In Defense of Disney On the Princess Effect
Disney’s female protagonists are on the receiving end of backlash for the “Princess Effect”. For many us who grew up watching and loving these films while still managing to become strong and independent people, we take issue with the idea that Disney is single handily ruining generations of young girls. We don’t feel ruined. These characters are not passive damsels in distress. Sure, they are all impossibly beautiful and their proportions are inhuman, but nothing is realistic in animation. We’ve never seen a mouse drive a tug boat. Have you?
With any movie for children, the important part of watching a Disney movie is the conversation that comes afterward. This convo explains the difference between reality and fairy tale. Parents should always use discretion and have the right to expose their children to media as they see fit. Even so, refusing to share Disney movies with children because a fear that our daughters won’t grow up to be strong and independent women, doesn’t give them credit for critical thinking and is a form of censorship. To flip the script a bit, we’ve compiled a few ways that Disney Princesses rock.
The Little Mermaid
Ariel didn’t want to be human for a boy. She was already full-blown obsessed with the human world long before Eric fell off his boat. Ariel has an underwater cave devoted to collecting human gadgets, gizmos, whose-its and what-its galore. She is basically a hoarder of all the human thingumabobs. Cable reality television could have had a field day filming a professional organizer sift through that trash. In all the “Little Mermaid” silliness, Ariel manages to save her prince not once, but twice! Damsel, we think not. Eric is merely a bonus.
Beauty and The Beast
Belle and Beast are not in an abusive relationship. The Beast is a jerk, totally, but Gaston is the real beast in this story. While other girls swoon over this neanderthal, wonderfully bookish Belle sacrifices her freedom to save her father and works to change the prejudice of an entire village against a misunderstood hermit in need of a shave. Beast is, yeah, kind of a nightmare, but the takeaway is that our heroine can see beyond the claws and teeth and bravely stands up for what she feels is right.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was made in 1937. Of course its female lead is a little one dimensional. Snow White is a classic because it is the first full-length animated feature but, if we’re being honest, it is not a great movie. That’s okay because once again it was made seven decades ago and hopefully we can compartmentalize that. The key is not to focus on the fact that Snow cooks and cleans for seven men, but rather that she earns her keep using the skills she has. Same thing goes for Cinderella. We’ve come a long way, baby. Discuss how things changed since the 1950s.
Pocahontas and Mulan
We won’t deny the girl power of Frozen, but Frozen is not the first Disney movie to feature a strong, independent female lead. In Pocahontas our heroine wants more than what’s offered to her. She wants more than a marriage to Kokoum. When John Smith asks her to come with him to England after she saves his life, she says no. She denies that love and chooses to stay with her people. Mulan saves all of China. ‘Nuff said.
These movies have faults, sure. But they are not as awful as many make them out to be. Most girls are into the idea of talking to willow trees and painting with all the colors of the wind. These movies have one thing in common — characters who live unsatisfying lives and do something to address that. Whether they have fins, a limited library or a limping veteran father who is forced to go to war while you get made up to be sold to the highest bidder, this is what your daughters are likely to see. The pretty dresses and cute princes are gravy, but the totally cool bad asses who take matters into their own hands are the substance.
We honor your free thinking, Disney loving or hating daughters. We’d like to see them, as well as your sons, dressed as their favorite Disney princesses or any character from movies, books or video games. Bring them in and get them signed up for Kids Club to receive 10% off their purchases. Disney classics can be found on our Brand New and Super Cool shelf at Bookmans Flagstaff and at every Bookmans location.
* Bookmans is your store to explore. We can’t guarantee stock so if you are interested in a particular Disney title, please give us a call and we’ll check our orange shelves for you. Otherwise, we hope you will come and browse.
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