Not Everything that Glitters is Gold- Physical Attractiveness Stereotype

It has been observed over the years that persons who are more “physically appealing” are perceived in a positive light than others who aren’t as fortunate. However, I put physically appealing in quotations because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is very much subjective. John Nairaland describes this phenomena as, “physical attractiveness stereotype which is a term that psychologists use to refer to the tendency to assume that people who are physically attractive also possess other socially desirable personality traits.”


Talk about judging a book by its cover. How unfair is it to judge someone off of their physical appearance and not by their intellect or personality or even kindness and honesty of their heart.

A Beautiful Convict

A perfect example of this can be seen in the “Free Jeremy Meeks” campaign which started last year when a mugshot of a blue-eyed convicted was posted on social media. Women went crazy! Let me tell you these women completely forgot that he was arrested for possession of a firearm (which could have been used to KILL SOMEONE!!) and as a result this man’s photo went viral. Women worldwide were signing online petitions to free the infamous Jeremy Meeks. He got so much publicity (and we all know there’s no such thing as ‘BAD PUBLICITY’) that he caught the attention of many modelling agencies. The Daily Mail’s March 2015 article headlined: ‘Hot convict’ Jeremy Meeks wins modelling contract despite being behind bars.

 What is wrong with society? Of course he is good-looking but does this make him less of a convict? Apparently being good-looking speaks louder than credentials and character. This also proves that good looking people aren’t necessarily the same as on the inside.

The man who spawned a thousand memes: Meeks' mugshot inspired memes (like the one above) and earned him nicknames like 'Hotty McMug Shot' and 'Mugshot McDreamy'

Physically Appealing Persons Get the Jobs

Research has shown that being physically attractive proves to be significantly effective during a job interview.

If you’re from T&T you may have heard this stereotype that flight attendants and bank employees, to be specific, are usually chosen by their looks. People who have “high colour”, mixed, tall, slim, good-looking- all socially constructed views of what defines beauty- are the one who get the job and by extension “get- through in life”.

The Media Implies this Binary Opposition

You ever wondered why the villains in movies are usually the hella ugly or scary, creepy looking ones and the heroes are fine as ever? The media are the ones who have created these ideas of what beauty is supposed to reflect, and because the media has a such a huge impact it has formed these socially constructed beliefs.

Beliefs that the attractive people are good, as opposed to the less attractive ones who are always the villains. These crucial binary oppositions play a huge role in how society stereotype the physical appearance of people. Such strong binary opposition such as: black vs white; rich vs poor; slim vs fat and good vs. evil are pervasive in many Disney movies.


Why is Ursula in Black and has over-exaggerated features?

Why couldn’t Ursula be attractive as well?


Beauty is not Skin Deep

Beauty is subjective when it comes to physical appearance, however the real beauty is in someone’s mind and heart. Beauty goes beyond the skin.

It comes from a person’s integrity, loyalty and honour. It comes from the person who sees the best in even the worst person, from someone who’s kindness has no limits. Beauty is reflected by such intangible characteristics that its something not seen, but something that is felt. The ability to see beyond surface level and appreciate what the reality of someone truly represents can lead to a less biased society.


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Physical Attractiveness Stereotype. (n.d.). In’s online glossary. Retrieved from: Attractiveness Stereotype

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Stereotypes Embedded in Disney Movies

No Better Movie than a Disney Movie?

The truth is I can go on and on about the stereotypes that are cryptic or even blatant in Disney movies. These movies are so saturated with gender and racial stereotypes, its almost impossible to make mention of all of them.

Disney movies have warmed the hearts of children and adults alike, telling stories of overcoming triumphant challenges, going against the odds, rising from difficult situations and the rags to riches stories. Along with these stories come valuable lessons like being determined, not giving up and having persistence.

However, are these the only stories or ideologies we’re gaining from these movies? As harmless as some of these movies may seem there are other pervasive themes that are being overlooked.



Cinderella and Outer Appearance


Cinderella shows us that your physical appearance matters when getting a man to marry you. The Prince only notices her when she is all “dolled up” by her Fairy God Mother and instantly falls in love with her at the Ball. He was nowhere to be found as she was a hard worker, waking up diligently every morning doing chores (another gender stereotype of the woman being a housekeeper). Why didn’t he notice her in her rags, why did he need the infamous “glass slipper” to fit to know it was her? Only when the glass slipper fit her and she then transformed again into the glamorous princess, did he recognize her. This shows that her physical appearance played a drastic role in why the prince fell for her. Also you can notice the distinct difference between Cinderella and her step-sisters, they do not have the “desirable attributes” needed to be a Princess.

Cinderella vs. Wicked Step Sisters
Cinderella vs. Wicked Step Sisters

Arab Stereotypes in Aladdin


Aladdin is laden with stereotypes, generally stereotypes that are arguably historically inaccurate and are flat out offensive. First you have Aladdin who’s a thief, the majority of men in the movie have mediocre jobs (snake charmers, sword swallowers etc.), the aristocratic men display an abuse of their power and greed and of course the fact that there are half naked women in almost every scene. The movie also showcases Arabs as inhumane, barbaric and aggressive people.

Jasmine as a Sexual Object

Jasmine seducing Aladdin
Jasmine seducing Aladdin

Jasmine although headstrong and stubborn, is portrayed as a female who utilizes her sexuality to get her way and manipulate men when she needs to. Similarly to nearly every Disney Princess, Jasmine’s body is the “desirable figure” sending a message to young girls watching that to be a Princess there are the qualities that are required physically. Jasmine is essentially objectified and is highly eroticized almost to an inappropriate portrayal for young viewers. Her role as a female in society is to marry an eligible bachelor. Aladdin, only becomes eligible when Genie transforms him into the ideological image of a Prince: handsome, well-dressed and of course wealthy. Thus portraying questionable stereotypes for the young viewers watching.

Ariel Gives Up Everything For Prince Eric


The Little Mermaid is a story of a brave, adventurous and determined girl. However, this girl ends up “selling her soul” by giving up her most precious talent, her voice to Ursula, changes her anatomy, defies her father and abandons her home, family and friends to be with Prince Eric. Basically, it is the journey and lengths a girl would go to for her Prince Charming, even if it means changing who she is to be with the man of her “dreams”. If this isn’t a wrong direction to steer young girls in then something is completely wrong with society.

A Tale as Old as Time

The Disney vault has a numerous amount of movies to choose from, but since the early 1900s there has been a stagnant theme of the “Damsel in Distress”, the helpless girl rescued by a handsome, charming man. These princesses also have their physical appearance to be suited to what is deemed desirable. Slim figure, long hair, light skin and perfect features. Towbin et al., highlights common characteristics of young women as, “(a) A woman’s appearance is valued more than her intellect, (b) Women are helpless and in need of protection, (c) Women are domestic and are likely to marry, and (d) Overweight women are ugly, unpleasant, and unmarried (14).”

However, in recent years Disney has been trying to neutralize their somewhat consistent portrayal of their characters from the oppressed female and handsome, charming Princes coming along to rescue her. These include, “Mulan”, Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog” and most recent of all Elsa from “Frozen”. Even though there are still minor stereotypes permeating throughout the movies, the female characters are so empowering that it takes away from those stereotypes.


You Don’t Need a Man


Towbin, Mia Adessa, et al. “Images of Gender, Race, Age, and Sexual Orientation in Disney Feature-Length Animated Films.” Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 15:4, 2004, p. 19-44