Disney Princesses – Role Models or Good Girls Gone Bad?
When I grow up I want to be….
I remember saying so many things, even still, I have goals of what I want to be. But when you are 4 – a princess is usually on the list somewhere.
Our oldest daughter is about to turn five and over the past couple of years I’ve read and seen so many articles about the Disney Princesses and their negative expectations, their poor relationship examples, and their bad choices. It’s nothing we haven’t heard or seen before. Some of them are quite funny.
(Click on images for sources)
My youngest daughter’s reaction:
As you can see they are quite funny, and not all wrong. The stories have conflict and real character flaws. But we all have our favorites. Growing up I always played Snow White, the dark haired beauty with pale skin and red lips. If only I could sing… 🙂
But the point that these parents are making is that we idolize these princesses from such a young age and the messages that are really being sent are about adult topics and serious behavior and lifestyle flaws. In fact, if they were “real life” movies I can promise you my children wouldn’t be watching them.
However, I think that Disney does a great job. They portray real flaws in these “princesses” that we can relate to. I can relate to Snow White being an only child, to Ariel always wanting more (and who doesn’t), to Rapunzel feeling trapped and betrayed, and to just about all of them about wanting to find love and feel special and do it on their own.
Back to my soap box point…I am comfortable with my children looking up to these princesses for a few reasons.
One – my children constantly ask me if they are real. I tell them no, the stories are not real, the stories are based on princesses who live in Disneyland. (I can’t kill all the magic – what kind of mother do you take me for?) 🙂 My children ask me questions about the stories, point out the flaws – they are very aware of the truth and choices in the stories, and yet my children still love them.
Two – I teach my children about the stories. Brecklee points out every single time we watch The Little Mermaid and Brave when Ariel and Merida lie to their parents. She points out how we should forgive family even if they hurt us just like it Frozen, Cinderella and Mulan. I take the time to discuss what my children watch with them. If you had high expectations and were disappointed in Disney, then that wasn’t necessarily Disney’s fault. 🙂
And finally – These princesses strive to feel valued and loved, and happy; they do it against all odds and sometimes against their better judgment. But they are strong, powerful women who are not afraid to try new things. This is the message that I want my daughter’s to walk away with – our potential is not decided; it is what we make it.
But of course there is the matter of romance and marriage throughout Disney’s history. Yes these beauties found “true love” sometimes with a complete stranger and lived happily ever after. Awesome! But in our house “happily ever after” doesn’t mean it’s perfect. But there are the stories where a relationship bloomed during the movie not just at the end as they ride of into the sunset.
Though the stereotype says one thing, I can see Disney putting effort into building these relationships. Frozen, Rapunzel, Mulan, Tiana, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and even a little bit in the Little Mermaid these princesses spend time with their princes before falling hopelessly in love. Personally, I love Rapunzel’s quest to find out who she is and the unlikely love she finds on her way. 🙂 Who doesn’t love Flynn Rider?
I highly doubt Disney has focused on the difficult concept of “love” for children and rather focused on the fact that regardless of your family background, your crazy flaws, or wild hair – everyone can find true love. How much deeper can you get with toddlers and kiddos?
Afterall, through a child’s eyes, none of these princesses received “true love” without a little challenge. And if you were to have Disney correct this image, how much would you portray for your 4 year old daughters? Granted the older Disney princesses like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White had a little bit easier time catching their men. 🙂 Let’s just consider it a societal learning curve.
You Are What You Watch
We limit what and how much television our munchkins watch. We aren’t overly strict about it, but consciously aware. 🙂 I grew up idolizing Shirley Temple just as much, if not more, than the Disney Princesses. My family bought me all of the Shirley Temple movies as I grew up because they said I was a brunette copy and paste.
As I grew to learn about her in real life I only looked up to her even more. Yes she had her flaws (as all people do) but she strived to maintain a family lifestyle, she became a US ambassador, and she did not give into the hype of fame.
My children in turn have also been introduced to miss Shirley Temple (who did pass away last month) and I look forward to introducing them to many other amazing women in history who are real women who did very real things, and who also did not let their potential be decided for them.
Being a mother of daughter’s is a very emotional and special part of who I am. It is very unique and challenging in ways that I can’t explain. They are so precious to me. I want them to grow up knowing people are flawed but are full of great potential and worthy of true love.
I want my daughters to strive to be a princess and focus on their qualities. Here is an image I found to remind us what those qualities are; and just like them there are good and bad traits. 🙂 I need to find this in a poster size!