We have approximately a thousand movies. Maybe less. I got a sweet deal on VHS tapes on Craig's List. She has diverse taste, but Big Sister will usually choose a Disney/princess or Barbie/princess movie. I struggle with the Princess movies and the whole capital-P Princess phenomenon. I too loved them when I was little but I have grown up and it's hard for me to not see the negatives:
- The motif of an absent biological mother and and evil stand-in-mother figure, usually a stepmother or witch of some sort, set against a bumbling, arrogant or otherwise flawed mostly-absent but wealthy man.
- The consistent theme of marriage being the girl's ultimate dream, goal and the 'happy ending' of the story - usually at the age of 16!!??!!
- Somebody else having control over the girl-slash-princess's freedom
- The clear depiction of beauty=good, ugly=bad, or just defining a certain look as being beautiful (long flowing straight hair and dress, perfect skin, youth....)
- The woefully underdeveloped "prince" characters
- The portrayal of animals as talking. Animals don't talk! Dragons don't exist! Clearly I'm KIDDING - these are great parts and if anybody finds a magic wand please let me know I want one!
No, and No.
So I've decided that it is my job as parent to explain these shortcomings to MY SON AND DAUGHTER (despite their puzzled facial expressions) and also point out the positives about the princess stories. Positives you say - what are they? Funny you ask. I've thought about a few:
- Ariel (the Little Mermaid) is curious about the world, has a rebelious streak and has a great imagination, telling stories about the objects she collects. Also she saved the prince's life, instead of the other way around. She is perhaps my favorite.
- Snow White is a survivor. She ventures into the woods, makes a life for herself without help from anybody (the dwarfs weren't much help at all) - and emphasized proper hygiene. She's an honorary Peace Corps volunteer and public health worker if there ever was one.
- Belle loves to read and speaks two languages. She also loves her father very much. (Again, where are these girls' mothers???) Other than that, her story is - in my opinion - among the worst. Enslaved by a beast until she loved him? Gross.
- Cinderella is a toughie. She is kind to animals and to everybody. She embodies 'turn the other cheek' which is a good skill to have sometimes.
- Sleeping Beauty is tougher still. She walks in the woods and sleeps a lot which are good for your health. That's all I got.
- Pochahontas, however far from the original, has a lot of good lessons. Protect water, trees and animals. Stand up for what you believe is right. Learn about and value other cultures. And it doesn't have the marriage-as-a-happy ending thing.
- Rapunzel is brave and adventurous and goes for a thief instead of a prince, whose life she saves at least once. I like this girl.
- Also, Princess Fiona in Shrek 4 is awesome. A mom-of-triplets turned leader of the anti-dictator rebellion. My hero.