Please, Let Your Daughters Watch Disney Princess Movies
For most of us, Disney movies were an integral part of childhood, especially for those of us who grew up during the Disney Renaissance. Who among us didn’t sport an ugly red wig to trick-or-treat as Ariel on Halloween? But this week, a couple of celebrity moms have come out swinging against the older Disney movies, with Keira Knightley even going so far to say she bans certain classics from her home. To each mom her own, but keeping your kids from watching these movies totally overlooks the fact that Disney princess movies actually have a lot more to offer than helpless damsels in distress.
During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres show on Tuesday, Knightley said that while movies like Frozen and Moana are totally acceptable, she isn’t into letting her three-year-old daughter, Edie, watch others, including Cinderella and The Little Mermaid. And Knightley’s not the only one. In an interview with Parents, Kristen Bell said something similar, sharing that she’s not a huge fan of Snow White because of the imminent stranger danger and issues with consent that it presents.
When you take these movies at face value, sure — it’s easy to see why Disney princesses have drawn so much criticism, with certain critics dubbing “princess culture” harmful to young girls, claiming it can be harmful for them to attach themselves to such strict gender roles. Of course, girls should grow up believing in themselves and that they can be more than just “princesses,” but that’s the thing — not even the Disney princesses are just princesses.
Take Ariel, for example, who Knightley seems to think gave her voice up for a man. The Little Mermaid is so much more than that. She wanted to escape the sea and explore on land so badly she was willing to trade her voice for legs (one more time: legs, not a man) so she could see what the human world was like. She risked everything to broaden her worldview, and while she did happen to meet a man along the way, that’s hardly the only or even the most important message of the movie.
Then, there’s Cinderella, who Knightley claimed “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her.” If you’ve seen the movie, you know that’s not what happens at all. In fact, Cinderella’s a victim of circumstance, left to serve her stepmother after her father’s death, and instead of accepting her miserable fate, it’s the fairy godmother — another woman — who supports her and makes it possible to achieve her dream of going to the ball. She meets the prince and falls in love, but all this lady wanted was a night off.
There are a lot of positive things that kids can learn from watching these movies — things they should do, like work hard to achieve their dreams, and things they should not do, like take an apple from a sketchy lady they’ve never met. If you must, take Bell’s approach — she told Parents magazine that she asks her daughters to think critically about Snow White’s decisions when she reads her story to them. These movies aren’t just entertaining, they can also be a great starting point for some really awesome conversations. Banning movies that you don’t agree with can be more harmful to your kids than allowing them to watch and opening a dialogue. And let’s not forget that Mike Pence himself once wanted to ban Mulan, worried that it could encourage women to join the military. I don't know about you, but my general rule as a feminist is not to do anything Mike Pence does.
Next time your kids are itching for a Cinderella fix, you might want to watch along with them. You might realize that the qualities she shows in the movie — her kindness, her strength, and her superhuman restraint in not poisoning her evil step-family— are actually ones you might want your children to possess.