It’s not fashionable any more to say that Disney princess movies teach good values. It’s the “in” thing to bash Disney princess movies, proclaiming all the negative messages that they supposedly teach, such as:
- Girls need to look pretty – outer appearance is more important than substance.
- Change everything about yourself to get a man.
- Marriage is a woman’s highest ideal.
Disney princess bashing is just another version of political correctness. It’s not politically correct to encourage girls to be girly and expect boys to be boyish.
If the above messages really are what these Disney princess movies are teaching, than they did a terrible job, because I don’t especially care about my appearance and I found a man who loves me for who I am. I happen to be of the opinion that marriage and having children is a woman’s highest ideal, but what exactly is the problem with that? A healthy marriage is the most fulfilling relationship a person can have, and nothing compares to the joys of raising a child. Coincidentally, marriage and family ought to be a man’s highest ideal, as well.
One criticism of these princess movies I found particularly humorous was that the princesses fall in love too quickly, often in a matter of days. Do people really think Disney created that? Are the princess movie critics completely unfamiliar with their fairy tales?
Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty, fell in love with her prince after he kissed her awake. This is actually much preferable to one version, “The Sun, Moon, and Talia,” by Giambattista Basile, an Italian fairy tale writer. In his version, Sleeping Beauty (Talia) was raped in her sleep by a king (who was also married), gave birth to twins, and only woke up when one of the babies, trying to nurse, sucked on her finger, removing the splinter left behind by the poisoned spindle. When the king’s wife found out, she lured Talia to her castle, and fed the babies to her husband for dinner. You can read the full story here.
You know what? I think I’ll take the Disney version.
Cinderella is also commonly criticized for its passive princess. That’s actually the fault of Charles Perrault, a French fairy tale writer in the late 17th century. His Cinderella was as submissive as any step-mother could desire. (You can read it here.) In the Grimm’s version, Cinderella is much more pro-active, finding her own solutions to the oppression of her step-mother and step-sisters. In Basile’s version, Cinderella murders her first step-mother and convinces her father to marry her governess. Disney opted to follow the Perrault version.
After reading some original fairy tales, especially ones by Basile, I think you’ll come to my way of thinking, that the Disney movies aren’t such a horrible thing to show young children. (Not that I’m against letting kids read original fairy tales – just be mindful of the age and maturity of the child. And maybe skip the ones about rape and incest.)
The messages the Disney princess movies teach children are actually quite positive. Here are some of the ones I learned as a kid:
Beauty and the Beast
- Nothing is more important than family. Sometimes, we sacrifice ourselves for the ones we love.
- Books are a way to experience adventure until you find your real adventure.
- People can change – give them a chance.
- Never give in to a bully.
- Always stick up for the one you love.
The Little Mermaid
- Your parents love you. The rules you think are stupid are there to protect you.
- Even if you don’t follow the rules and really screw up, your parents will still love you and want the best for you.
- Follow your heart. Even if it sometimes means doing something really stupid.
- Love is all about body language. Use it to your advantage.
- Even princesses sometimes have to cook and clean.
- If you are kind and helpful to others, they will be kind and helpful to you.
- You can’t stop bad things from happening, even if you try to hide. You still have to live your life.
- Don’t let others, even the most well-intentioned, determine your future. Decide it for yourself.
- Nature keeps us grounded. Appreciate it for more than just a resource to be used.
- Don’t judge others on first impressions. Be open minded. But use good judgement. Sometimes, the guy who seems really horrible, really is really horrible.
- Sometimes, the people you have to stand up to are you own family. Do what is right, no matter what.
- Decide your own future. Don’t be fooled by anyone. Not your father, creepy old guys, or even cute boys.
- Demand the truth. Especially from the guy flirting with you.
- Give people second chances. Some of them deserve it.
- Building a fortress around your heart is a lonely way to live. Let someone in!
- Be good to others, even if they are nasty to you.
- Being a good person really will pay off. Be patient.
- Always have a positive attitude. Look on the bright side!
- Umm…sleeping can be a productive use of your time?
Okay, I don’t really have anything to say in my apologia for Sleeping Beauty. Well, at least nothing horrible happens to her while she’s sleeping.
What’s your opinion on Disney and fairy tale princesses? Who are your favorites? Share in the comments below!