Well hello fellow readers, 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. Ariel and her insane adventure allowed my imagination to run wild. I wanted to be a mermaid and live under the sea. I’ll admit that being a mermaid still sounds like a solid idea, they probably don’t pay taxes down there. 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. First of all Disney’s Cinderella came out in 1950. The Second Wave Feminist movement had not yet taken place, we are only five years removed from the end of the Second World War, and it is the height of the baby boom. Women could not open a bank account without their father or husband’s approval. Women were banned from attending the military academies and ivy league schools. Women couldn’t run in the Boston marathon. And it was completely legal to fire a woman for being pregnant. Considering this was the world that women were living in, Cinderella is a fairly strong character. Cinderella is an orphan who has been forced into indentured servitude by her abusive stepmother (wow, marrying a prince is the least of the issues with this movie). 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. Cinderella never waited for the Prince to knock on her door and when she tried to escape her stepmother locked her in the attic. It was Cinderella who got herself out of that attic. When the Prince finally learned the truth, did he turn away from her because of her background? No, he loved her regardless. 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. The unlikely love story of two people who despite their backgrounds lived happily ever after. (P.S. It is not weak to ask for or need help to get out of an impossible situation. We all need a little help sometimes.)
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, The Little Mermaid is my favorite. Ariel has a dream. She wants to be human. She wanted to be human long before she laid eyes on her prince. She didn’t let anyone get in the way of her dreams. 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. While you can look at her as giving up her voice for a prince, you could also look at it as a young teenager who, in an act of rebellion, defied her father to live out her dream after he destroyed her grotto. 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, with the help of Eric, fights back. In the end, Ariel finally has her wish granted when she gets to live on land. If there is any criticism you could give to Ariel, it is that she is an annoying teenager who acts before she thinks.
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. I know that marrying a Prince is less likely than winning the lottery. I didn’t need my parents or society to ban these movies for me to figure that out. 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. My mom worked harder and was stronger than any other person in the world and no matter how glamorous Cinderella was or how pretty Ariel’s hair was, they were never as cool as my 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!***