Hey, my wife stopped by to write an opinion piece of her own!
I am a Disney fan. To be honest, I feel like Disney raised me just as much as my own mother did. So when I hear constant complaints about how Disney is bad for little girls because it teaches them that they just need to wait around for a prince I am appalled. I never learned anything like that from the movies I watched over and over again. And I honestly don’t think other little girls are learning anything like that either. But, for some reason so many people are concerned about what Disney movies, especially the princesses, are supposedly teaching our little girls.
Snow White, from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Ok, I’ll admit Snow White is one that people may easily see as a damsel in distress. She is kind and sweet, but she doesn’t do much at all to help her own situation and a Prince has to save her because she eats the stupid apple. She really isn’t very intelligent. Poor Snow. However, boys don’t have it too good in this one either. The prince isn’t even special enough to get a name! While people freak out about what little girls are learning from these movies for some reason nobody cares what it supposedly says to little boys. Poor unloved boys.
Cinderella, from Cinderella (1950)
I can see how people think this is another damsel in distress, but Cinderella does take action to solve her own problems (with the help of animal friends). She falls in love with Prince Charming all too soon, but she doesn’t know he is a prince at the time so it isn’t like she is just trying to marry to get ahead in life. She just really dances with the dude and falls for him. She isn’t all that bad, but she isn’t all that great either. She should have poisoned her stepmother’s tea or something in the beginning and just took over the house. Too bad for the little boys, Prince Charming isn’t a bad guy or anything, and he wants to marry for love, not because it is his duty, but his character is really underdeveloped.
Aurora/Briar Rose, from Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Yeah, yeah, here is another damsel in distress, I suppose. She waits around wishing and hoping for her prince to come. Then she goes to sleep, and he comes. Prince Philip is an ok character I guess. But everyone worries about what this is saying to girls and I never hear complaints about what it is teaching the boys. Philip just met this chick and then he goes off to risk his life fighting a dragon to save her? Shouldn’t somebody be just as concerned that it is teaching boys that they must be the strong, brave ones that have to do all the work as they are concerned about it teaching girls to wait for a guy to come save them?
Eilonwy, from The Black Cauldron (1985)
Why does everyone forget about Elionwy? I loved this movie as a kid, but none of my friends had even heard of it. She is a pretty cool princess and enchantress. But I guess I will leave this one alone since nobody even cares that she exists. Plus it upsets me even more that nobody knows who the creature Gurgi is so I can’t whine about “munchies and crunchies” and have anybody know what the hell I’m talking about. Shame on all of you for not loving that movie… shame.
Ariel, from The Little Mermaid (1989)
And here is where Disney finally makes a truly strong and popular princess. Yeah, yeah, I understand the complaints; Ariel falls for a guy she barely knows, she gives up everything for him, and she abandons her former life to be with him. However take a moment to hear me out on this. She was unhappy with her life; she aspired to do something else. Her father was prejudiced against humans and Ariel disagreed with that prejudice. Isn’t that a good message in itself? Then she is brave enough to go out into the world her father fears due to his prejudices. Also, I’m sorry, but even though Prince Eric saves her from the Sea Witch she is in no way a damsel in distress because she saves him first! She is brave and she stands up for what she believes in. Yes, there is a prince involved, but she was obsessed with visiting the human world long before she laid eyes on him and I believe she would have done it eventually without him.
Belle, from Beauty And The Beast (1991)
I always hear that this is a story about a girl with Stockholm syndrome. Ok, I get it, Belle is being held hostage and she falls for her captor. But when you look at it closer she is a very strong and very brave character. She willingly accepts imprisonment to free her father who she knows would not last as long as a hostage. Then in time Belle falls in love with Prince Adam, the Beast, as he changes. She does not give in to him until he learns that he has to be kind. She helps him to change into a better person. He finally sees that there is good in the world because of her. And let’s be honest, if she was just waiting around for a guy she would have went with Gaston. He was the most desirable guy in the town, he had respect and money, and every girl wanted him. He wanted Belle, but she didn’t like him because he was an ass. She fell for the Beast because he showed that he was kind and thoughtful, not because she “needed a man”. And also how cool is it that she is smart and pretty? Usually films show the pretty girls as being of average intelligence if that and a bookworm is portrayed as a nerd with no beauty at all. This movie tells girls they can be smart, brave, and gorgeous instead of having to pick one quality. Also, Prince Adam is a freaking monster when Belle falls for him. Yes, he turns into some handsome cover model from a romance novel, but he is a hairy freak at first. She likes him for who he is and not what he looks like. Bravo Disney, bravo!
Jasmine, from Aladdin (1992)
And now we come across the princess who doesn’t even want to be a freaking princess! Jasmine is a strong, independent girl who doesn’t want to follow orders and marry some prince. How anybody can think a movie in which the girl is actively protesting an arranged marriage is teaching a girl anything bad about relationships is beyond me. Yes, she meets Aladdin and falls for him. But if anything people should say that poor boys need to just wait around to find a princess to save them from their situation, not the other way around. The only damaging thing I can see that Disney did in this movie is that they gave little girls everywhere the false hope that they can have a pet tiger and it will not maul them to death. Damn you Disney, the realization that I could never truly have my very own Rajah without a high risk of being eaten was painful.
Pocahontas, from Pocahontas (1995)
Pocahontas is labeled a princess, even though I guess she isn’t technically one. However, since she is the daughter of the Chief I suppose she can be called a princess. Let’s see, is she a damsel in distress? She is a brave and adventurous girl who does not want to be married to the most eligible bachelor in her area, Kocoum. She sings a whole freaking song about not wanting to settle down because you never know “what’s around the river bend”. Thanks to a magical willow tree she is able to communicate with an evil white man, change his mind about “savages”, and save the day. I don’t see the problem here. Unless you want to go into the true story and how young Pocahontas really was or anything about the portrayal of Native Americans as a magical people.
Fa Mulan, from Mulan (1998)
Again, Mulan is not a princess. She is the daughter of a warrior who becomes a warrior herself. She risks her life to go into battle, not for some guy she likes, but to save her father’s life since he was already injured in previous battles. The movie begins with Mulan being prepared to be matched up with some guy she doesn’t even know and she even goes into song about that not being who she is. Come on people, this is a strong female character and then some. She is even the only warrior smart and strong enough to figure out how to get that arrow off of that tall pole, does anyone remember that? Mulan shows that girls can be just as strong as boys. Ok, ok, she falls for the guy. I get it. Shame on her for being a strong female warrior and also being heterosexual! Come on people. Girls fall for guys all the time. I am fine with it. I would also be fine if the girl fell for a girl, or if the girl fell for nobody, as long as she did it for the right reasons and was happy with her choice.
Tiana, from The Princess And The Frog (2009)
People’s opinion on this one really bugs me. This is a movie about a seriously hard working girl who is moving forward and pursuing her dream by setting and meeting goals. Tiana is seriously independent. She meets her goal, all on her own, and then gets screwed over. That actually happens in real life. OK, in desperation she kisses a freaking frog. She was distressed because all of her hard work did not seem to pay off at that moment. We all know that if the frog had not have shown up she would have kept trudging along working and eventually met her goal on her own, but watching a girl nearly kill herself working multiple jobs doesn’t make for a very exciting movie. So now we have much of the movie with Tiana being a hard working frog and the lazy prince, who is broke because his parents cut him off for his laziness, just fooling around and causing problems. Then eventually Naveen realizes that hard work pays off, thanks to Tiana, and he begins to fall for the girl and contemplate settling down. In the end he does settle down with Tiana and she gets her restaurant. She isn’t saved by Prince Naveen, if anything he is saved by her. He is flat broke until she teaches him about hard work and cures him of his laziness. He teaches her a little something about relaxing a bit too, but truly the theme of the story is hard work pays off in the end. And even after marrying the prince, Tiana still values hard work. She could have moved into some fancy castle and had servants cater to her every whim, but no, she continues to pursue her dream and opens a restaurant where both her and Prince Naveen WORK for a living. I love the message this one gives.
Rapunzel, from Tangled (2010)
Again with the princess hate. This is a story about an abused child. All the negative things I hear about Rapunzel are true. She doesn’t come across as the sharpest tool in the shed. But that isn’t shown as being a negative feminine trait, rather it’s the trait of a severely abused child who has not had many experiences outside of the tower she is being held prisoner in. She has spent most of her life locked away in the tower, all the while suffering severe mental and emotion abuse from the woman she thinks is her mother. Is Rapunzel expected to be just fine after a lifetime of that? Let us be reasonable. Yes, she has issues. And yes, a guy rescues her. However, at the point when she meets Flynn Rider she would have left with a woman, a child, or a talking lion as long as they helped her leave, so it didn’t really matter that it was a guy who helped her get out of there. She is pretty brave for leaving in the first place. That right there is a good thing to teach kids. You don’t have to stay in an abusive situation. Leave and get help. If kids actually learned things from these movies then we should have been seeing a drastic increase in the amount of kids calling DCFS on their parents. I like Rapunzel, she was a pretty strong girl especially when you factor in the abuse she had received.
Merida, from Brave (2012)
OK, this is Pixar, not Disney, but everyone lumps the two together. Merida does not want to get married, in fact she absolutely refuses to do so. She even ends up accidentally cursing her own mother and then having to save her in order to avoid marriage. This movie should be making people scream out with happiness because there is no freaking prince at all. But of course not. Nobody can ever be happy. All I hear is that she is a lesbian and Disney is teaching little girls to be lesbians. Damn it people can’t you ever be satisfied? I don’t care what Merida’s sexual orientation is but nowhere in the entire movie does it even hint that she is a lesbian. It doesn’t even hint at the fact that Merida doesn’t grow up, fall in love with a guy, get married and have a ton of curly red-headed babies of her own. All that happens in the movie is that she says she is too young to get married, which she is. And she also says she wants to marry for love, not because she has to due to tradition and rules. How is that proving her sexuality at all. If every 14-16 year old girl decided she was not currently ready to settle down and get married that means they are gay? Ugh. This movie is about a mother and daughter relationship and finding that balance between family and self. If you want a gay rights movie go watch The Lion King. Timon and Pumba do a damn good job raising their little adopted son. Republicans everywhere should be freaking out about that movie. How dare they teach kids that adoptive gay parents are acceptable, how dare they.
With all this anger against what people think Disney is teaching little girls I somehow never hear about The AristoCats. Doesn’t that movie teach little girls that if they are a single mother they had better hurry up and find a man to help them raise their kittens, er, children? Does nobody care about that message? One Hundred And One Dalmatians encourages animal hoarding. Robin Hood encourages stealing. Peter Pan will make children think it is ok to run away from home. Lilo & Stitch isn’t about family values and also doesn’t show how adopted family member are still family. It is somehow about illegal immigration or something right? Wait, don’t forget the worst offender; The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh. Pooh Bear is clearly an addict, Tigger has a severe case of ADHD, Eeyore needs some antidepressants before he hangs himself, Piglet has the worst case of anxiety ever, Rabbit is anal retentive, Owl is a jerk who thinks he knows it all, and Kanga may be a loving mother but she lets poor little Roo run all around the forest completely unsupervised. What are we teaching our children?