If you ask little girls what they want to be, most of them will probably answer – a princess! Cute as it is, seeing them dolled up in pink fluffy dresses, a pretty tiara, wand and glitter poking in their eyes, it should really be a sign of alarm. Think about what it is that you want to teach your little girl – independence, strength, courage, intelligence, curiosity, bravery, empathy, to name a few? Now take a moment to think about how what it is that their favourite Disney princesses really represent. Not sure? Then read on, you might be surprised.
To begin with, all of the Disney princesses are known to be extremely beautiful, with a thin waist. In fact, they fall perfectly under the unrealistic beauty standards defined today. The problem of low self-esteem due to not meeting society’s beauty standards has been rooted into a girls mind from the a tender age. Then come the personality issues of doing anything and everything for a prince charming, and the problem with the prince charming himself, who is oh-so-perfect in every way. Now all these little girls are growing up searching for their ‘perfect man’ only to learn the hard way that there is no prince charming. Their ideas beauty, love, relationships and a happily-ever-after are completely botched. Don’t see it? Read on!
Let’s start with the popular Ariel – simply because she was my personal favourite as a child (and as an adult too). She seemed fierce, she had a personality, friends and was a free spirit, she took risks and broke rules. Yes, as a child, breaking any sort of rules seemed to define courage for some reason. When she falls in love with the prince (love at first sight), she gladly gives up who she is, her entire world, and family and friends to be with him. She does all of this for a man she barely knows. She changes her body and sells her voice to the devil – her voice! Metaphorically, that was probably the worst exchange possible. What’s more, the prince charming she is in love with, can’t even recognize her, I mean come on, with that red hair?
Similarly take Jasmine from Aladdin – A pretty awesome and bold character whose story again ends with her prince saving the day! For starters, she completely wins our hearts when standing up against Agrabah’s succession law by declaring that she isn’t a prize to be won. She bravely abandons her royal life to make her own way but then she’s hit by the harsh reality that she doesn’t really know how life outside the palace works. Rather than showing her fight her way out, she’s turned into a damsel in distress, with Aladdin to save her and winning her heart.
Then there are other Disney princesses like Aurora – from Sleeping Beauty, and Belle – from Beauty and the Beast – who take the cake here. In fact it’s rather hard to decide which of these is the worse. Sleeping beauty was the star of her own movie for all but 18 minutes, in which she is shown to be waiting around to fall in love with a prince and that’s about it. Belle gets a little credit because shows real courage when she agrees to be Beast’s prisoner in exchange for her fathers’ life but on the other hand she was quite possibly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. How else do you explain falling in love with your captor? Between the two, I guess Sleeping Beauty still wins at worst princess movie simply because of the whole true loves kiss can save you concept.
Coming back to the question as to what Disney princesses represent –
We have definitely seen a wave of change in some of the movies where the main character is female but one who is strong and independent and makes her own way, such as Repunzel in Tangled and Maleficent. We also have movies Brave where the character is shown entirely outside the typical princess body image that we have always seen. Yet, when it comes to the classics, I can’t say that I don’t love them, because I grew up watching them too. They do have several other messages of courage and love, but the kind of expectations – from body image to relationships and life goals – they are setting for little girls, make them terrible role models. They may be courageous in their own ways, yet they are pretty looking damsels in distress who always seem to find their happily ever after in the arms of an unknown, dashing prince. So instead, can we get more female superheroes please? Also, they really don’t have to be showing that much skin, put them in something more practical maybe? Like armor? But that’s a whole other story.