Disney Princess Culture
Chances are, if you are a female living in the US, you grew up with the Disney Princesses. Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Ariel were a big part of my childhood. I still know all the songs in these movies by heart, and I occasionally daydream of a fairy godmother who would update my wardrobe at no cost to me.
Now, looking back on these stories, I wonder what lessons they were intended to teach young girls. We learned about the evils of stepmothers. We learned about the importance of being beautiful. We learned how we just need to wait for the right man to come along and fight all of our battles for us.
We learned in adolescence and adulthood that all of these things are dead wrong. Stepmothers definitely aren’t all evil (mine is pretty awesome, actually, and a very loving person). Looks fade with time, but style, panache, drive, and personality are eternally attractive. Pretty much all of us learned that while men are good companions, being an eternal damsel in distress or relying entirely on a partner for emotional, mental and financial support is a recipe for disaster.
I’d like to dig a little deeper into the princess/prince dynamic. As women and girls, we are spoon fed the idea that being “swept off” our collective feet is the ideal we should be dreaming of and expecting from our potential partners: accept no substitutes. We are also taught that we should be reserving sex for that “special person”, and that we will know who they are because of how we feel when we are around him or her. We are taught that there is “the one” and that once we meet that elusive one person, they will compliment our strengths and weaknesses perfectly. Once the relationship with our “one” is announced to the world, there will be rainbows, singing birds, and maybe an elaborate musical number to celebrate our union. Or so we are taught to imagine.
Although romance and the initial excitement of a new relationship or crush is intoxicating, it is irresponsible and just plain stupid to start a relationship entirely on the strength of hormones. Sitting around and waiting for this mythical “one” to come around and sweep you off of your feet is stupid. It also puts undue pressure on a well-meaning potential mate. If they say or do one wrong thing, does that mean that they aren’t the right person for you? I mean, if they are supposed to compliment your personality perfectly, then clearly, they are supposed to be perfect to boot.
While Disney has done better in recent years with Mulan, Tiana, and Rapunzel, I’m still not satisfied. They are interesting and take matters into their own hands, but overall, they still fall all over themselves for their love interests.
I am eagerly awaiting Pixar’s take on the princess culture with the upcoming movie Brave. Finally, we are seeing a young woman who decides to adventure on her own, without needing a man to fight her battles for her. Pixar has already shown, through movies like The Incredibles, Up, and Wall-E, that they know how to depict healthy relationships and portray women who are perfectly capable of saving the day on their own. Merida, you’d better not disappoint me.