Disney Princesses are Bad Role Models

Danny and I were talking about how Disney princesses are all basically dorks and bad role models.

It started when we were talking about Odette from the Swan Princess (yeah I know, it's not technically a DISNEY movie...). When we were engaged, we watched that movie on YouTube. It was really fun, mostly because there are such gaping holes in the plot, the songs are hilarious, and it was a movie from my childhood.

"I just think that movie is funny because they tried to make a smart princess, who isn't just pretty and shallow, but instead they end up with a prince who is completely shallow, and the ONLY good thing about him is that he's handsome," said Danny.

Odette is kind of dumb, even though she has sleeves (unlike most of the others). At first she's ticked because Derek only likes her because she's pretty, so she breaks up with him. And then, she gets captured and expects him to come rescue her. Huh.

Then there's Belle. She's pretty much the biggest snoot of all the princesses. Danny, pretending to be her, said, "Yeah, there's nobody in this town who is as smart or interesting as me!"

Ariel: she is the epitome of teenage drama. "My daddy doesn't ever let me do what I want, so I'm just going to rebel and do it behind his back! He couldn't possibly be thinking of my welfare!" She has a serious case of grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence. And...she's an airhead. Let's face it. Earlier in the movie, she signs her name to the contract with the witch. Danny, "That's probably the first thing the prince asked her once she could talk, 'So...why didn't you just write down your name and that I needed to kiss you to break the spell in the first place?' 'Oh. Yeah. Write it down. Hmm.' "

At least Snow White is nice, likes animals, and is a good mom. "She's TOTALLY the dwarves' mom!" says Danny. [squeaky voice] " 'Wash your hands and clean your room before dinner!' - that's like, twenty minutes of the movie!" Oh wait, there might be something more to motherhood than being good at cleaning and cooking. THAT'S why we don't all just hire nannies, ohhhhh.

Aurora is a bit of a mystery; she doesn't really HAVE a character. Not many people in that movie do, except the fairies (who are the ultimate protagonists if not the namesake of the film - "Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather" just isn't as catchy as "Sleeping Beauty"). She's an innocent girl who's nice to the animals, a bit up in the clouds when it comes to reality, but mostly everything that happens to her is fated. She doesn't choose to be beautiful, or good at singing, or even to prick the spinning wheel (who thought THAT one up?). In fact, besides falling in love with the Prince (which arguably could have been out of her control), she doesn't really do anything the whole movie. Some role model.

Jasmine is a bit tricky. She's upset at her dad, she doesn't naturally fall for Aladdin as a Prince - maybe she's the strong-willed, courageous female Disney character that we've been waiting for? Wait, though - let's think about the first part of the movie. She runs away without any type of preparation or forethought, and then is easily seduced by a (very fair-skinned) Arab street urchin. Aladdin takes her to his pad, and is almost going to start undressing her when the guards come in and actually do end up rescuing her from what would have been a pretty serious problem. And, that's okay?

Mulan and Pocahontas are pretty interesting. They are both non-white, but they don't even have full "Princess status." The only reason that Mulan is able to do great things is because she dresses like a man, and Pocahontas has the proportions of Barbie. Although I loved Mulan, as a child I never incorporated it into my imaginary pretend games the way I did the other traditional princesses (maybe I was too old when it came out?). And personally, I just never really got that much into the story of Pocahontas. Danny (who grew up with three older sisters and also has one younger sister, now age 7) has never even seen the movie. Keep in mind that he knows the lyrics to songs of the other "Disney Animated Classics" just as well or better than me.

Esmeralda from the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Meg from Hercules could be exceptions to the lousy role model trend the other princesses set. Except that Esmerelda is a pole dancer and Meg sold her soul to the devil, neither of them are actually princesses, and they have really odd physical characteristics that always turned me off. Esmerelda's face looks like an old version of Michael Jackson, and Meg's butt is just...incredible. 

Finally, Cinderella, the classic Disney Princess. She is a lot like Snow White because she can cook, clean, and is nice to the animals. She can also sew, which is a very marketable skill in their kingdom Just check out the hideousness of all the dresses at the ball. Why, with Cinderella's style, she could totally start her own line of ball gowns, and probably make a huge profit. But instead she chooses to be submissive and passive. She stays at home where her evil stepmother and ugly daughters (and aptly named cat) subject her to verbal abuse and slave labor.Come on, Cindy, you must be at least 25 (doesn't she look old?) - what are you doing living with your step-mom?

Here is an article that is even more cynical about the situation than I am:

The thing is, I already know that Disney princesses will be part of my little girls' childhoods. I am an upper-middle class American.There is no escape. At least we have about a year to brainstorm possible solutions/approaches.



  1. Kate, I enjoyed your post. I found it as I google searched on why princesses are bad. I am also LDS. My little girl (4) was naturally drawn to the princesses at a young age. I was raised on them and didn't see a problem in this. As the world teaches let them indulge in what they like, but in my views, I feel that there are always limits. On princesses however, my husband is against them and my sister in law. I struggled to get my own opinion of what there really was that was that bad. Lately as I have pondered about it I realize what I want my daughter to do when she grows up. I want her to desire motherhood. I know the best way to accomplish this is to be a good example to her and embrace my role. It is conflicting, I feel, to have other things in her life that girls want to idolize. And I'm sure you've seen that a lot of families really go over board with the princess accessories. What are we teaching? Immodesty is the first thing, then who do they end up marrying, a prince. As unrealistic as this is isn't it hard enough for us to find a worthy spouse to marry with out feeling like he isn't the knight on the white horse. They hold the priesthood, are RM's, come from good homes, hard working, but yet we want to pass and see what else is out there. Sometimes, I feel girls battle with this but don't understand why. Is this another reason why people are waiting so long to get married? As marriage gets pushed back families suffer. As I feel I'm getting a stronger opinion about this topic, I just keep asking myself, is it really that bad? But I keep coming back to is it really that good? What is it teaching? There are enough skewed teachings in our society today that we will have to fight with in teaching our children what is right and the right place to receive answers without fighting with questionable Disney movies and the role models they provide. Not to mention all the great points you made about the evil in the movies which I hate and Mulan being a boy (gender switching), do we really need our kids accepting this as a role model? Oh, and the body images that, I don't feel, promote a healthy love of self image (granted I know moms are going to be the biggest example in this.) If it's possible for you I say chose other examples and cut these princesses out from the beginning. I struggle now with my daughter who still wants more princess stuff and continues to want to watch the movies that I no longer feel are helpful to our families mission. Thanks again for your post. Glad I found it.

  2. Thanks for your comment, that was really nice! You bring up some really interesting points, especially the question of what is the main goal of what we want to teach our kids. I agree, I want my daughter (and soon son!) to grow up wanting to be good spouses and parents. Do all the subtle messages associated with the Disney princess cult really promote that goal? No, not really. Like you, I also wonder, "Well, is it so bad?" But I like your point of asking, "Well, is it so good?"

    I don't think that watching the Disney Animated Classics has the power to corrupt a child; probably since they are such a big part of contemporary American culture, it would be more damaging to censor our kids from them (I'm imagining how the other kids would look on at them in horror in the lunch room, "You've never seen 'Aladdin'!??" - I remember the same types of things happening to me, except it was with 'Hootie and the Blowfish', which I still don't know much about). I think that parents have a much stronger influence on their children than a series of films, which is why I think it's so important for parents to understand the (albeit subtle) negative messages about womanhood that these films portray, and to TALK ABOUT THEM with the kids. It can be a learning experience.

    When the films had messages that are blatantly conflicting with messages from church, like modesty, I think it's totally okay to avoid having it in the house. That's probably why my mom never bought 'The Little Mermaid', now that I think about it. How hard would it be to answer, "Mommy, why can Ariel go around with just some seashells instead of a shirt?" Where would you even begin? "It's okay...as long as you're not doing it!" - that's not really what I want to teach them. When I think about it, this kind of thinking happens a lot when I watch films, especially chick flicks, which are notoriously bad for their immorality.

    I think it would be interesting to analyze what the Disney princesses teach young girls about motherhood. There's so much to say, maybe it deserves its own post, or even a book. Thanks for bringing that up; I suppose I hadn't thought about it very much. And nice to meet you!

  3. Kate, I agree that parents are the main teachers in their children s life. I wish I felt like more parents cared to sit down and talk with their kids but sometimes I think that doesn't happen as much as it should. I personally don't feel that our kids will be missing out if we censor them from these Disney movies. They will eventually learn of them but by then they won't care and won't be influenced by them. I feel that I can create a strong foundation for my kids now that later they will be able to not care so much for the things the world finds important. I want to focus my energy on them growing to love, and look forward to their roles as mothers and fathers. Congratulations on baby #2 they are lots of fun. When are you due? How do you like Houston? My husband served there and would love to live there again. Thanks for commenting back, would love to read more of your thoughts if you decided to post on what princesses teach young girls about motherhood. Thanks~holly

  4. Hey so I know it's been a while since you commented - but I've been doing a lot of thinking in the past few days. Mostly it has to do with reading tons and tons of books written from this one narrow perspective that I don't understand: an a-religious/agnostic person who works for the media, who is in their mid/late thirties and lives in an urban center (usually New York) and writes a memoir about their experiences (usually it's how they became a mother, or something like that).

    It's frustrating that all the books I am attracted to seem to come from this one point of view which I frankly don't share. The TOPICS they choose to write on usually fascinate me, but I am a religious, stay home mom - append: NEW stay at home mom - in my early twenties living in the suburbs. WHERE ARE THE BOOKS WRITTEN FROM THIS POINT OF VIEW?!? Sorry, I didn't mean to scream that. It's just been SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO frustrating. I'm looking for a memoir-type book from this point of view. And I haven't been able to find it at all. I'll keep looking. It would be especially nice if the author were religious.

    But what does this have to do with your comment? Okay so my husband says, "Why don't YOU write that book?" and I said, "Yeah." thinking, "Yeah right." But it sparked an idea.

    But what on earth would I even write about?

    And so that is where your comment came in. I remembered thinking, "Hey, this topic deserves another blog post. Heck, it could even be a book."

    When I looked at my blog counter recently, I discovered that the number one read page of my blog is the "Disneys are Bad Role Models" essay. It's also the number one random referrer to my blog, i.e. people google "Disney Princesses bad role models" and my blog is the fifth or sixth hit! Wow.

    So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, you inspired me to start a book project. I will let you know how it's going. PS I would really really enjoy reading your blog, but I don't know how to get there! Clicking "Edwin and Holly" just takes me to your profile, and I can't see the name of your blog. You've asked some really nice questions, and I'd like to respond, but it seems really classless to write via comments on my own blog, like I'm doing now, hehe.

  5. Kate, to warn you I have no where near your talent for writing and my blog is just a pictures/update what we do on a daily basis but you are welcome to enjoy what I've blogged about. Not a whole lot of thought provoking ideas like you have on your, which I've really enjoyed, thanks. It's Edwinhollywilde.blogspot.com. I am recently converted to the idea that I'm not into the princess thing but I've had a difficult time getting them out of our house, my parents don't understand and they buy her lots of thing. It's a pain and I haven't faced it yet but would like to eventually. Thanks again for this post. I did like it when I googled it.~holly wilde

  6. Good luck on your book that's an awesome goal!


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