What Disney Princesses (Actually) Taught Me

If you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you’ve probably encountered this argument.  You know the one I’m talking about – the argument that Disney movies are actually terrible for our children to watch because they give such girls such a negative message about their self-worth.  You’ve probably even seen this picture before:

Now, as much as I’ve mostly stayed away from rants on this blog, I’m afraid this post might walk that fine line today, because I just do not understand this mentality.  In fact, I think it’s a total crock.  Do you want to know what Disney Princesses taught me?

Here’s a quick list, just off the top of my head:

Be strong
Be courageous
Be caring
Be kind to animals
Stand up for what you believe in
Take care of others
Not to let other people’s negativity destroy your positivity
In the end, good really does triumph over evil
You can be a rich and beautiful princess, but it doesn’t count for anything if you don’t have love (even the love of friends like the dwarves or forest creatures)
Animals are a girl’s best friend
Believe in your dreams, and follow them, they really do come true (just not always in a way you expected them to)
Nothing is impossible
Magic is all around you, if only you take the time to look
Be true of heart
Everyone needs a little help sometimes (whether it’s from animals, dwarves, a fairy godmother, or yes, even a prince)
Just because you have a rough start, doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy ending
Have faith
Family isn’t just the family you’re born into, it’s the family you create and the people you choose (The seven dwarves, fairies, animals)
Be trustworthy

First of all, in response to all of those complainers, I would like to point out that all of these qualities and lessons are WHY the princesses are beautiful – and the fact that the evil stepmothers and sisters and witches hold none of these qualities are WHY they are ugly.

Second of all, these stories weren’t even written by Disney, they were compiled hundreds of years ago, having been collected by The Brothers Grimm because they were studying folklore.  In fact, they were passed down through the oral tradition (mostly by women!) before the average person had access to the written word. Obviously, ideals of beauty have changed since then, as have (thankfully) the roles of women in society – but certain things haven’t changed.  Things such as morals, being a good person, and the idea that love conquers all.  So instead, before we get so riled up, perhaps we should consider that the environments in which the movies are watched – the views and beliefs of the children’s families – might create more of an influence and in turn, define the type of lens their life is viewed under.  In a happy, supportive household with good role models those “negative influences” won’t even be influences – because people will be too busy concentrating on the positive ones to pay negative ones much notice.

Spending energy focusing on it seems to only be making the problem bigger by bringing something into our children’s awareness that they should still be too young to worry about.  I mean, who honestly remembers watching Disney movies as a child and thinking about such stuff?  I certainly grew up on Cinderella and Beauty and The Beast – heck I still watch them today, and I don’t even have kids! – and yet I’ve never once felt as though I was being led to believe I needed to be a pretty damsel in distress in order to get a man to do everything for me for the rest of my life.  (If anything, life has taught me the age old lesson that if you want anything done right, you have to do it yourself…and that men will only complicate the matter.)

Not only that, but it makes me wonder if these folks have actually watched anything from Disney lately.  (Regular readers know that I definitely have.)  If not, check out The Disney Channel’s “Pass the Plate” commercials – where they introduce kids to foods from all around the world. Or their anti-bullying campaigns and their shorts about volunteering – showing ways kids can start giving back to their communities.  During the day their “commercials” show kids helping their parents fold the laundry and do other chores around the house.  Not to mention the fact that as part of the response to the negative feedback they made the new movie, Brave, about a princess who saves herself.  (You can also check out the video below to see their newest “I Am A Princess” campaign.)  If all of that doesn’t go together to show that they’re dedicated to helping the next generation become stronger, more aware, and more responsible, I’m not really sure what does.  Personally, I’m impressed with the effort they’ve made and feel like it’s time to cut them a little slack for things that came out 20+ years ago.

Sometimes I think it’s important that we take a step back every once in a while, and if we do, I think we might just realize that these are entirely adult worries.  We should be thankful they cleaned up the true horrors from the original Grimm Fairy Tales, and accept the fact that with the amount of people there are on this planet, it’s impossible to be politically correct to everyone constantly all the time.

Most of all, be grateful for the fact that no one ruined your childhood by telling you fairy tales are a bad thing (think about that for a second, imagine growing up in a world without fairy tales…I certainly can’t!)

Now go eat some popcorn and sing along with some talking animals.

What did Disney Princesses teach you?  What is your favorite Disney movie?  Has it changed since you were a kid?


28 thoughts on “What Disney Princesses (Actually) Taught Me

    • Thank you! :) It was a fun list to make, actually. I hadn’t really realized about how much I got out of them until I sat down and thought about it.

    • You definitely can’t ignore the fact that the princesses have beauty and privilege of course, and I’m sure that does explain some of their appeal. I mean, in our culture, those are things that people do seem to strive for – but there is certainly more to be gained from them, I think! :) Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  1. This is wonderful post, Andrea! It’s sad that these days people are more willing to focus on the negative aspects and ignore all the positives in the process. If anything, Disney is one of the best at bringing smiles to the faces of people. The picture about Disney marathons is pretty accurate – I’m always cheered up after watching one of their movies.

    My favourite Disney movie to date is Tangled. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rapunzel, and the movie they made was perfect!

    • I completely agree! :) Thank you so much.

      Somehow, I haven’t seen Tangled yet!! I really wanted to catch in theaters but missed it :(

      • Tangled is FANTASTIC! I think there’s some merit to the “woe is me” damsel in distress judgments that are made against the old stories, but I still love them as classics (and whatever — Lion King and Mulan were always my favorite Disney movies as a child!). But Disney has definitely stepped it up with strong heroines lately — Tiana in Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel, Merida in Brave…! I think it’s safe to say the “next gen” of Disney princesses are making up for whatever supposed shortcomings the earlier (and still worthy) princesses had. :)

  2. i agree also, it seems some people just want to be complainers and nitpick a thing till they think of ways to complain about it.

  3. Disney made me dare to dream! Some people had a rotten childhood and want others to experience the same, so they try to get rid of all the happiness and joy and replace it with false images of what someone should be like – (more like them – bitter angry people who do not know how to dream, have no imagination and are closed minded) Great post – well said.

    • That’s how I feel too! It was such a great introduction to fantasy and imagination :)

      And I couldn’t agree more with the rest of your comment. So well put! It’s such a shame that they concentrate on being bitter, instead of hoping for a different experience for the next generation.

  4. Brava, excellent post! Even when Disney’s sensibility was decidedly 1950s white suburban, the basic values–the ones kids pick up on–were those values of honesty and courage and perseverance being true to yourself. Funny how people get caught up in the trappings and miss the real message.

    Favorite Disney? Gotta go with Fantasia. Great images (Disney animation at its very best), a little different from the usual, and it taught me at a very young age that classical music could be very cool. (But, along with Zen A., I really enjoyed Tangled, too!)

    • Right? That’s how I feel as well.

      Fantasia is fantastic! It definitely stands on it’s own as far as the rest of the films go. I remember being mesmerized – and even scared! – by some of the sequences as a child. It really is genius.

  5. Another terrific post. Thank you for your inspiring thoughts. My favorite ‘princesses’ still are Mulan, Pocahontas, and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. And like your other commenters said also, Tangled is an excellent recent release of the powerful female in Disney form.

    • :) I’m glad you like it! Yes, they are great princesses – Pocahontas is fantastic, I was just singing “How high does the sycamore grow, if you cut it down, you’ll neeeeever knoooow!” the other day while I was cleaning the house! Lol

      • That is AMAZING! I too hear in my head (and try to sing along) that amazing line when walking through some of the really tall trees in the forest near my home. I love that song! :)

  6. This is a great post. I took my kids to see Disney on Ice yesterday and they had a blast. Aladdin is probably my favorite Disney movie, and it’s not for the princess lol. It’s hard for me to pick a princess. I love Belle and Cinderella. My favorite bad guy would be Scar from the lion king though.

    • Belle and Cinderella are my favorites as well! Scar is a fantastic bad guy though, I love The Lion King so much…Aladdin is one of the only Disney movies I don’t own, somehow! I remember going to see it in theaters for the first time when I was younger – getting all dressed up with stick-on earrings and doing my hair like Jasmine :P
      Disney on Ice sounds like a ton of fun!!!
      :) Thank you for the comment.

  7. Like, like, like, like! I am a huge Disney fanatic and do NOT like when people bash it with no backup. Those fairy tales from way back were told with the PURPOSE of teaching morals, lessons, values, etc. And really, isn’t watching movies about a little escapism in life. Who wants to watch a movie about their next door neighbours’ every day lives? It’s called entertainment. As thoughtsfromanamericanwoman stated – it challenges us to dream that we can have and be anything. It stimulates our imaginations to believe magic can really exist – in many forms. Princess and the Frog made me very happy – too few talking animals before that. Some of the fantasy was disappearing. GREAT POST!! Better go watch me some Disney now! PS – Brave is Pixar, and while I know Disney owns Pixar, I anticipate they run somewhat independently – and I DO love Pixar. INCREDIBLE!!! Brave was outstanding. :D

  8. Hey, I don’t normally comment on things but I agree with you completely about this. One of my favorite quotes on this goes:
    Cinderella walks on broken glass
    Aurora let a lifetime pass
    Belle fell in love with a hideous beast
    Jasmine married a common beast
    Ariel walked on land for love
    Snow White barely escaped a knife
    Because love means facing your biggest fears.
    That’s what Disney taught me.
    I have multiple favorite Disney movies. My childhood favorite was Lion King. My favorite now a days is between Pocahontas and Beauty and the Beast.
    Disney was always a favorite and it annoys me when people diss on it. So yeah.

    • I love that quote! I’ve never heard it before either, thank you for sharing :) It’s unfortunate when people are too focused on the negative to see all of the positive that can be on the flip side – I’m happy to hear you’ve still managed to hold on to your inner Disney Fan, anyways! I recently found out I’m expecting, and I absolutely cannot wait to bring out my old favorite Disney movies to share with our new little one when the time comes – and I certainly won’t mind when they want to play it over and over and over again ;)

      Thank you for reading and for commenting!

  9. Pingback: “The Curse of Oak Island” – Television’s Most Intriguing Mystery | The Hand-Written Life

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