Disney Princesses with Mental Illnesses

Valeska Salazar Nissimblat 11°C

From Snow White to Moana: The Evolution of Disney Princesses

Disney has been around for quite some time, and it is recognized as one of the largest movie studios in the world. The reason for its enormous success is that it has been making films since the 1930s. Thanks to this, Disney was able to build its entertainment empire around the success of its animated films. These films revolved around princesses who had to face an evil human or magical enemy before they had a happy ending. This has facilitated the connection that the princesses make with the public, specifically girls and young women, because they always reflected how some women acted in real life depending on the decade in which their film was released. However, real women sometimes must deal with mental disorders of varying severity, and in Disney’s animated films, some of their princesses have also shown signs of mental illness. The purpose of this text is to identify which princesses show signs of mental illness and how that may have affected their story. 

First off is the infamous Snow White. She was the very first princess to be on the big screen, and, without her, Disney might not have had the same amount of fame as it has today. Although she was the first princess, Snow White wasn’t a complete angel. She suffered from a disorder called narcissistic personality disorder. This is used to describe someone who constantly wants to be the center of attention, overreacts to everything, and takes advantage of others. In the movie, it can be seen how she takes over the dwarf’s home, flirts with everyone, and loves the fact that everyone is head over heels for her. 

The second princess is Cinderella. This movie was released in 1950, a time in which most women were expected to stay home and clean, cook and look after their children. Women also tended to be more submissive and less assertive, which explains why women like Cinderella were way more dependent on others. However, in her case, it is very possible that she suffered from what is known as dependent personality disorder. This can be described as having the constant need to be taken care of, mainly occurring to children who have dealt with some type of separation anxiety. In the movie, Cinderella loses her father, which leads her to be stuck with her stepmother. However, she never leaves even though they treated her poorly. Soon after, she receives help from her fairy godmother, and later gets married to the prince, again being taken care of by someone else. 

The following character is Alice from the movie “Alice in Wonderland.” Some might say she doesn’t classify as a princess and although this may be true, she also shows signs of a mental disorder, so it only felt right to include her on the list. In the movie, Alice discovers a doorway that takes her to another dimension, causing her to both grow and shrink in size, talk to cats and caterpillars, and face an evil queen that wants to decapitate her. The whole movie seems like a big hallucination or dream, something only being schizophrenic will do to you. That’s right, Alice suffers from schizophrenia. This disease can cause paranoid delusions (thinking a queen wants to kill you), abnormal motor functions, and/or hallucinations. This diagnosis is even more probable since she truly believed the Wonderland was real. 

Next is Aurora, also known as the “Sleeping Beauty.” In this movie, which was first released in 1959, Aurora falls victim to a curse that puts her in an eternal sleep. Throughout the whole film, there are signs that point to her suffering from what is called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). People who suffer from MDD often lose all their energy and motivation to do any kind of activity. Plus, they don’t want to talk to anyone. All these symptoms can be seen in Aurora after she realizes that she can’t marry the man she truly loves. Another very important symptom that people with MDD portray is hypersomnia, which causes them to sleep for prolonged periods of time. 

The fifth princess is the one and only Ariel. “The little mermaid” was a huge success when it arrived in theaters in 1989. As the name suggests, it revolves around a young mermaid princess; except she dreams of becoming a human and living on land. For the most part, all of Ariel’s fellow mermaid friends consider her a bit odd, and this makes sense given that she presents signs of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Her entire relationship with Prince Eric can be seen as obsessive, since she wanted to be with him from the moment she saw him, and even gave up her voice to meet him. She also suffers from a fear of getting rid of things, which is a symptom that comes with OCPD. 

Moving on, we have Belle. In 1991, Disney released the first “Beauty and the Beast.” Belle has what is called Stockholm syndrome, and this can be described as someone who falls in love with their captor, which is exactly what happened in this case. This movie focuses on the relationship between a prince, who had been turned into a beast due to his arrogance, and a young girl he traps in his castle. The beast lacks etiquette and has a bad temper and an abusive nature—all qualities that seem to outweigh the few redeeming ones he might have. Due to this, it was quite odd that someone like Belle, who was smart and caring, fell in love with him. Many people say her feelings for the beast were simply a coping mechanism, one she created because she thought she would never leave the castle.  

Lastly, we have Jasmine. Although Disney has created many animated movies, there are only a handful that capture the heart of the audience, and Aladdin is one of them. The movie is about an orphaned boy who finds a magic lamp and a genie and helps save his city. During this time, he falls in love with Jasmine, although she isn’t the way we all thought she was. As it turns out, Jasmine might suffer from what is called bipolar disorder which is a manic-depressive illness that causes people to act impulsively and partake in risky behavior, all behaviors Jasmine exhibits when she runs away from home and goes on a magic carpet ride with a stranger. These people also get annoyed easily and feel hopeless when they get depressed. This can be seen when Jasmine harasses possible suitors and when she cries often. 

In conclusion, Disney’s enduring success as one of the world’s largest movie studios can be attributed to its longstanding history of producing animated films. The key to their triumph lies in their ability to create relatable characters, particularly princesses, who face challenges and triumph over evil, resonating strongly with audiences, especially young women. While these characters often mirror societal behaviors of their respective eras, the analysis in this text delves deeper. It focuses on the presence of mental illness in Disney princesses, shedding light on the complexities of real-life struggles that some women face. By identifying these instances, the text aims to explore how mental health issues are portrayed in Disney films and how this might impact the narratives of the characters. 


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