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More like babies

So what’s the psychology of the gigantic princess eyes? Olga Khazan explains at the Atlantic.

The debate over the merits of Disney princesses is as old as time, but it’s fairly undeniable that the animated films’ female leads tend to look like a “pretty girl” cliche.

There’s some research behind why the princess formula is so effective: Enlarged eyes, tiny chins, and short noses make them look more like babies, which creates an air of innocence and vulnerability. There’s evidence that adults who have such “babyfacedness” characteristics are seen as less smart, more congenial, and less likely to be guilty of crimes.

Well what could be more wonderful than illustrations and cartoons that make women look like babies? What a brave new world we live in now that feminism has worked and we are all equal and anything that feminists object to now just shows that they’re radical and deranged. The ideal woman has a face like a baby’s and a rack like a moose’s.

Comments

  1. C Tran says

    I think it’s better to think of this in terms of “youthfulness,” not “babyfacedness.” Youth is strongly associated with beauty, particularly in women. That’s just human nature, and cartoons are a reflection of that.

  2. PatrickG says

    I’m .. having a lot of difficulty imagining a rack like a moose. Clear eye-poking hazards with a rack like that!

  3. says

    Better how? More pleasant? Not more accurate, surely. Enlarged eyes, short noses and tiny chins really are more all those in babies than they are in young people, especially young people who are old enough to be called women.

    And I’m well aware that youth is strongly associated with beauty, particularly in women. If I weren’t aware of it (which I was) I would be made aware of it by the helpful people who tell me how ugly I am every day. It’s not only that youth is strongly associated with beauty, particularly in women; it’s also that both youth and beauty are demanded of women, and if they fail to provide it they are punished.

    The Disney characters don’t look like young women. They look like babies with the bodies of young women.

  4. PatrickG says

    Ophelia, it made laugh, too. What an image!

    Also, feel free to fix my horrible three-pronged rack of typo posting. ;)

  5. Subtract Hominem, a product of Nauseam says

    So even the Disney princesses who aren’t infantilized through passive “someday my prince will come” dependency are still physically infantilized. Blegh.

  6. Ysanne says

    Um, not to be ev-psych about this, but I think a lot of the thing with baby faces has to to with “evoking involuntary protective/caring feelings”. (The way baby humans, puppies, and adult pygmy tarsiers trick people into feeling affectionate for them.)
    What I see as the problem with the is that women need to appeal to such reflexes and go for “cute” and “adorable” as indicators of being likable people.

  7. quixote says

    C Tran @8, no, it’s not human nature. If it was, the same kind of female face would be admired across all times and cultures. Mayan sculptures, West African ones, Soviet “realism,” were all nothing like that. Or, looking at it from a different angle, consider our closest animal cousins, the chimpanzees. Older females have their pick of higher status males, while newbies get less attention when in heat. (There are obvious selective pressures at work: older females are more successful mothers.)

    The need to infantilize women is exactly that: a need to infantilize women. There’s nothing sexy about babies, but they are very powerless.

  8. ChasCPeterson says

    not to be ev-psych about this, but I think a lot of the thing with baby faces has to to with “evoking involuntary protective/caring feelings”.

    What’s with the self-refuting disclaimer? This is evolutionary psychology, and you might as well just own it as such. Apparently it’s not all bullshit. huh.

  9. oursally says

    Not the bodies of young women, the bodies of Californian-style enhanced wannabes. Young women don’t have enormous breasts. You get the breasts with pregnancy, but that takes care of the waistline then. The enormous eyes are those of pre-schoolers, before their heads have grown to catch up with their eyes. The extremely long legs belong to very thin people indeed, the kind who win marathons, not much breast fat on them. The pointed chin is from someone who doesn’t have wisdom teeth yet, so early teens.

    These princesses are actually some kind of extra terrestrial, no woman on earth looks like that without some serious surgery.

  10. says

    There’s some overlap with artistic realities here however. All of Disney’s animated characters have larger than usual eyes (not to negate the general thrust of the OP, which mostly agree with). Look at Bambi and Thumper. The eyes are the windows to the soul so to speak and in animation, especially older animation, the eyes are the easiest way for the artist to convey emotional reactions. You see it in Anime across genders. The small chins and such are definitely on the mark.

    My brother went to the Joe Kubert school, he could talk for hours the history of eyes in illustration ;).

  11. C Tran says

    Ophelia, better because I think “youth” is a broader term and explains more about the art style, while…let’s say “natality”… is a smaller factor within the youth “category.” And yes, it’s more pleasant, because people respond to the attractive and youthful aspects of the character. People like aesthetically pleasing things, it isn’t anymore complex than that.

    I am sorry if I said anything to imply that you are ugly. I promise it was not intentional.

    What I don’t understand is your view of cartoons. Cartoons, in their very nature, are exaggerations of real life, but it seems like you demand accuracy from them, as if cartoons should not exist at all. What you call “babies with the bodies of young women” I think most people just see as young women.

  12. C Tran says

    @quixote #11

    Well, maybe I’m mistaken. Have human cultures throughout history -not- considered youth beautiful and could you give me some examples?

    I don’t think comparing the animal kingdom is useful. Hyenas and elephants are matriarchal societies, it doesn’t say much about human nature as it is, only that it is plastic.

    You said, “The need to infantilize women is exactly that: a need to infantilize women. There’s nothing sexy about babies, but they are very powerless.” I think you are actually talking about what men naturally find attractive (youth), and not a literal desire to infantilize women.

  13. says

    “The ideal woman has a face like a baby’s and a rack like a moose’s”

    Is it weird that I immediately pictured a woman with huge antlers?

  14. Winning says

    Two dogs entered the Westminster Kennel Club.

    One, called ‘Arnie’, won Best In Show.

    The other, ‘Cooper’, was voted ugliest and most pathetic pooch.

    The owner of ‘Cooper’ ran away crying with her “tail between her legs”.

    True, dat.

  15. says

    C Tran @ 16 – no, by “more pleasant?” I meant “is it better to say youth because that’s a more pleasant explanation?”. Of course I know that more attractive and more youthful is considered more pleasant. My point was to ask if you think your explanation is better because it’s blander, safer, less jarring.

    And no, I wasn’t saying that you said anything to imply I’m ugly. I wasn’t saying that you said anything personal to me at all. I was instead pointing out that few people really need to be told that “youth is strongly associated with beauty, particularly in women” or that “that’s just human nature.” That is of course part of the point of the post. Another part of the point of the post is that beauty isn’t or shouldn’t be the only quality valued in people, even women. The point of your comment seems to be that it’s pointless to argue that because it’s just human nature to prefer Disney princesses to real women. I don’t agree with that.

    What I don’t understand is your view of cartoons. Cartoons, in their very nature, are exaggerations of real life, but it seems like you demand accuracy from them, as if cartoons should not exist at all. What you call “babies with the bodies of young women” I think most people just see as young women.

    No they’re not, not necessarily. They can be sketches instead of exaggerations. And I’m not “demanding” anything, by the way. I don’t have the power to demand anything.

    Also, if cartoons are exaggerations, then why would most people see Disney princesses as young women?

  16. says

    C Tran @ 17 – but you seem to be assuming that the only criterion for a cartoon is that which is considered beautiful in women. Why would that be the only criterion? Disney isn’t a porn studio, or a dating service, or even a fashion studio. Why do all its female characters have to be “beautiful” in the weirdly uniform and bland style illustrated by David Trumble?

    And I don’t even accept that it is beautiful; it’s too uniform for that and too plastic-like. It’s boring. It’s insipid. That’s not beauty.

  17. Jackie teh kitteh cuddler says

    Oursally,
    I had large breasts as a teen, as did several of my friends and family members. Please don’t make stuff like that up. Our bodies were already used as excuses to sexualize us at young ages and in a couple of cases that was the excuse an abuser used to molest my friends. Large breasts happen without pregnancy all the time. Having them does not make a woman fake.

  18. says

    Actually, oursally, several of the girls in my junior-high school had pretty sizable breasts; and no, they didn’t get pregnant first, and no one felt any need to suggest some extraordinary explanation like hormones in the tap-water. In fact, their breasts were almost as big as those in those “Shocking French/Italian/Whatever Videos” ads I see here.

  19. C Tran says

    @Ophelia

    “My point was to ask if you think your explanation is better because it’s blander, safer, less jarring.”

    In some measure my answer is yes, because any desire to see women as babies– assuming that is true– is almost certainly subconscious and I doubt any person trying to describe ideal beauty in non-infants would mention anything about infants. But I do believe that youthfulness would factor in.

    This brings me to your comment #21. My point was not at all to say that female beauty has any role in what defines cartoons, my point was that beauty/aesthetics plays a bigger part in why these cartoon characters look the way they do, than a desire to infantilize them. Good-looking characters are simply more appealing to audiences, regardless of gender or age.

    “Also, if cartoons are exaggerations, then why would most people see Disney princesses as young women?”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this question. What else would they be seen as? Even Superman appears to be muscular man, not a…flying gorilla.

  20. C Tran says

    @Ophelia

    “And I don’t even accept that it is beautiful; it’s too uniform for that and too plastic-like. It’s boring. It’s insipid. That’s not beauty.”

    Haha. Well, they are meant for children.

  21. Forbidden Snowflake says

    I doubt any person trying to describe ideal beauty in non-infants would mention anything about infants.

    “What a babe!”

  22. oursally says

    Sorry, to the well endowed, I should have said, most young women. Yes, I have some friends, and indeed a daughter, with bigger-than-average cup sizes, and I know what a pain it is. My daughter wore a low.cut dress to her end-of-school party (in spite of me turning granny and saying You are not going out dressed like that young lady) and complained no-one looked in her face the whole evening.

    However, the big-breasted women I know don’t have wasp-waists (daughter definitely not!).

    No, I lie, I knew one in school, she really looked like a model. So there must be some around.

  23. theoreticalgrrrl says

    There’s a difference between looking youthful and looking childlike. It seems that women who look like women aren’t preferred, but women who look like they still have baby fat and childlike physical qualities, but with breasts, are what is idealized.

  24. rnilsson says

    @ oursally:

    These princesses are actually some kind of extra terrestrial, no woman on earth looks like that without some serious surgery.

    Wait wait, I get it! They must be Disney’s (TM) ideal of the Prophbut’s (RTFM) half-gross heavenly virgins! Where can I collect my prize?

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