Professor’s research examines link between ‘princess myth’ and eating disorders

Thought Provoking

KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 3, 2020) — Animated films typically have happy endings, but princess movies can have a negative impact on the girls watching them, according to Kennesaw State University professor Erin Ryan.

Ryan, assistant director of KSU’s media and entertainment program and professor of communication, has examined the link between the “Disney princess phenomenon” and eating disorders among girls and young women. Viewing animated princess characters as the epitome of female beauty is “a dangerous model for young women,” Ryan explained, because it encourages them to try to attain an unrealistic standard.

Erin Ryan
Erin Ryan
“Through the advertising aimed particularly at young women and the images they see in movies and TV shows, they are groomed from a young age to see certain images of what women ‘should’ look like,” Ryan said. “Using an animated princess as their inspiration sets up girls for failure from the outset.”

Trying to live up to the princess-like beauty ideal can have lasting, harmful effects, according to Ryan. In some cases, girls and young women may develop an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

“The ‘princess myth,’ this phenomenon of comparing your body to the body of someone who has been drawn or animated, encourages young people to engage in eating-disordered lifestyles to attain these impossible standards of beauty,” Ryan said. “It is problematic and beyond unrealistic, because there is no way to diet yourself into looking like Ariel from ‘The Little Mermaid.’”

To hear more from Ryan, listen to the “Thought Provoking” podcast hosted by KSU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Ryan is the first guest on the new podcast featuring research being conducted by CHSS faculty members.

Related Stories


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit