When I was young, I watched a lot of Disney movies. I grew up during the prime Disney princess years…you know, before the they were cool and marketed as a group. Ariel, Belle, Jasmine…I loved them all. But my favorite by far was Ariel. The Little Mermaid was absolutely my favorite Disney movie as a kid and so she was my favorite Disney princess.
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about how the Disney princesses are bad role models for little girls.
There are arguments that they are teach girls to think more about looks and letting a man take care of them than about being self-sufficient and focused on their minds. There is concern that girls will become submissive and suffer from body image problems. This article even discusses a study among preschoolers to see how being immersed in the “princess culture” affected them.
Despite what the study showed in regards to the negative affects on the girls, I have to say I disagree with the princess culture being bad for young girls. The article itself even touches on how a few of the results were “confusing.” On top of that, researchers weren’t quite sure how the parents may have impacted the results, or the effect of the media.
Let’s encourage another generation of girls with everything we’ve got.
We’re in the midst of a historic election. As such, I thought it would be a prime time to discuss my favorite Disney princess and the top 5 qualities she can teach our young girls of today. Because who knows, if we teach them well, and let them learn from all of their sources, one of our girls may run for the presidency herself some day.
Beauty, grace, brains, and talent are not mutually exclusive. Young girls should learn to be all that they can be, all that they want to be, whatever it might include.
A few years ago, I got into an argument with a friend of mine over my love of Ariel. Her position was that she hated Ariel because she was a stupid girl who gave up her gift of voice for a man. To her, that was terrible and unimaginable. She thought this was an awful message to be sending to kids. She could only see the negative of what Ariel gave up. And that she did it only to get a boy.
It got me thinking about how differently we can see the same things. I never saw Ariel as a weak woman who would do anything to get the man. I saw her as a strong, independent young woman who knew what she wanted and would make tough decisions to get it. And isn’t that a good thing to learn?
If the Disney princess is the problem, why aren’t the girls in my generation suffering from the repercussions of being immersed in princess propaganda?
When I was a kid, all of my friends watched the same movies I did. None of us grew up to be submissive women only focused on our looks. We’re all strong women who’ve become strong wives and mothers. We have jobs where we use our intellect and skills. So why the negative wrap for the Disney princess? It’s clear that the princess isn’t the whole problem. I think it’s the way it’s presented to kids.
My parents didn’t use television and movies as a babysitter. That’s not the case now. Kids watch television shows and movies over and over. I was never in a position where my parents became sick of a movie because I “wouldn’t let them” turn it off, but that seems to be common now.
My parents were in charge of what I watched and how long I watched it. I wasn’t. Now, kids just watch and absorb. As a consequence, they get a little too obsessed with the characters.
Another contributing factor is parents aren’t talking to their children the way they used to. Kids don’t just play anymore, they have play dates. Their time runs on a schedule. Everything needs to be “educational.” What happened to just having fun?
Along with this, it seems that the Disney princess has become an outlet for parental frustration at the lack of control we have over the media and images projected onto our kids. And that’s a fair argument. Magazines, actresses, models…everything pushes these ideals.
So it’s natural that when a little girl starts to become entranced by a romanticized princess, entranced with a man, and who happens to be beautiful, we worry that it will diminish her mind. It will make her associate her self worth with her appearance. It will make her think of her need for a husband as her prime goal. But I think we’re giving kids too little credit. I don’t think that Disney Princesses are a bad influence to quite that extent!
Do Disney Princesses Teach Anything Good?
Kids don’t see the same things we do. They love the Disney princesses for all sorts of reasons. They love the songs, the animal sidekicks, the humor, and the imagination of it all.
Being a princess is an unattainable ideal. To live in a big fancy mansion, have an elaborate story about your life, and to have some kind of special gift or talent. That’s what I think little girls really desire when they say they want to be a princess.
They want the enchantment. It’s a magical world. The Disney princess gives them an outlet for those desires in a big and bold way. And while they experience this magical world, the princesses are teaching them more than we can imagine. They’re teaching them to be brave, to stand up and fight, and to independently make up their own minds about the world.
Ariel does this as well as any of them. She’s brave, tough, independent. Who wouldn’t want that for their little girl? So what are the good things kids can learn from Disney princesses?
The top 5 Positive things Disney Princess Ariel can Teach Young Girls
- Dream Big. Ariel doesn’t let it hold her back that she doesn’t have legs and couldn’t go on land. She knows what she wants and what she wants is to learn and collect everything from the human world. It was an obsession. She didn’t think it was childish at all. It was her passion and she followed it with all her heart. (Tiana has a dream to open a restaurant. Moana has a dream to sail. Jasmine has a dream to love who she wants and change the status quo.)
- Pursue your Dreams. When she knew what she wanted, she took chances to get it. She would sneak down to the shipwrecks to recover human artifacts for her collection. She went up to the Prince’s boat to watch them dance and see the Prince. In addition, when Ursula gives her the opportunity to live in that world, she is giving her all she could ever want. It may have been a misguided choice, but she was just a teenager after all, and we all make mistakes! (Rapunzel snuck out of the tower. Moana took the boat. Cinderella defied her cruel step-mother.)
- Make tough decisions. Ariel makes a difficult decision to give up her voice to go to the human world. But her desires didn’t lie in performing with her sisters under her father. Her desires were to meet the prince, experience land and the human world, and explore the world. (Moana left the only place she’d ever known. Jasmine confronted Jaffar. Mulan fled in secret with her father’s armor.)
- Be brave. Ariel loved the human world. She risked danger and the unknown to have new experiences. She didn’t shy away from a new world she knew nothing about. And before she became human, she risked danger at the shipwreck to find her treasures. (Merida saved her mother. Moana journeyed alone. Anna pushed through her sister’s demise.)
- Be independent. Ariel was the only of her sisters to not obediently do everything her father asked. He wanted her to fall in line and sing because she was good at it and it’s what they did. She felt trapped, however. It wasn’t what she wanted and she independently pursued her interests and desires. Ultimately, her father gives her his blessing because he knows how important her new life is to her and how much happier she is being able to be herself.
Ariel is strong-willed and independent, just like her father. In that sense, Ariel is the one female in that movie that is the most like the strongest male figure in the film-her father, King Triton. In fact, it’s because of their similarities that the two argue and struggle. It’s clear that she is just like him and he both treasures her because of it, and has difficulties accepting that she is growing up.
They all have strong, positive you qualities. It just depends on what we choose to focus on.
Jasmine has a heart of gold. She also despised being forced to be married and fought for her right to marry who and when she wanted.
Belle loves her family, is intellectual and well read, and is the only woman in town who refuses to fall for the macho Gaston.
Cinderella is sweet and loving; even the animals love her. She has a kind heart and strong resolve.
If I ever have a daughter, I will let her watch all of the Disney princess movies. She can wear the dresses if she wants and sing all the songs. But I’ll also be sure to talk with her, and point out all the good things about whichever Disney princess she loves with.
She’ll learn what’s important not just from the princesses, but from her real world female role models, like myself and her aunts and grandmother. Every kid deserves to live on the line between fairy tale and real world. I’ll just help her to keep reality in check and guide her toward being her absolute best for whatever it is she desires.
Do think watching Disney princesses is harmful to young girls?
-To your Better Life-