An article popped up in my newsfeed today about Disney Studio's newest Princess. Her name is Sophia and she is a little girl (as opposed to the others who are young women). She is meant to be "a positive and educational role model" for preschool girls (and no doubt sell a lot of toys).
There is also a new Pixar movie coming out over the summer called Brave, featuring Princess Merida, who is a "girl" trying to compete with the boys.
There was a point in time when even my five-year-old son was in a princess frenzy, carrying around his small Princess Peach toy everywhere he went. He has since decided he does not like princesses and has no desire to be a prince.
The article about Sophia made me stop and think. It talks about how hopefully this princess (since she is so young) will do more than sit around and wait for her prince to come.
The battle over whether or not Disney princesses are good or bad role models for young girls is endless ....
"This could go on for several movies, touching on points about racism, cookie-cutter gender roles and absurd resolutions that indirectly tell the audience women are powerless"
"Of course a princess movie is romantic and often ends in a wedding, but that is a genre expectation. Growing up watching Disney need no more make a well-read girl think marriage is the only route to happiness than growing up on Westerns forced me to be a cowboy"
I loved Snow White and Sleeping Beauty when I grew up. Even as a young adult I could watch Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid over and over. I wanted the dream. I wanted to be saved. I admit, I brought my oldest son to see Mulan when he was very young, not because I thought he would be interested in a Chinese war movie .... but because I wanted to see Disney's attempt at a strong female role model. I was disappointed .... not because it was a bad movie, but because it showed women that to be powerful they needed to act more like men. Even the trailer for the new Pixar movie seems to be sending the message that no longer will the princess wait around for a prince to save her, she will act like a man and then be successful on her own.
As an adult I learned that being a princess is not all it is cracked up to be. We learned from Princess Diana that being a princess is not all glitz and glamour. And the recent Princess Kate had premarital counseling to avoid the depressing that Diana dealt with. It makes you realize that perhaps Princess Jasmine from Aladdin was right in leaving the castle to pursue her dreams ..... which do not include being a trophy wife.
My new favorite television show is of course Downton Abbey. These are women that I can see as good role models. Caught between the era of women having no rights or independence, to women wanting and fighting for it. The battle between tradition and social change. And with it all a castle, Lords and Ladies; Dukes and Countesses. In the end our heroine, Lady Mary, gets the boy as well. It has all the romance and feisty ladies all rolled into one - where the men have the power, but the women have the strength.
I was fortunate that I birthed boys. I don't think I would have been a good mother to daughters. They would have been confused as I spouted strong female values .... and still sat down with a big bowl of popcorn to daydream about living in a castle and falling in love with a handsome prince. So instead of raising the next generation of Disney Princesses, I am raising the next generation of Princes. Who (I hope) will value women for what they are instead of what they look like. Who will value independence and free thinking while at the same time showing respect and tenderness. And to those moms who refuse to let their little girls imagine and dream of being a princess I say "lighten up." You can find good role models in the princess realm, as long as you are willing to sit down and talk about it with your little girl about the reality of being a woman.