All a matter of perspective

Today I read a guest post on The Feminist Breeder that kind of got to me. In the post, the author spoke about the influence that Disney Princesses have on the psyches and developments of our children, especially our daughters. As a mother of two daughters, I am a little taken aback at the Disney Princess, or Princess in general, bashing that seems to be the trend in some mothering circles.

If you are an old friend here, you know that I champion and celebrate my femininity. To me, my feminine nature is not something that I shy away from nor is it something that I hide or try to emasculate. I believe that God made each of us, male and female, in His image and the masculine and feminine are meant to complement, not complete with, each other.

The author of the guest post gives concrete examples of why she feels her way against the specific princesses and in thinking about it, it is all really a matter of perspective and I would like to offer my counter-points to her points:

#1 Ariel: Ariel’s story could be seen as a story of sacrifice. When an individual chooses to enter into a relationship of his or her own will, certain sacrifices are made for that love. How many of us can honestly say that we have never given up anything in a relationship? In the case of Ariel, she chose to sacrifice her treasured voice to have the chance to be with her love. Now, I will say that there is the part where the Sea Witch basically tells her to win Prince Eric’s heart by using “body language,” but she is the evil Sea Witch. (I will say that I disagree with Disney’s use of making the “bad” characters ugly but I do think that serves a purpose that I will discuss in a bit.)

#2 Belle: Contrary to what the author states, Belle was not kidnapped by the Beast, rather she offered to take her father’s place in serving his “Beast-imposed” sentence for essentially breaking and entering into the Beast’s castle. To be a little tongue-in-cheek, the Beast would have been in full legal rights to kill Maurice for breaking into his home, but instead decided to hold him prisoner. Belle did have full reign of the castle (except the West Wing, but she went there anyway) and while she was there helped the Beast to tame his rages and try to become a gentleman. In the end, she saw through his facade of anger and selfishness and loved him for who he truly was.

#3 Snow White: The commentary here lies in the pride of the Queen and the envy that she felt for her step-daughter, not in that Snow White was too pretty. The sins of Pride and Envy so consumed the queen that she resorted to having the child killed. At the end of the film, the Queen willingly changed her outside to match the ugliness of her insides and died in that state. There are thoughts that the apple could be a symbol of the fall of man (a result of the serpent’s deceit and man and woman’s pride) and therefore the use of the kiss to wake Snow White by the Prince could be allegorical to Christ saving Mankind. (OK that might be a stretch…)

#4 Aurora: True, another story in which wrath, envy and pride take center stage. In this case, Maleficent is slighted by not being invited to the party and takes out her revenge on the baby.

What we have to remember, however, is that Disney is the messenger. The stories that these movies are based on were written hundreds of years ago. They are tales of morality and social commentary and are not the gentle fairy tales that we have become accustomed to. For example, in the original “Cinderella,” the step-sisters have their eyes pecked out by birds in the end and in Hans Christian-Anderson’s “The Little Match Girl,” the poor match girl freezes to death on the streets on Christmas Eve while people walk past. Fairy Tales might be better named Morality Tales in which the good prevail and the evil perish.

But what really gets me in all of this is what I see as a blatant double-standard. This week, the news was a buzz about “My Princess Boy,” a children’s book written by a mom who’s 5 year old son likes to wear dresses and likes to dress as a princess. It’s drawn applause and accolades for it’s inclusive attitude and message of acceptance and for spreading the message that clothes are just clothes but it does make me wonder: why is it progressive for a boy to dress like and enjoy princesses and regressive for a little girl to?

I will say that the guest author gets it spot on in the end. She acknowledges the power of her parenting and the power that she has a positive female model for her daughter. Ask anyone who their most impressionable model was growing up, positive or negative, and I’ll bet they’ll tell you it was a parent… and not a Disney Princess.

(As an aside, the guest author says her daughter received a “Sally” for Christmas. I can only assume she means Sally Carrera from Cars… you know, the lawyer with the… pinstriping. But she was a 2002 model and that was the trend. But you know… Doc fixed her up once she broke down in Radiator Springs, so another male saving a female? Or do animatronic cars not count? And Sally was voted one of TopGear’s sexiest cars… but it could also be “Sally” from “The Nightmare before Christmas” and that would be a little scary, in my opinion.)

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So, what are your thoughts? Are we reading far too much into Princesses? Or can kids just be kids?

Pax Christi!

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5 Comments

Filed under feminism, Friday

5 responses to “All a matter of perspective

  1. Maman A Droit

    I loved Disney princesses when I was little but I don’t so much anymore. I dislike the overemphasis on appearance and things like Belle’s disdain for the provincial and the way Jasmine & Ariel blatantly disobey their fathers to chase boys they barely know.
    I do think it’s good though for girls to know about & want to be *real* princesses and do things like have tea parties with proper etiquette and think about how they could be kind gentle rulers.

  2. I agree with you. I do have issues with a couple random things in Disney movies–Lumiere and the maid? was that necessary? etc–but on the whole I like that my daughter likes to pretend she’s a princess. I’m sure among high-powered female CEOs there are plenty of ladies whoat one point wanted to be Cinderella when they grew up. 😉

    We like many of the Barbie movies as well. I have been impressed with the emphasis on being honest and kind.

  3. Wendy

    Oh, Karianna, you have touched on a big topic! My friend corrects her neice everytime she says she’s a princess because she wants her to get a reality check that there are no princesses in this world, that we’ve got to make it on our own. I used to think she had something there. Now I watch my daughter dance playfully and sing and hug her Belle doll and I can’t help but wonder why everyone is so afraid of our little girls dreaming that they can be as happy as the princesses they see? My little girl has learned these lessons already from princess movies at the age of 2: there are mommy princesses and daddy princes, they always get married, they are happy, there are bad “guys” in this world and they do bad things, we can stop the bad guys but it’s hard. I don’t think I have a problem with any of these messages! Now I look at some of the more “modern” and celebrated cartoons and I see “inclusive” and relativistic messages (have you seen Happy Feet? Prepare to be appalled) that just teach her too soon that our world is one crazy and mixed up place. I say the only worry I have about princess culture is the body image one. All the princesses are beauties and, until recently, there hasn’t been much diversity in skin color. But cartoons aren’t doing as much damage as real-world images…ugh, that is another battle to fight. If nothing else, the princess culture helps open up conversations with our daughters! Embrace it I say, and let your little princesses know they are to be loved, cherished, and valued. You never see a princess get stomped on…isn’t that empowering?

  4. i did enjoy reading this post, but i can’t help but have this impression that you are sorta desperately scraping the few good aspect, or the ‘message’ one can assume from the minor characteristics of the disney princesses. To be honest, i can sympathize more with the post from the feminist breeder, and it’s time for the american girls to quit blindfoldedly follow passive, helpless, airhead disney princess. I find the alternatives from folks tales and stories from different cultural regions of the world, such in Korea, Japan, etc. (….Mulan, sorta counts as well. After all, it’s a real existing story based on somewhat real historical account).

    • thanks for reading and commenting! I think that we all want our daughters to grow up to be strong women and frankly, their best role models for that are the women in their lives, not the princesses on screen. One thing I think that some women tend to do is fall into the victimization trap, and that happens on both sides of the debate.

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