is going to turn out to be okay.”
Managers – think about the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella for example – are also typically portrayed as manipulative and horrible.
It might also explain some of the dissatisfaction that millennials who were children during the late 1990s have with work, he says.
Disney itself did not respond to repeated BBC requests for an interview or a comment for this article. But in Disney’s recent films many researchers have noticed a marked change. Griffin, for example, says careers are portrayed more positively and as something to aspire to.
“Zootopia is great example of work in Disney films,” says Griffin. “There is a bunny rabbit who wants to be a police officer and she gets laughed at but throughout the film she sets out to prove herself. The newest films also have this idea of bringing your friends closer to you to help change your identity and your workplace. That’s a really positive message.”
The female characters in Frozen, Brave and Moana also represent a new, independent and free-spirited era of Disney. They are strong and in control of their own lives and no longer need male characters to save the day. But while Brave and Moana are seen as truly breaking the Disney princess mould, opinion is somewhat divided over Frozen’s heroines.
“The company is attempting to keep up with the times with reference to gender equality and representation,” says Ingvild Kvale Sørenssen, who studies children’s relationships with Disney at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “How this influences [children long term] we cannot know, but representation matters, diversity matters. And being able to dream and imagine oneself a character, and to merely be entertained, is not a bad thing.”
Perhaps most welcome are the recent remakes of the older classic Disney animations such as Aladdin and the upcoming Mulan. Earlier this month Disney announced it was casting R&B singer and actress Halle Bailey in the role of Ariel in a live-action version of The Little Mermaid, a decision that drew a backlash from some fans, but was widely applauded.
“Disney’s recasting of prior era’s works is extremely impactful for children of colour and for global diversity,” says Shearon Roberts, who is studying the changing face of Disney’s social consciousness at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. “Disney’s current decade has offered girls the full spectrum to dream beyond castles and to imagine the full reach of their abilities.
“It is also a message for young boys. Women and girls are not just their objects of affection, but allies in ridding their worlds of evil and making the world better for all.”