Disney princesses aren’t all bad and this is coming from someone who wrote a 15 page essay on why they’re a terrible and unrealistic influence for my University’s feminist class. But now that I have an impressionable daughter who is going through her princess phase I am thinking about it differently.
I don’t know what started the phase. One minute she was a tomboy, the next she was digging out all her dresses to put them on and twirl around the kitchen exclaiming, “Aren’t I a pretty, pretty princess momma!!” She started to ask if we had any princess movies and watched them all several times in a row. Her brother is now referred to as “Prince Charming” and sometimes the cats are her fairy godmothers.
So when we found the Disney princess scrapbook my mom had bought her, she was overjoyed. This is where my mind got changed about the princesses. I used to be under the impression that it was foolish to look up to them. That they were all beautiful, insipid, weak girls just waiting for their Prince Charming. I looked at them as those types of people who just wait around for good things to happen to them. You know, the people who claim that if it’s meant to be it will be, without actively participating in their fate. This is how I felt about Disney princesses.
Until we started looking in to this scrapbook….and Izzy started asking questions. She asked what their “special talents” they had, and about their family.
Belle from Beauty and the Beast grew up with out a mother around, which must have been hard. But with her absentminded father raising her she still became a self-sufficient, smart and brave young woman. She took care of him, the farm and the house. She read books and learned to ride a horse. She turned down the playboy/rich boy of the village which would have been her easy way out. She instead fought for her father, put herself in risk and protected the Beast. She rode through a dangerous forest at night and stood up to the Beast. She left nothing to chance. Her special talent seems to be bravery and intelligence.
Ariel fought to be happy. She also grew up with a single dad and a ton of sisters. She knew what life she wanted and went towards it, no matter what the cause. She strove for her own happiness, sometimes foolishly. Her special talent was kindness and unconditional hope.
Princess Tiana was a workaholic, true. But she just wanted to make her dad proud, who died when she was young. Her special talent was perseverance and patience.
And on and on…..
All of the girls went through horrible hardships and came out stronger. All of them weren’t happy with how their lives were when they were younger, and made a choice to change it. Some of them had a chance to marry people they didn’t love and still have a good life easy outs – but chose hope, love, and happiness despite all of the obstacles. All of them did it by actively changing their lives and risking their safety.
These are girls we can be proud that our girls look up to. For the most part they are hard workers, full of kindness, and my daughter has learned a lot about moving on after loss and doing what she can to find happiness; whatever that means for her.