What The Disney Princesses Taught Me – Part 1
In light of some amazing revelations and steps forward for women in today’s culture, there has also been a thorough analysis of what kind of woman the media paints for the youth. Sometimes this wades into one of the most popular outlets for children… Disney! And I’ve noticed a growing train of thought that devalues the lessons taught by Disney princesses.
Now, before you chuckle, scoff, or roll your eyes, let me explain further!
It’s very true and valid arguments can be made – the women of the earlier Disney movies may not have been exactly… progressive in today’s culture, at least. However, even in their most traditional forms, Disney princesses truly do showcase exemplary traits that many children and adults can both identify with and be inspired by.
I’m no expert on child psychology or a master Disney innovator – I’m just a person who learned a lot of great things from the Disney princesses I grew up watching. And I’m excited to dive in a little deeper into those lessons.
So without further ado, here are our beloved Disney princesses, their stories, and some of the things I learned from them as a youngster.
Snow White – Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The film that launched Walt Disney Studios to true stardom. Snow White is the first of the official Disney princesses. A young princess of raven hair, red lips, and pale skin is ferociously envied by the Evil Queen, a.k.a. her step-mother. Consumed with jealousy, the Evil Queen devises up a plot to kill Snow White. However, her devious plan is destroyed by her manservant the Huntsman, who pities the young princess and urges her to run away from the palace and away from her step-mother. Snow White escapes, finds a cottage in the woods and becomes a surrogate mother-of-sorts for the seven lovable dwarves who reside there. Later, the Evil Queen finds and tricks Snow White into eating a poisoned apple, condemning her to the curse of eternal sleep that can only be broken by true love’s kiss. While the dwarves mourn Snow White’s slumber, the prince she had a duet with earlier in the movie suddenly swoops in and lays one on her, waking her up and carrying her off into the sunset so that they can live happily ever after!
What I Learned:
Snow White taught me to look on the bright side and to focus on whatever light could be made out of a bad situation. Seem like a stretch? Well, think of this way: Snow White was hated by her step-mother, almost killed by someone she probably considered a friend, ran away, got lost in the woods, moved in with seven strangers – only to cook and clean for them. Plus, her first thought when woken from her slumber was not to find that crazy old hag who gave her an apple and give her a swift round-house kick to the face. (probably would’ve been my initial reaction) And although personally, I have never been on board for the whole ‘someday my prince will come’ mentality… you have to admit, homegirl sure knew how to set high expectations in light of some pretty serious roadblocks. (attempted murder, being on the run, etc.) Snow White was certainly not the most progressive princess in typical terms, but she was definitely a persistent optimist who encouraged me not to dwell on the past and to move forward to better things.
Cinderella – Cinderella (1950)
Blessed as we are to have the 2015 version, I’m going to stick to the older versions of these fairytales that were around when I was a kid. Cinderella is a beautiful young girl with an affinity for talking mice. She is kind-hearted, gentle, and very tidy. So tidy in fact, she is enlisted by her evil step-mother (there is a running theme here) and her two evil step-sisters to obediently serve their every whim. She cooks, cleans, sews, and boy, does she dream. Compliant and genuine Cinderella is alone in the world and what little family she has left treats her very poorly. One day, the prince of their kingdom hosts a ball, inviting every young woman to the castle for an evening of flair and fun. Longing for a chance to go the ball, Cinderella meets her Fairy Godmother, a.k.a. the little old woman who turns her apron into a ballgown and her shoes into glass slippers. At the ball, Cinderella meets and falls in love with the prince, but realizes she must leave by midnight because, you know, curfew? (actually her dress disappears, and that’s 10x worse) The prince despairs that he’s lost his blue-eyed bombshell of a babe… so he sends his entourage out with the glass slipper she left on his castle steps as she ran away from him. They are ordered to find the girl who fits it, and to bring her back to the palace so that she will be his blushing bride. Against all odds, Cinderella’s foot finds its way into the shoe and she finds herself marrying the man and gaining the life she’s always dreamed of having.
What I Learned:
Kindness. Pure and simple. “Have courage and be kind.” It’s not easy to be kind, especially when you’re living with four reeeeeeeeal pieces of work. (the cat’s name is LUCIFER, for goodness’ sake) I always admired Cinderella’s huge heart, even with those who may not have deserved it. She had lost her parents, lost her dignity, and during the climax of the movie, thought she had lost her one way out. Yet she wasn’t bitter and she wasn’t cruel. She easily could’ve become a 2.0 version of her step-mother and justified it, but instead she rose above.
Aurora/Briar Rose – Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Aurora’s story begins when she is an infant. She is a newborn princess blessed with beauty and an incredible voice, but also cursed by an evil fairy named Maleficent to die at the age of sixteen after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. In desperation, one of three good fairies decides to alleviate the curse; instead, the spindle will only put Aurora into a deep sleep that can only be broken by true love’s kiss. (sound familiar?) Out of fear, the king and queen send their daughter away to hide in the woods with the three good (but honestly, highly incapable) fairies, undercover and out of sight. Aurora grows, blissfully unaware that a nearby kingdom is anxiously awaiting their princess’s upcoming sixteenth birthday. She meets a handsome stranger (Prince Philip) who dances with her and flirts shamelessly… but girly doesn’t seem to mind one bit. However, she is unexpectedly whisked away that very night and the fairies explain everything while ushering her back to the castle. Maleficent is a patient woman, though. Seizing her opportunity, Mal tricks Aurora into pricking her finger and the curse goes forward as planned. Prince Philip ain’t having any of it though, so he leaps at the opportunity to battle Mal while she’s in ferocious dragon form – winning, of course. He rushes to his girlfriend’s side, smooching her back to life and all is well!
What I Learned:
So, admittedly… Aurora spends half the movie in a deep slumber. But I did admire her initiative! Aurora had no problem getting off the couch to d chores for her three crazy fairy mothers. And ON HER BIRTHDAY, no less. Even after meeting Philip, not knowing her was a prince, she took initiative and invited him to her place for supper. That’s a date if I’ve ever heard one! If she had a coffee shop or some sushi digs nearby, I’m sure that’s what she would’ve suggested instead. That whole thing was a foreign concept to me… girls can ask the guy out? Heck yeah, they can! Aurora did it!
Ariel – The Little Mermaid (1989)
A little mermaid by the name of Ariel lives in the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, ruled by her father, King Triton. She is a curious young lass, obsessed with humans and everything that pertains to them. Especially one particular human, Prince Eric, whom she saves from a storm that destroys his ship. She also collects items like music boxes and forks from sunken shipwrecks and gathers it all in her secret treasure trove. Her father however does not support her hoarding activities and hates humans (they killed his wife, see the 3rd installment) so he destroys all of Ariel’s collection. Out of spite and anger, Ariel goes to the sea witch Ursula and demands a pair of legs so she can go above the surface and capture pretty boy Eric’s heart. Ursula agrees as long as Ariel gives up her voice for three days – if Eric bestows true love’s kiss upon Ariel’s lips, then she gets to keep her legs and live happily ever after! If not… then she will belong to Ursula. However, after a few close calls, Ursula gets nervous and decides to curse Eric, disguising herself as a pretty maiden who wins his heart. The sun sets and despite Ariel’s efforts and the swift return of her voice, they don’t smooch in time. Luckily, Eric fights Ursula and defeats her. King Triton takes pity on his daughter who longs to be with the man she loves, so he gifts her a new set of legs and she goes to shore to be with her handsome groom.
What I Learned:
Ariel wasn’t afraid to discover new things. Her curiosity and open-mind lead her to a new and bright future. She accepted and embraced those who were different from her, even though her father told her they were bad. She decided to make her own judgement. While Ariel may have been a little over-dramatic, so was her father. Even though she knew her family didn’t accept the things that interested her and made her an outcast, she still held on to her passion.
Belle – Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Belle is a brilliant and intelligent girl who is woo’ed over by the biggest frat-boy tool bag in all of France, Gaston. She consistently resists his efforts and instead keeps to her favorite thing in the world, books. Her father is the zany inventor type and he decides to set off for glory. On the way, he stumbles upon the gigantic cursed castle of a cursed prince… a.k.a. the Beast. Beast captures him and when Belle turns up looking for her very sick father, she offers to stay in his place. Beast accepts begrudgingly, releasing her father and putting Belle up in a room. Belle discovers that all of the household items are the cursed staff of the Beast and the warn her not to go to the West Wing. So of course she heads on up, finding a floating rose and surprises the Beast in his lair… lighting his fuse. She runs away, is attacked by wolves in the forest, and is saved by the Beast. After returning to the castle, she discovers that an old hag cursed the Beast and the castle so that he will stay a Beast forever unless someone learns to love him before the last petal falls off of the rose. Overtime… the fall in love. Beast releases her, telling her to go to her father who has been locked up by Gaston. Gaston instead sends angry village folk to the castle, critically injuring the beast but dying in the process. In tears, Belle declares her love and the curse is lifted, changing the Beast into a handsome beast that sweeps Belle off of her feet.
What I Learned:
Besides the fact that Belle further validated my obsession with all things BOOKS, she was extremely brave. She protected her father, sacrificing freedom and everything she knew to give him his best chance. She stood tall in the shadow of an initially frightening character (we all know the Beast is actually a big bumbling idiot teddy bear – that we love of course). But I’m not only talking about the Beast! She also stood up for herself against the knucklehead Gaston and his alarming insistence on making her his little wife. She didn’t stop reading just because the guy all the other girls pined after in the village told her that it was stupid. And I think that is a situation that is all too common for young girls in today’s society. So let Belle’s example be a lesson: if you like your books, then that’s AWESOME.
Jasmine – Aladdin (1992)
Aladdin is the central character to this movie, but Jasmine plays a huge role! She is the fiery daughter of the sultan who won’t put up with anyone’s… ridiculousness. Her father is forthright on marrying her off to some prince but she isn’t having any of it. She’s never been outside the palace walls so she decides one night to make a break for it. While exploring the streets of her kingdom, Agrabah, she meets a charming thief named Aladdin who lends her a helping hand. The guards are hot on his tail though, and in the process of arresting Aladdin, she reveals who she really is. In shock, Aladdin is ushered away to a cell and Jasmine is taken back to her palace. The Grand Vizier to the sultan, Jafar, is on a mission to become sultan himself. He decides that the quickest way is to marry Jasmine himself… (and side note, his desire for her in the movie is even creepier to watch as an adult.) He’s disturbing and creepy over her and she openly shows disgust. Thinking Aladdin is to be killed, she is shocked when a mysterious Prince Ali shows up and sweeps her off her feet. (literally, on a magic carpet ride.) Recognizing all of the things she liked about Aladdin, she puts two-and-two together fairly quickly. Excited that she’s finally found a suitor, she’s devastated when she learns about the Genie, the reality of Aladdin’s street-rat-iness, and the fact that Jafar is truly determined to make her his lady-love. She distracts Jafar while Aladdin finds a way to destroy him, effectively creating a window of opportunity. Jafar is tricked into locking himself up in the Genie’s lamp and is disposed of, giving Jasmine and Aladdin the opportunity to embrace sadly. They are in love but the law doesn’t permit their marriage… Alas! Sultan thinks they are just too cute and decides, on a whim, to reverse the law. Jasmine and Aladdin live happily ever after!
What I Learned:
Jasmine is so sassy and I love it. She isn’t afraid to tell someone how it is. If someone ticks her off or treats her wrong, she speaks up and makes it very clear how she feels. Jasmine doesn’t play games. She is honest about how she feels and it’s a breath of fresh air! She clearly spelled it out for Jafar: he should take a hike. She clearly called Aladdin out: he shouldn’t lie to her. She made it quite plain to her father: she wasn’t going to marry someone she didn’t love. Atta girl, Jasmine! Tell em how it is!
Stay tuned – Part 2 will be up soon! 🙂