I saw the new Cinderella movie, and Lily James perfectly portrayed the beloved princess of Disney royalty. (Go, Lady Rose!) But what surprised me the most about this movie, was its ability to remind me of the sentiments I used to have for Disney princesses as a child. Sentiments that were tainted by controversy and pragmatism long ago.
Adults have spent a lot of time debating over what a Disney princess should mean/say/be to little girls, and the messages these princesses are sending. (Specifically the princesses before Mulan.) But as I sat there in the theater, feeling like my seven year old self again, I began to recall that all these messages adults spend so much time worrying about, never crossed my mind as a kid. And the messages I did receive as a child, and now a revisiting as an adult, made me realize that these ladies deserve more credit than they’ve been given.
“A Part of Your World”
As a child, I fantasized about being a Disney princess like how grown women fantasize about what it would be like to be Carrie Bradshaw. What that means is “I want to be my perception of who I think you are” kind of you. It’s an idealized and fantastical version of what a little girl thinks it would be like to be a princess, because as a kid, you fill in the gaps with creativity, not practicality. Truly, as adults, every time we watch a movie, a T.V. show or read a book, we rely on the art of creativity, not practicality. Disney princesses are just caricatures of what it’s like to be a princess—they are a part of the pretend world children like to play in.
“Be Our Guest”
“Be kind and courageous:” The final piece of advice given by Cinderella’s mother, but all the Disney princesses were kind–not just to animals, but to their enemies too. We talk about how “weak” these women are, because of their dependency on men, but it takes a lot of strength to be kind to your enemies. Personally, this maybe one of the most admirable of lessons I didn’t learn as a child, but am reminded of as an adult. It’s almost like all the Disney princesses secretly believed in karma. Somehow they knew that eventually, the scales would tip in their favor. And, they always did.
“I’m Almost There”
When I was young, I did recall feeling what I can only now term as a sense of admiration for the resiliency these princesses had. Every single one of them managed to remain positive, even when life was consistently complicated and crappy. And even if for a second, they almost gave up. No matter what, they kept on believing things would get better. I still feel this way about life, regardless of how bad things are, I am hopelessly optimistic. I’d like to think it was because of these ladies.
“So This is Love”
We discuss them for their lack of interests other than men and their ridiculous conclusions on what love must be like, but are not most movies and books geared toward women equally ridiculous, and set unrealistic standards for love and relationships? (Every Nicholas Sparks book/movie ever.) I can’t personally count on one hand all the times a man has declared his epiphany of love for me in the rain. Yes, Amy Adams accurately epitomized the naivety and aloofness of these women in Enchanted. But just because some of these women happened to find their way out by falling in love, doesn’t make them feeble. It just makes them seem more human.
“I See The Light”
The bigger question we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether or not these women are good role models for little girls. The bigger question is this: At what point does a fictional story need to be realistic? The whole point of storytelling is to indulge the recipient in a world of heightened imagination and creativity, not practicality.
“Let It Go”
At the end of the day, these princesses are just stories. To eliminate any fabrication is to eliminate a world of fantasy and pretend–a world that children thrive in. So maybe we should just stop nit picking at these wonderful ladies and just let them be what they were meant to be—entertainment for the imagination. Because there is no such thing as a perfect role model, and to believe that anyone or anything could be is the most incorrect message sent to all.