When I was a little girl my parents owned a video store and I got to see a ton of movies. I loved the Disney princess movies! Sleeping Beauty was my favorite and I remember seeing Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid in the theater. What great shows.
Then I grew up and watched them and noticed some disturbing themes.
- Few of the princesses have a good relationship with their moms. Moms are missing or purposefully away (Aurora, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas) or Step-mothers (Snow White, Cinderella) or dead (Ariel). Mother/daughter relationships can be so beautiful but you'd never guess it by watching a Disney show. I mean with the exception of Mulan and Tiana, moms are missing, dead, or down right not nice!
- Disney movies are ripe with chauvinistic stereotypes. First, the princess is generally needing to be in the care of a man (father) or hero (prince charming). Secondly, the princesses rarely have female camaraderie (and then we wonder why girls are "mean girls"). Thirdly, the females are generally very weak and are seen merely as being beautiful. Sexuality--not character--is what matters (after all, Ariel gets Eric to nearly kiss her just for being pretty--he doesn't even want to hear her speak and know her thoughts?!?!)! I know, I know, Tiana and Mulan show women being strong and trying to reach their potential (but as a a frog and a man .... hmmmmmmm.....).
- The movies are full of cultural/ethnic stereotypes. Jasmine is forced to marry by law (like all people in the Middle East, right?) and of course she is the daughter of a rich sultan (because no one in the Middle East is poor). Tiana (finally a black princess!) is wrapped up in voodoo and poverty in a setting that has been highly traumatic for Black Americans. And don't forget that many African Americans were upset that Tiana was so light skinned and didn't have many prominent "black" features. Pocahontas clearly enforced the stereotype that American Indians/Native Americans all wore Plains Indian clothing and were "at one" with nature.
- The movies "mis-educate." This just in, historians continually discount a romantic relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith. She married John Rolfe, whom she sailed to England to be with. The film also "forgot"to show the mistreatment of Pocahontas' people by Europeans.
- The scary parts are REALLY scary. Witchcraft, voodoo, spells, sinister laughs, gargoyles, dragons, fire ... sounds delightful!
Perhaps I'm going overboard but that's my prerogative as a mom. In the mean time, I'm thrilled that Madisen wants to be Cowgirl Jessie! Here's a chick who has had a tough life, can be a little distrusting and withdrawn but overall is adventurous, athletic, fun-loving, self-sacrificial, helpful, opinionated, and caring. Are all those attributes positive all the time? Nope. But I like that she's got good and bad--just like me.
That's what I think about Disney Princesses. What do you think? Are these princesses a bit messed up or am I overly sensitive (or both)?
Author's note: In writing this post I've had to come to grips with the fact that I might not "identify" other cultures or groups appropriately. In fact, how one identifies is intensely personal (Hispanic/Latino/Chicano; African American/Black, American Indian/Native American ...). If I've used an identifier that is offensive to you, I ask for your forgiveness and hope that you will look past the mis-label to the heart of the post's content. Thank you.