What Lilo and Stitch Taught Me About Body Positivity: Fuel For Freedom

What Lilo & Stitch Taught Me About Body Positivity

My friends, we have a lot to learn from the aliens.

No, not those three-eyed, green, cone-head visitors from Pluto. They might be able to teach us how to fry other planets with lasers or create buildings with the shear force of our minds, but I’m more interested in lessons of body positivity. For that, we need Disney’s cuter and fluffier creation: Stitch.

What Lilo and Stitch Taught Me About Body Positivity: Fuel For Freedom

Stitch isn’t a classic hero. He doesn’t have six-pack abs (although he can lift ridiculous amounts of weight), and he has more than a few anger issues that deter him from saving the day. However, he manages to fall in love with two girls who both break the standard princess mold.

I loved Disney princesses growing up. I wanted to be Snow White or Cinderella. I wanted to be Ariel or Belle. I wanted to marry a prince. I wanted a happily ever after.

Honestly, as a kid, I never noticed that all these princesses had the same hourglass figure. But would that really be something I would think so odd in a world filled with Victoria Secret posters and sexy advertisements plastered on every bus stop?

Disney princess unrealistic body

Disney princesses were meant to be Barbie look-a-likes. They were meant to fit the perfect mold of what a woman should look like. And their princes? Of course they looked handsome or muscular. Even the Beast turns out gorgeous in the end. Nothing was out of place.

Jasmine and unrealistic body image

Then along came Lilo & Stitch.

Lilo isn’t a little princess who wears frilly dress or sings enchanting songs. She is human. Her “friends” bully her, and she practices voodoo to help manage her depression. She fights with her sister. Physically, she’s–for a lack of a better word–chunky.

Yet, her lack of perfection isn’t something you notice throughout the film. You see her compassion toward the lost Stitch. Her willingness to learn new things. Her immense love that even extends to serving peanut butter sandwiches to fish.

Lilo and Stitch clipart

Do young girls run out of the theaters yelling, “Why isn’t Lilo prettier?” No. They’re too busy falling in love with who Lilo is, rather than what she looks like.

For someone like me–a college student who *might or might not* watch old Disney movies on a Friday night instead of partying–Lilo’s older sister Nani is the best example of a realistic body image in children’s films.

lilo and nani

Nani isn’t a slender Ariel or delicate Snow White. She has substantial legs and an actual pelvis that would be capable of holding up a human being. When she wears a bikini, you can even glimpse the faintest hints of a (gasp!) stomach.

Nani looks strong, athletic, sensible. Sure, she’s not an obese princess (although I’m sure Disney has that in the works), but I could actually picture her walking down the street. When I watch Lilo & Stitch, I’m not focused on copying Nani’s perfect hairstyle or tiny waist. I’m focused on how to copy her driven attitude and devotion to her sister.

Nani body positivity

Lilo herself takes pictures of real human beings. Overweight, swimsuit clad women. Farmer’s tanned tourists. The people forming the wallpaper in her room aren’t magazine models. Just like Stitch, Lilo, and Nani, they are individuals who have real bodies. They could be the lady down the street or the guy ringing you out at the grocery store. They could be your neighbor, or they could be yourself.

Lilo says of every single one of them, “Aren’t they beautiful?” She sees these people for their bodies, but she also sees them as more than that. She sees their inner characteristics. Their personalities. Their dreams and ambitions. Their potential to be another extension of her family.

Lilo and Stitch body positivity

“Aren’t they beautiful?”

Yes, Lilo. Yes, they are.

–> What do you think of Disney princess bodies?

–> What lessons have Disney movies taught you? Good or bad. Besides that you shouldn’t eat apples given to you by witches.

Thanks to Amanda for the link-up!

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9 thoughts on “What Lilo & Stitch Taught Me About Body Positivity

  1. This post was so important to me, especially now that I’m raising a daughter who I’ll want to share Disney films with. I always gravitated toward Belle because her defining feature as a character was her bookwormishness. Of course, now I question that her name means Beauty, and she’s still painted as a figure of admirable appearance. What would it have meant to me as a child if she’d had one “normalizing” feature–like glasses, for instance? I’ll have to keep thinking about this.

    • I’m definitely not condemning princesses, and Belle is one of my favorites for her love of books. However, I think there needs to be balance with what messages we are giving people, especially young girls. We can show them princess movies, but we also need to get them to realize what is fantasy and what is reality. I like your point about “normalizing” features… I know I would have liked a short princess when I was little who shared by height deprivation!

  2. Ahh this is such a tricky thing. I’m not going to say that I don’t love Disney princesses, because I really do, but I definitely agree with you that they put forth a female image that isn’t exactly realistic. Between that and Barbie, it’s almost like girls are being taught to feel bad about themselves simply because they’ll never measure up to the unrealistic standards that society sets. The one thing I do love about the princesses, though, is that a lot of them have really strong characters to back things up. Like, sure there’s always a Prince Charming involved, but the princesses themselves can kick plenty of butt as well.

    • Talking about Disney and Barbie is a VERY tricky subject. I love Disney princesses too–and I’m not saying they’re evil or should be avoided at all costs–but the danger comes in when that ideal princess figure is all that young girls see. As with anything, balance is key. You’re right that a lot of recent movies are starting to correct this with the more diverse and headstrong princesses. Now girls see women who wield archery bows or frying pans!

  3. this is so lovely and so true! i forgot about Lilo and Stitch (watched the movie maybe 7 years ago??), and YES the body positivity in it is great! Thank you for sharing this and reminding us how important these issues are 🙂

    • Rewatching old movies is always so great. Not only does it make you feel like a child again, but it also might give you something to look at in a new light. Thanks for reading!

  4. Ooh wow, this is good. Yeah, I’ve always felt that they can doctor/tailor movies to convey the exact message they want to convey, but it’s often so fake compared to real life such as in body shapes.

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