I have a question for you, what was your favorite movie growing up? For me this is an easy question, it was The Little Mermaid. This movie allowed my imagination to run wild and I remember endless summers of playing “mermaid” in the pool with my friends. For me, a child of the Disney Renaissance, Disney holds a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to share these movies with my own kids one day. But recently it has come to my attention, that not all parents feel as I do about certain Disney movies. Case in point, Keira Knightley, an actress that got her big break after starring in the Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Currently Keira is promoting her new Disney movie The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. She was recently on The Ellen Show where Ellen asked her about the Disney movies she doesn’t let her three year old daughter watch and this was Keria’s response… “Cinderella, because she waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Recuse yourself, obviously.” and The Little Mermaid, “do not give your voice up for a man.” (Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Keira.)
Ok, let’s start with Cinderella. Cinderella is an orphan who has been forced into indentured servitude by her abusive stepmother. The Prince throws a ball in hopes of finding a queen. Cinderella is banned from going to the ball and because of this her fairy godmother comes to pay her a visit. Now does Cinderella ask her fairy godmother for the Prince to fall in love with her? No, she asked for a new dress and the night off. Once at the ball the Prince falls for her, she didn’t even know he was the prince. Cinderella never waited for the Prince to knock on her door and when she finally finds a way out, her stepmother locks her in the attic almost preventing her one chance at escape. The modern day issue with this movie is that people see Cinderella as passive. She is ultra feminine and we now live in a world where femininity is seen as a weakness. When in Cinderella’s case her femininity makes her tough. Her kindness and optimism allows her to keep going even though she is subject to terrible treatment and abuse by the very people that are supposed to take care of her. Her ability to remain mentally sound and not lose hope makes her strong. Yes, you could look at this as a product of its time and just another story of a man saving a woman, despite the fact that Cinderella had no other option, or you could look at this as the fairy tale that it is. Lastly the situation Cinderella found herself in was not her fault and to suggest that she could have just “recused herself” is victim blaming at its finest. (P.S. It is not weak to ask for or need help. We all need a little help sometimes.)
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, The Little Mermaid was and remains my favorite. Ariel is a teenage mermaid with a dream. She wants to be human. She wanted to be human long before she laid eyes on her prince. She doesn’t let anyone get in the way of her dream. Not her father who told her time and time again that humans were dangerous and not Sebastian who sang her really cool songs. She made up her mind and nothing was going to stop her. She only saw Prince Eric because she was already in love with the human world. To say that she simply gave up her voice for a man is a very simplistic view of this story. Ariel uses Eric as an excuse to fulfill her lifelong dream. The problem with this story is that Ariel is a young teenager who, in an act of rebellion, defied her father. Ariel, like all teenagers, acts before she thinks and therein lies her biggest flaw. She isn’t doing this for Eric, she is doing this for herself. Think about it, while on land does Ariel change her personality for Eric? No, she is completely herself. All she wants to do is explore this new world and Eric falls in love with her. Once Ariel realizes her mistake she tries to save herself. She fights back, but she too, like Cinderella, needs help to truly “rescue herself.” Also The Little Mermaid is one of the only older Disney films where the Prince actually takes time to get to know the girl before he falls in love with her.
These two movies are fairy tales. They are fiction. While yes I agree that some of the plot themes could be problematic in today’s day and age, we must take into account when these movies were released. Kristen Bell, the voice of Princess Anna in the Disney film Frozen, said in an interview that she takes issue with Snow White. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first full feature length animated movie and it was released in 1937. Kristen says that while she does not ban the movie, she talks to her daughters about the issues she sees, such as that you are not allowed to kiss people without their permission. While I think it is good of Kristen to use these stories as learning opportunities, I will just say that Snow White was poisoned with a magic apple she was offered by her step mother in disguise while living uninvited in a cottage with seven little dwarfs. She also would have been stuck in a coma for the rest of her life had said prince not kissed her. It’s not really the story one should look to for real life lessons. Disney isn’t making movies to teach our children how to be productive adults, that’s our job as parents and mentors and friends. Disney is making movies for children’s entertainment. It’s an escape to allow kids to use their imagination before real life takes hold of them. Like it or not, every little girl dreams of being a princess and there is nothing wrong with that. Let kids pretend. I promise they will grow out of it. I was child of Disney. I’ve seen all the movies, even the recent releases. I’ve been to Disney World and I was once Cinderella for Halloween. They did not ruin me. I am 25 and I am not waiting around for a Prince to save me nor would I ever “give up my voice for man.” Despite my interest in the British Royal Family, I never actually believed that I had any real chance of marrying Prince Harry, it is just fun to dream. I didn’t need my parents or society to ban these movies for me to figure out that I live in the real world. Little girls are strong, smart, and capable creatures. They can figure out the difference between reality and fiction. Furthermore, if you want your daughter to be more than a “princess”, model that behavior for her. Ask any little girl what they want to be when they grow up and you know what 9 out of 10 will say? That they want to be just like their mom. Be your child’s role model and they will follow…no matter how tempting it is to run away to Disneyland.
***Speaking of Princesses, Duchess Meghan is pregnant and since we were “invited” to the wedding, we feel personally invested in this child. That is all. God Save the Queen!***
💚 Katie M.