Friday, September 19, 2014

Disney Princesses--Good or Bad?

Recently my book Promises for God's Princesses was released.

And Tyndale asked me to write a blog post with the theme princesses. No other directions, I could write about anything within that one word topic.

Normally when we hear "princesses," our minds go to the well-known Disney princesses. And I actually thought about writing about the positive lessons they teach. But as I started thinking about that, I started thinking about the negatives, too.

So I didn't write that blog post about the Disney princesses, but I've shared some here. This is mostly an overview of the princesses and I'd love to hear from you on the good and bad of these fair ladies. I'll talk more about those in a future post.

I'm sure you're already familiar with the princesses, how could you be alive and not know them? But in case you've missed some, they are:  (and these are my own interpretations of the stories!!)
Snow White is the original Disney princess, born with skin as white as snow, hair as black as Ebony and lips as red as a rose. She hides from her wicked stepmother in the home of the Seven Dwarfs, happily keeping house for them until she is tricked into eating a poisonous apple. She is naive, but kind, happy and a willing worker. And of course it only take a kiss from a prince to revive her once poisoned.

Cinderella was perhaps the most popular of the princesses for a long time. I think Elsa may have passed her :) Cinderella's widowed father remarries, and Cinderella gets a step mother and two lazy step sisters. When her father dies, she is mistreated by her step mother and sisters, yet she remains kind and gentle, doing the work without complaining and with only the mice and other animals for friends. Her fairy godmother helps her attend the ball where the prince fails in love with her after only a dance. Not knowing her identity, a kingdom-wide search for the owner of a lost glass slipper reunites them.

Aurora, a little naive and a hopeless romantic, is sheltered most her life. When evil Maleficent pronounces a curse on her while she's an infant, she is hidden away to be raised by three good fairies. She falls into a death-like sleep and can be awakened only by true love's kiss. Of course if you've seen the recently released "Maleficent" with Angelina Jolie, you know that isn't the true story at all :)

Ariel is the daughter of King Triton and the youngest of seven sisters. Not content with being a mermaid, she trades her voice for the chance to be human. of course everything goes wrong with this plan, but in the end, King Triton, realizing that Ariel loves Eric, changes her into a human and agrees she can marry Eric. Ariel is quite different than the first three princesses who seem to just go along with the plan. Ariel is independent and willing to take risks to get her dream, but she also has obedience issues.

Belle is one of my favorites because she is true to who she is. She doesn't go with the flow, but embraces her love of books and turns down Gaston who the rest of the girls swoon over due to his good looks. When Belle's father is held in a castle by the beast, she sacrifices her own freedom for his. Although at first she's turned off by the beast's looks, she soon learns to look beyond appearances. She declares her love for him while he is still in beast form, not realizing he's a prince under a spell/curse. I think she's the first Disney princesses who was a commoner who married into royalty.

Jasmine is a strong, confident princess who doesn't want anyone to tell her what to do, including her father. She longs for her independence. She meets Aladdin, who is disguised as a prince, and goes on a ride on a magic carpet--and of course falls in love with Aladdin. After a lot of plotting, and battles between good and evil, Aladdin realizes he can't keep pretending to be who he's not. With the help of a Genie, he gets things worked out and is allowed to marry Princess Jasmine even though he's not royalty. There's a lot of deceit and lying going on in this movie, but of course it all works out in the end.

Jessica and I had a chance to see it on Broadway in NYC last May.

Pocahontas is an adventurer and nature lover who talks to the spirits. She is noble and wise beyond her years. The daughter of a Native American Chief, she meets John Smith in the wilderness and they fall in love. But it's not meant to be. John takes the blame for killing someone he didn't kill in order to protect young Thomas. He's going to be executed, but is saved at the last minute. Just as it looks like everything will turn out okay, he is shot while protecting the chief and John returns to England for medical treatment. And of course the movie wouldn't be the same without the raccoon.

Mulan is different from the other Chinese girls of her time. Although beautiful, she's clumsy and outspoken. She's also brave and loyal. Disguising herself as a boy, she takes her father's place in the army, with an (very small, humorous) ancestral dragon to help her. When Mulan is injured, her true gender is discovered, and she's kicked out of the army. Still, she ends up being the hero in the end, saving China and winning the love of her former commander.

Tiana is a beautiful, hard working young woman living in New Orleans in the '20's who wants to open her own restaurant. When both she and the handsome, but lazy, Prince Naveen are turned into frogs, they set out to find someone who can change them back to humans. That's not as easy as it sounds or it would be a very short movie. But in the end, love prevails and Tiana's dreams all come true proving that hard work and persistence does pay off.

Rapunzel doesn't know her true identity as she lives in a tower with Mother Gothel. And although kept secluded in a tower all her life, she's perky and intelligent, finding ways to amuse herself. When a handsome stranger shows up, Rapunzel finally gets her dream of seeing the floating lights. When she realizes she's the missing princesses, she has a show down with Mother Gothel, and of course takes her place as princess and marries the reformed thief, Flynn/Eugene.

Merida is a refreshing change from some of the earlier princess. Red haired and fiery, she is the only princess not to have a love interest during her movie. Her mother's desire to see her become a proper lady and marry a suitable man clashes with Merida's independent nature and her desire not to be tied down in marriage so young. She would prefer to ride her horse and shoot archery instead. When her mother is turned into bear, Merida has to find a way to break the spell before Mom is mistaken for the bear that tore off the king's leg and is killed for revenge. Working together to get Mom transformed back into a human helps Merida and Mom form a bond and understand each other better. The movie wouldn't be the same without the mischievous brothers.

Elsa and Anna are the newest Disney princesses as Frozen was the first movie to have two princesses, and both are loved and adored. The song "Let it Go" has become the new anthem for today's girls. Although the princesses have a rocky start with Elsa setting off an eternal winter, the sisters eventually find that love is the answer to a frozen heart. Add in a lovable snowman with lots of personality, an ice delivery man named Kristoff and a reindeer named Sven and you have a movie that is a hit with all ages. 

So, this is my list of princesses and my own version of their stories. Some princess are stereotypical and some are spunky. Some do exactly as they're told, others disobey but have a happy ending anyway. They are loving, kind, brave, and sacrificial. But some also have wrong values and wrong means to get what they want.  So the question is, are they positive role models for our girls or not? What positive and negative values do you think they teach?

Who is your favorite princesses and who is your daughter's favorite  princesses? Has that changed as each new movie is released?

I am also posting this on my blog for girls.
If you want books that are good reads for your princess, go back a couple of posts to my list of the best Christian books for preteen girls.


Hevel said...

I think my girls might be the only ones who haven't seen Frozen. Or Tangled. Or any of the Disney Princess movies before Ariel and after Jasmine. Our favourite Disney animated movies are Aladdin, The Lion King, Atlantis, and Cars. It's not that I don't let them watch Disney, we just find better things to watch together. Better for us, not generally better. We have tons of European cartoons and they often do away with the damsel in distress theme, so my girls like those characters better. My niece, however, loves Tangled! :)

Kathy C. said...

They may like Brave which is a bit different.

DragonRider said...

Just a few thoughts
1. Love love love Elsa. By far my favorite. This is the first Disney princess movie that I feel does not have a "true loves kiss" break a spell but sisterly true love.
2. All the princesses range from 14(Snow White)-21 (Elsa). What in the world are girls that young doing chasing boys who are who knows the age.
3. With many of these different princess there are many versions of the stories going around. Like with the tv show "Once Upon a Time" Where they are all trapped in this world in a town that they can't escape.

kayder1996 said...

Too tired and sick to think straight enough to write a decent comment, but I like the topic and your synopsis of each princess. I think it's really just like any other story: you take the good and toss out what you don't like. I personally loved the movie, Aladdin when I was younger. Not sure why. Elsa and Anna would be my new favorites though. Frozen has so many things going for it.

Kathy C. said...

Frozen has a lot of positives and the music is fun too.

val said...

Mu daughter is older but she really loved Frozen. I think all the Disney movies have some positive message but I do agree with you that Belle seems to be the stand out. She did not cave to what others thought she should be doing or be someone she was not just to please others.

Kathy C. said...