Why I think Disney Princesses Are Good Role Models
Updated: Jun 17
Disney princesses have good manners, fight like warriors, save lives, go out into unknown territories, persuade others to become better people, and are all-around awesome. So, why is this even a discussion?
I've been wanting to write about this topic for some time now, and I was prompted by a friend's post on Goodreads today discussing this subject.
Disney princesses get a butt-ton of flack. For instance, Washington Post wrote an article all about how bad Disney princesses are: "The brand also implies that girls should be sweet and submissive, and should expect a man to come to their rescue in an act of love at first sight."
Tons of people have pointed fingers at the brand. Professors have done studies regarding the negative impacts the princesses have on children and such goofiness. And as my Goodreads friend stated, even Disney itself has made fun of the problem.
In fact, one of the most annoying lines to me in Wreck-it Ralph 2 is when one of the girls asks Vanellope if a big, strong man always sweeps in to save her, and then it shows the princesses supposedly "conquering" this problem by saving Ralph with a series of contraptions. I'll explain why this bugs me in a moment.
While I think that it's possible something negative could be taken from any story (everyone has their own perspective on life and therefore will walk away with their own take on things), I think most lessons a child will learn from a Disney princess are generally good.
True, Cinderella is mostly inactive. It bothers me that she never rushes to save herself. But she's still a great person. True, Snow White loves to clean and take care of people. But, that's a good thing, right? True, a lot of the princesses fall in love with a complete stranger, but at least they believe in the power of love and family and goodness.
So, I agree that the princesses aren't perfect, but humans never are. And if any of my girls lived with the nature of these princesses, I'd be one proud Mama. So, here are my reasons:
1. They save men (and women) physically. A LOT.
Okay, back to the whole Wreck-it Ralph 2 thing. Supposedly, the princesses were redeeming themselves by making this quick, easy contraption to save Ralph in a quick, easy way. Saving him didn't require great personal sacrifice or extreme risk. It did require some ingenuity, but that's it. So much more difficult...than say...Pocahontas sticking her neck over John Smith's in the middle of a battlefield of raging, angry soldiers with guns and arrows. I mean, have these people complaining about how princesses need men to save them actually seen a Disney movie?
The princesses are constantly saving people physically. Pocahontas saves John Smith in a terrible war zone. Anna saves Elsa while freezing to death. Mulan chops off her hair and learns to fake a whole disposition, knowing that if she is found out she'll be executed, to save her father. Ariel saves Prince Eric from drowning. Why isn't anyone complaining that the men always need saving?
True, the men sometimes save the women too. Yes, some of the earliest Disney movies have only the prince saving the princess physically (but she still saves him in other ways). But this doesn't happen in most Disney movies. Beast saves Belle from a bunch of wolves, but then she saves the Beast's life with some powerful love magic. It's a team effort. They help each other out. That's a good thing. The person you love should be helping you and vice versa. You should be doing what you can to have others' backs and want their support as well. Why do we, as females, think we need to save ourselves and everyone else all on our own? I love how Disney princesses are powerful enough to save men, and smart enough to ask for help as needed.
2. They see past society's fluff and nonsense.
Society has ideologies about what is good, but we aren't always right. Sometimes, we think something is great and wonderful, but we are wrong. This has been proven to be true with slavery, segregation, cults, government systems, murdering babies, etc.
Disney princesses have the brilliant gift of discernment even when everyone else is telling them they are wrong. Mulan knew it wasn't right for her aged dad to go to war. Pocahontas knew that it wasn't right to deem another group of people as savages. Tiana knew that she had a chance of making it. Jasmine knew she should marry for love. The list continues. This is an especially hard gift to have because when everyone deems something acceptable it's hard to buy into anything else. But it's possible to see past that fluff and nonsense.
3. They stand up for what they believe in.
Not only do they see it, but they fight for it. Simple as that.
4. They save men's souls. EVEN MORE.
While being able to save someone's life physically is admirable, it's even more admirable to save a human's soul. And Disney princesses always help others (particularly their male counterparts) to become better versions of themselves. They stretch them to new heights and potential. This makes for a great role model indeed.
The beast conquers his selfish tendencies with the aid of Belle's grace and refinement. Flynn Ryder is able to see the good in the world around him because of Rapunzel's positive outlook on life. Mulan's family is able to see shortcomings in tradition. Naveen is able to learn about how to work hard for something you want because of Tiana.
They all pick men who are really not-too-shabby to begin with, so I don't think this is an indication that they go for losers. The potential is all there, but they are able to see it. Great people help make everyone around them even greater, and that is also a good thing, guys.
5. They have a vast array of talents.
Disney doesn't assume (like so many other modern stories) that the greatest talent for a woman to have is super fighting abilities. They show women with a vast array of capabilities; Snow White is an excellent cleaner (in fact, my daughter used to call her "cleaning"), Ariel and Aurora are excellent singers, Tiana is a businesswoman, Belle is a great reader and intellect, Mulan is good at fighting, Merida can shoot a bow and arrow, Pocahontas is a capable aerial diver and canoer, etc.
This shows my daughters that what they're interested in is valid. If they like to clean (wouldn't that be spectacular?), super. If they want to do ballet or karate or soccer, then that's fine and dandy.
6. Though they are each good, they are each extraordinarily unique.
Beyond skills, Disney princesses are all very unique. There are very few things they hold in common besides being good and being princesses. Rapunzel is quirky and enthused and an emotional rollercoaster. Pocahontas is a free loving hippie and peaceful. Mulan is clever and bold and sometimes awkward. Elsa is serious and intense and worries a lot. Anna is weird and whimsical. Tiana is strong and determined. Cinderella is loving and kind and forgiving. Ariel is rebellious and adventurous.
They all have their own personalities, but they all are able to make the world a better place. They are all needed in own originality, and each of them has a purpose to fulfill as they are. I love this. I love that my daughters can learn from such a variety of people that they are needed as they are: the best versions of who and what they can be. They don't have to change their personalities to fit a certain mold. They just have to look within themselves regarding what they uniquely can offer.
Okay, so Disney princesses get flack. All the intellects and smarties like to point out their weaknesses. Maybe it's easy to try to find fault in someone or something. But, I will always love what Disney princess movies teach. They teach us about powerful women but also so much more.
The power of redemption. Forgiveness. Mercy. Overcoming obstacles. Suffering and joy.
Disney princesses rule, and I hope you live happily ever after enjoying their awesomeness. (But, if you don't, that's fine too. Find other positive movies or books you love.)
Do you like Disney princesses? Why or why not?