Many people often criticize Disney for planting unrealistic images in the heads of children about appearance, love, friendship and everything else. Personally, I think that it is more important what parents teach their kids so they know that a movie is just a movie and should not be taken too seriously. I am a huge Disney fan. I would even say that I am a fanatic. I dedicate a lot of time and money to Disney and it has always been an important part of my life. I collect all the movies, I have a ton of merchandize and my collection is constantly growing. I even took a Disney class at university and I also wrote my BA thesis and several papers about the franchise. My thesis focussed on Disney Princesses and pointed out that not everything depicted on-screen conveys a negative image to young girls. I had good arguments and evidence, but my teacher wasn’t a fan of my concept, since she simply had the same opinion as everyone. I guess it’s always hard to prove something opposite of the general opinion. I still think that there is a lot of good in these movies and here is a list of 12 things I learned from Disney Princesses.
1. Whistle while you work
Ever since I heard Snow White sing this wonderful song, while cleaning the whole house, I find housework much less annoying. Everything works better with music. I may not whistle but I sure put on a good song and sing. Usually, I prefer 90s music because it really get’s me going. So when you hear the Backstreet Boys or the Spice Girls blasting from my room, you know that I’m in cleaning mode.
2. You can be pretty and intelligent
Out of all the princesses, Belle is my absolute favorite. She is pretty, she is kind and she loves to read. Learning about how she indulges herself in written stories always reminds me of myself. There is a known stereotype that declares beautiful women as stupid, which is complete nonsense and no girl in the world should think that she is one or another, but that she is both. I do think that reading makes you smarter and being a bookworm is totally cool. Also, the way that many other Princesses act within their movies show a lot of intelligence and smart thinking. Without that, for example Mulan, Tiana or Pocahontas would not have gotten as far as they did.
3. There is nothing more important than family
What I liked most about the movie Frozen is the strong connection that Anna feels toward Elsa, despite the fact that they did not spend a lot of time with each other growing up. Even after Elsa fails to control herself any longer and leaves her whole life behind, including her sister, Anna does whatever she can to find her and get her back. In the end, it is the strong bond of sisterhood that prevents Anna from dying and yes, I had tears in my eyes.
4. It takes courage and determination to make a change for others and/or yourself
It is never a nice feeling when someone underestimates you or tries to tell you what you can and can’t do. Especially for girls, it is frustrating to constantly be declared as the weak sex and to hear that we can’t do what men can and that all around the world, people still try to force us to do things that we don’t want to do. Some of the Disney Princesses give great examples of how empowering it is to stand up for yourself and that you can do and be, whatever you want to be. Mulan pretends to be a boy and joins the army to protect her father and proves that she can keep up with any male figure and ultimately, she saves everyone by using her strength and her brain. Pocahontas won’t let her father tell her who to marry and with her strong will-power, she manages to create peace between the Native Americans and the white settlers. Princess Jasmine ends up marrying a poor boy from the street who earned her father’s respect, which is definitely not in the book for princesses. They believed in something and were determined to prove others wrong and to achieve their goal.
5. You don’t need a man to save the day
As a woman of the 21st century, I adore Pocahontas for staying with her people, even though that means to say goodbye to her lover. She sacrifices her feelings and choses to become the leader of her tribe and not the woman of someone from another world. Personally, I think that the end of this movie is one of the most powerful messages of all Disney movies.
6. Do not be afraid of new adventures
I admit that I was often afraid of new adventures. I’m am definitely not spontaneous and I like do know what I’m getting myself into. But since 2014, I’ve been working on it because life is too short to be afraid of new and exciting things. I admire Jasmine for going against herself and giving a stranger a chance, who takes her on a magic carpet ride and wins her heart. (I’m not saying that you should run off with a stranger!) I love when Cinderella attends the ball, without knowing what is going to happen. And of course Ariel, who trades in her voice for legs because she wants to explore the world above the sea. Sometimes, you just have to take risks and often, you will be rewarded.
7. Animals are your best friends
In pretty much every Disney movies animals play an important role. They are loyal companions through thick and thin and faithfully support their owner in every situation. Cinderella has the best animal friends of all. Birds, mice, a dog, a horse and they all help her through pretty rough times. Of course, we don’t have mice in our lives who can sew a dress, but what is important to notice is that with an animal by your side, you always have a faithful friend right next to you. If you ever had a pet, you know how wonderful the connection feels and how you enjoy coming home to someone who is impatiently waiting for you. Always treat animals like you want to be treated yourself and you’ll have a friend for life.
8. Never judge a book by it’s cover
We live in a shallow world where everybody is judged based on looks and we often forget that there is more to a person. It doesn’t matter where you are from, how you look, what you are wearing, what skin color you have, you deserve a chance. Belle showed us all by learning to love the Beast for what is on his inside and Pocahontas sure taught John Smith and all of us a lesson.
9. Fitting in is for boring people
Fitting in was never part of my lifestyle. I always had a thing for standing out and I really think that everyone should be true to themselves, no matter what others say or think. Merida and Mulan are awesome examples for little girls because of their bravery and the fact that they fight against conventions. Mulan does not want to be a pretty geisha housewife and Merida is not interested in forced marriage. Both of them have a strong character and they embrace their uniqueness. These characters also show that it takes a while to figure out who you are and who you want to be and that this is a normal process when you’re growing up.
10. Follow your dreams
This is one of the most important lessons that anyone can learn. We all have ideas, hopes and dreams but we’re often afraid to pursue them. If Disney Princesses show one thing it is determination to get what they want to. Pocahontas wants to make her own decisions and create peace between the Native Americans and the white settlers. She hears an inner voice that tells her something great is going to happen and that she should follow her heart because it will guide her toward the rigth path. Ariel wants to live above the sea. Tiana wants her own restaurant. Cinderella wants to go to the ball and meet the prince. They all succeed because they do whatever it takes to get there.
11. You have to work hard to achieve your goal
Tiana was the first Princess to have an actual job, even after marrying a prince. All her life, she wanted to open up her own restaurant and she works as hard as she can to reach her goal. She is an inspiration and shows that you don’t need a man to fulfill your dreams and that you don’t have to give them up for one, as well.
12. Embrace diversity
Taking all Disney Princesses into account, it is visible that Disney tries to present diversity. While the early princesses where all white, the depiction has changed a lot, over the years. Pocahontas is Native American, Mulan is Asian, Jasmine is from the Orient, Tiana is African-American and hopefully, many more ethnicities will follow. Also the modern-day princesses look more their age and are easier for little girls to identify with.