As a self-proclaimed “Princess Obsessed Princess” and the director of a Princess/girl power themed summer show, I was immediately drawn to the article entitled “Disney Princess Culture Harmful to Young Girls.” This is not an idea I am unfamiliar with, but one I will always disagree with. As noted in the article, the 90’s and modern princesses (Ariel through Rapunzel) have greatly improved upon the princess model set by the classic princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty). Disney is slow to change, but they have made a dramatic difference in the types of princesses they are presenting to young girls.
When criticizing the Princess line, you really should consider the historical context of the earliest princesses. The movies for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella were made between the 30’s and 50’s. Therefore these three princesses embody only the virtues valued most in women at that time: grace, beauty, charm, cheer and being an excellent housekeeper. I will grant you, this is not the message we want to give to young girls today: that they are limited to being pretty housewives. Created before the Civil Rights era, they are all also white. But even as products of their time, the characters of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella do have valuable characteristics that should not be dismissed. All three princesses maintain a steadfast hopefulness despite trying circumstances that one may deem a quiet bravery. Sure, I’d rather my (someday/hypothetical) daughter strive for the brains of Belle, the work ethic of Tiana, or the determination of Rapunzel, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want her to also cultivate the charm and cheer of the classic Disney Princesses.
And yet, all of that is beside the point. Disney has begun to develop stronger characters because that is what culture and society have demanded. Nothing is good enough unless it has a strong social message or hidden moral. But who decided a happy ending isn’t good enough? Don’t we want children to believe in the power of dreams and love? Sure, they have to learn as they grow that “wishing on a star will only get you part of the way, you gotta make the rest happen yourself” (Princess and the Frog), but that can and will come with time. Fairytales, even the most simplistic, “happily ever after” fairytales have their place in childhood. And if you think about it, the princesses are actually set up in a beautiful learning curve. With the classics, little girls will learn about the power of love and dreams and basic virtues of grace and kindness. With the 90’s princesses, they’ll begin to understand the power of independence and inner-strength tempered by bravery and a whole lot of heart. Then the modern princesses, Tiana and Rapunzel, and shortly Merida, will teach them self-determination, creativity, and teamwork. Where would Tiana be without Naveen or Rapunzel without Flynn/Eugene?
So should the Disney movies be locked up until kids are older? Heck no! Pessimism may come with time, but that is NOT a virtue to cultivate in a child. Let them dream big and love completely without limiting them to a pessimistic version of “reality.” Little girls in time will realize the value of a woman does not lie in Prince Charming or a tiara, but within herself. The full spectrum of Disney Princesses will show her that message realized in the many shades of woman that the Princesses represent.
Just a general note to the Cluster; I love the paper, but have been pretty frustrated recently by the way titles have been poorly matched to the actual content of articles. For an example, I would have been much more satisfied if this article had lived up to the convictions of its title rather than being so wishy-washy about whether or not the Princess movies were actually a bad influence for young girls.