For those of who you know me, the following information is not going to be a real "shocker". Whenever I am driving to a destination that takes several hours to get there, I spend the entire trip with my finger on the "search" button on my radio, searching for one song after another to keep me entertained. Well, on this particular trip I was on my way home last weekend, elated at the thought of seeing my family and "getting out of dodge" for the time being. When I simply can't find a song on the radio that I like, I usually make my own music. More often than not, a Disney Princess tune always pops out first. Usually it starts with "Part of Your World" sung by the one and only Little Mermaid, and works it's way through the different "princess" songs.
When I was at Bethel College in Indiana, I wrote a persuasive speech on the effects of the "Disney Princess craze" on young girls, and how that affects them into adulthood. I so badly wished I would have saved that speech, but somehow it got tossed out with all the unwanted papers and folders. Thankfully my convictions and discoveries of the matter remain on the forefront of my mind. Enjoy!
Nearly every little girl's childhood is saturated with some aspect of the "princess" story and/or mentality. As the book "Captivating" by Stasi Eldredge puts it, as females we are wired and designed by God to want to be a princess, be pretty, lovely, but most of all....to want others to tell us and affirm us that we are. As little girls, the affirmer is daddy, but as women, we desire it from the men in our lives. From little on, the American culture has catered to the "Princess and Knight in Shining Armor" mentality. On a deeper level, I believe that something that is God ordained and designed has been unknowingly embraced by culture, and received into the hearts of every little boy and girl. Disney has added picture, color, animation, exciting story lines and beautiful voices to this phenomenon.
Some of my favorite childhood memories was playing "Belle", trying to match my voice as closely to hers as possible. I even remember one time where I so desperately tried to create a pair of fins so I could truly be Ariel, and there was one other time where I wore my mother's old, thin night gown ( which I later learned was her honeymoon nightie!) and somehow propped it over my belly button to imitate the beautiful Jasmine, forcing one of my brothers to be Aladdin and the other to be some kind of an animal. That was years ago, but the truth is, little girls are still doing this and always will. Something about these stories call to the hearts of little girls, and it continues to impress upon these same hearts as adult women.
Let's take the typical "Disney Princess" story. There is a beautiful girl, always portrayed as being talented, beautiful and liked by most. Then there is the handsome man who is usually fighting some kind of battle for his princess, and of course the evil villain whose wickedness
makes the love between the beautiful girl and the handsome man even more beautiful. There are beautiful songs with incredible musical scores, usually birds singing, animals talking, and lets face it, the princess always has amazing hair and a waist that even Jillian Michael's couldn't obtain.
I'm going to start with Cinderella. Poor Cinderella was confined to her home and indentured as a personal servant of her evil step mother and wicked step sisters. This story doesn't have to go very far to brain wash it's young viewers. Think about it. As children, we were taught that any relationship with a "step" in front of the title was either "mean, evil, and/or ugly". Why? Have you SEEN the step mother and step sisters in Disney's "Cinderella"? They ARE ugly, nasty, rude and down right mean spirited. The reality is that many children have step parents, and though some of them certainly can live up to the negative description, a majority of them do not lock their step children in their room so that they can't make it to the ball ( or the slumber party).
Now for the love story. According to the story, Cinderella wasn't allowed to have a life. Her internal and external beauty threatened her step mother and step sisters, but despite that, she continued to work and to dream. Boy did that girl dream! And in her dreams, she would get married to the man of her dreams, and he would take her away from her miserable, confined life. Fast forward to the part of the story where she makes it to the ball. And there, there in a palace filled with beautiful women, the prince fell in love with Cinderella, the most beautiful of them all. He didn't even talk to her or know her name, and BANG! He fell in love. Of course this "love at first sight" was a mutual one, as Cinderella's dreams had the hope of coming true. We all know that they lived happily ever after. No dating, not really any in depth conversation, etc. It was LOVE, and they were meant to be together.
- What does that teach little girls about love and relationships? Ariel and her prince were even worse! All that prince ever had to go off of was her beautiful voice, and for most of their "dating" period, she couldn't even talk! But by george, he was the one for her. Again I ask you, what do stories like this teach little girls? Here's a bullet point list to get you started, and maybe you can add some of your own.
- Evil=ugly and good=beautiful: Likewise, if a woman is not attractive, then she must be mean. Look at the female villains in Disney and other animated movies. The witch from Snow White, Ursula from the Little Mermaid. These women had to be portrayed as ugly, so that the beauty of the heroine could be attached to the concept of being "good".
- More "good=beautiful": As stated in the beginning of this post, all of the princesses are portrayed as being breathtakingly beautiful. Their beauty is a key part in their role of having their prince or significant other rescue and/or pursue them. Their personalities and talents place a close second in these stories.
- Love: You may need to slay a few dragons or kill a sea witch, but you don't really need to spend time to get to know this person that you are in love with...you just KNOW. It is based on the attraction to that person, not on building a foundation for a healthy relationship. Something that takes a little more than 2 hours to develop in the real world, and a lot less sun sets and singing animals to cheer you along.
I can state these things and believe them to be true, but the truth is, these stories will always hold a special place in my heart, as well as the hearts of millions of little girls and grown women, all over the world. The reason is obvious. We desire to be beautiful, we were born to fulfill a role and play a part in an incredible adventure of love, desire, beauty and relationships. It's what we as women were destined for, it's what we ache for. And for the men, they are wired to desire a beauty to fight for, to slay off evil and stand for good. They want their strength to be admired, and they want to hold their princesses in their arms, embracing them and fulfilling their desires of physical affection.
Am I saying that Disney Princesses are evil, and are hindering and brainwashing the impressionable hearts and minds of little girls? Not quite. However, I am stating that it is important to be able to truly separate reality from fantasy at a young age. But, when you think about it, all of these stories affirm deep rooted desires of the heart, so can we truly separate reality from fantasy? I don't know the answer to that question. As Christian men and women, we have the peace of finding our identity in Christ, trusting and believing that He sees and hears those aches of the heart. I don't think any Disney movie story line could top the love that the ultimate Prince has for you and I, His royal subjects; Princes and princesses of His kingdom.