The incredible songs, the animal sidekicks, and the lovable villains are just some of the many things that make Disney princess movies so magical. These princesses defined my childhood and the movies still remain some of my favorites, to this day. But despite their magic, they have received a lot of press for being bad role models for girls.
Peggy Orenstein, the author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” conducted a study on the “princesses effect” on preschoolers and found that the princesses had no positive effects on girls. These movies were my childhood and influenced me growing up, so did I really turn out as bad as Orenstein is implying?
I don’t think I did. Besides the high beauty and love standards that most Disney princess movies set with true love’s kisses and incredibly small waists, the movies have genuine underlying messages that I believe are being overlooked.
Many of the movies exemplify the princesses determination to pursue their dreams. For example, Tiana, in “The Princess and the Frog,” has a dream of opening a restaurant to honor her late father. She works hard and does not let anyone, not even the prince, get in the way of her dream.
“The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work,” Tiana said.
On a similar note, Mulan demonstrates that love for family is extremely important when she saves her father from war by going in his place, even though it is illegal. She fights with the Chinese army, pretending to be a man. After being told to go home by the general, she finds the mental and physical strength to complete the task of retrieving the arrow from the top of the flagpole, which no man had yet done. She also outsmarts and defeats Shan-Yu, the leader of the Huns, after being told once again to go home. Throughout the movie she overcomes a myriad of obstacles, while battling gender roles and, finally, saving China.
The Disney princess movies also emphasize the importance of family and trust. Anna, from “Frozen,” has confidence that her sister, Elsa, means well, even when most of the townspeople think of her as an evil sorceress. In the end, Anna is not afraid to sacrifice herself and the love for a boy to save her sister’s life. By being brave and trusting, she saves her sister and reforms their bond as family.
Belle, from “Beauty and the Beast,” shows selflessness when she volunteers to take her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner. She also sees the Beast for who he is on the inside, a kind and caring person, and ends up forgiving him for imprisoning her. She also supports her father in his business endeavours and inventions, when no one else would. She is very intellectual as well, reading books all the time and spending time in the Beast’s library, furthering her intelligence.
While the princesses do have good traits, there are also things about them and their movies that could be perceived as negative. They can be seen as being too reliant on the princes; in fact, Aurora, from “Sleeping Beauty,” and Snow White from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” would still be in their enchanted, sleep-like state if their princes had not kissed them and woken them up. They also tend to have bodies that are not physically possible to have and eyes that are unrealistically large. This sets the beauty standards for girls impossibly high, leading to low self-esteem in young girls. However, the positives outweigh the negatives, and these princesses also have personalities that demonstrate their determination and drive in life.
From these movies, I learned that kindness, loyalty and trustworthiness goes a long way. One needs to stand by their friends and family and trust them, wholeheartedly. Then, if they do something wrong, forgiveness is necessary to move along and continue the trust that was built. Also, I learned that demonstrating kindness is one of the most important things you can do. It can comfort, compliment, and bring happiness.
It is not true that the Disney princesses are only searching for a prince to save them; their characteristics demonstrate determination, resilience, acceptance, intelligence, and more. These are traits we cherish as a society and would want any person to have, leading princesses to be good role models for any viewer.