Many parents worry that the Disney Princesses might not be the best role models for their children. After all, life isn’t a fairy tale. But a closer look at the stories may help you see that this group of princesses can be a positive influence.
Many little girls love dressing up to look like their favorite Disney Princess. Let’s face it: playing dress up is fun! But the princesses themselves aren’t fashion obsessed. In fact, most of their memorable dresses came from someone else. For example, Cinderella’s gown came from the Fairy Godmother; Charlotte gave Tiana a dress for the costume ball; and Mulan was outfitted by her mother and grandmother to impress the Matchmaker. While we love what the princesses are wearing, their focus has never been on fashion.
Princesses Need to Be Saved
Sure, sometime a princess could use a little help, but let’s not forget all the times the Princesses have saved others. It happens all the time: Ariel saves Prince Eric from drowning; Mulan saves Shang’s life (twice!); Rapunzel heals Flynn with her hair, and even Cinderella frees Gus from a mousetrap—and the mouse eventually returns the favor by freeing her from her room. It might be more important to note that when you help others, they often want to help in return.
Love at First Sight
It’s true that a few—but not all—princesses fall for the prince the moment they meet. What’s surprising is that no one seems to worry that the princes are doing the same thing—and often go to great lengths to marry their true loves. Prince Phillip fights off a fire-breathing dragon; Prince Charming seeks Cinderella with a city-wide slipper search; and even Snow White’s prince has been riding through the forest looking for the girl he met at the wishing well. But for some reason, people see the actions of the princes as romantic, while the princesses are just silly. That’s unfair. Love is, after all, a two-way street. So while, “you can’t marry someone you just met,” might be good advice, it should apply to girls and guys.
All Beauty, No Brains
This misconception is a puzzling one, because many of the Disney Princesses are incredibly clever. There’s Mulan, who defeats the Huns by purposely causing an avalanche; and Merida, who solves her problem by winning her own hand in marriage in an archery contest; and Cinderella, who points out that the wording of the Royal Invitation means that she can go to the ball, too. (Perhaps she should have been a lawyer!) And who can forget book-loving Belle. They may be pretty, but these princesses are also pretty smart!
Disney Princesses Are Passive
There are some princesses that are outgoing and outspoken, such as Ariel, Merida, and Rapunzel. Others, including Snow White and Cinderella, have a quieter, gentler nature. But even the quiet girls show strength: Snow White may be a guest in their cottage, but she insists the dwarfs wash before supper. It’s important to remember that not every person is cut out to be an action hero. Some men are more Clark Kent than Superman, after all. While the Disney Princesses range in personalities, they usually resist, in their own way, anything they feel is unfair.
Disney Princesses Are Perfect
While the Princesses are good people, they don’t always make the wisest choices. Some are a bit impulsive—just think of Ariel signing her contract with Ursula. (It’s a reminder to never sign anything without checking the fine print!) Others are a bit too trusting, including Snow White, who lets the old peddler woman into the cottage despite the dwarfs warning not to talk to strangers. It’s good to remember that everyone makes mistakes—and that it’s possible to recover from them.
Princesses Don’t Have to Work
Many of the Disney Princesses are no strangers to hard work: Snow White was a scullery maid, Cinderella had to wait on her stepmother and stepsisters, Mulan trained with the army, and Tiana spent all of her time working to save money to open her own restaurant. None of these ladies complained about what they had to do, either. They simply smiled and got to work.
The Dream of a Princess Is to Marry a Prince
Some princesses—notably Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora—do dream of love. But let’s face it—many men and women alike dream of finding love, too. It’s normal. Others though—such as Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Merida—aren’t interested in getting married at all, even though that’s what they’re supposed to do. They also don’t wind up with princes. It helps to remember that most of these tales are set “long ago” when a woman’s options were extremely limited. We are luckier today, because we can dream of love and have other goals, too.
Where Are the Parents?
To be fair, this isn’t necessarily a misconception. Many of the princesses have lost one or both of their parents. What’s important to understand is why: losing a parent (or being in the care of an unloving stepparent) has long been a part of children’s literature. It forces the main character to grow up quickly, which moves the story along. In fact more recent, non-Disney works—such as those by Lemony Snicket or J.K. Rowling—also feature orphans. So while it may appear that Disney doesn’t particularly like parents, don’t take it personally. It really has more to do with the story arc than anything else.
Photos © Disney