When I was a little girl, everyone had a favorite Disney princess. I guess it was kind of an elementary school girls’ version of the Sex and the City game: are you a Carrie or a Samantha? Are you a Cinderella or a Belle? (I was a total Snow White, but longed to be Ariel.)
True story: when I was in fifth grade, I came home from school crying to my mom because a boy I had the biggest crush on had looked at me in class and said, “Uh. You look like Snow White.” My mom was baffled. “Snow White is beautiful!” she said. “No she’s not,” I wailed. “She’s not one of the hot princesses like Cinderella!” HA. I die at this story now.
My point is, Disney princesses were a quintessential part of childhood. And it’s not like they were a new fad. Snow White had been holding steady since, what? The 1930s? But I’ve noticed that now, it seems almost politically incorrect to love the princesses, or to introduce them to a new generation of girls. I don’t think the three-year-old girl I babysit has ever seen Ariel, Belle, Snow White, Cinderella or Jasmine onscreen (she still wants to be a princess, though — the phase is just inevitable).
How can this not make you happy? Look at Sebastian!
I was recently hanging out with a group of women, some I knew from college and some I had just met. I knew the room was on the feminist side (as am I), but I still floated out there my love of Ariel and the magical experience of seeing The Little Mermaid on Broadway – in my twenties. Everyone was on board and immediately started sharing their own childhood connections with the princesses. One woman even said her interest in becoming an archivist stemmed partly from Ariel’s collections in the movie; it made that much of an impact on her as a child. How cool is that?
I get the concept of not wanting little girls to think they’re helpless creatures who need a handsome prince to rescue them. But the thing is…who thinks that? None of us remembered thinking, “Well, guess I don’t need to work hard or apply myself in school because a gallant gentleman is ultimately going to come along and provide for me” (and honestly, even if you did think that, wouldn’t the notion be pretty well crushed the second you actually started dating?).
Girls have – or should have – so many other influences in their lives, I find it doubtful that their lifelong values will be based on a princess movie. And if a girl wants to grow up to be a princess when she’s three, so what? If she wants that when she’s twenty-three, well, there are some bigger issues there that probably can’t be blamed on Disney.
What do you think – did you have a favorite Disney princess? Do you think they’re a bad influence on girls?