Little girls love Disney princesses. The pretty gowns, the hairstyles, and the overall sense that anything can happen appeals to kids with big imaginations. But there are many moms nowadays who aren't super comfortable with letting their daughters watch the movies that so many people have grown up with.
When I was a kid, I definitely bought into the whole princess thing, and I had an outfit that I kept at my grandparents' house that looked a lot like the yellow dress that Belle wears in Beauty and the Beast. I mostly loved the magical aspect of these stories, though, including the bread and butter flowers in Alice and Wonderland and the overall adorable tone of Snow White. I don't know how my mom felt about princesses; I just know that watching them seemed to be no big deal and just part of my childhood (and my friends watched them, too).
Many moms are concerned about the messages in Disney films, and once their daughters are old enough to want to watch Belle and Cinderella and Aurora, they're not sure what to do. The messages in these movies aren't actually that bad. Here are 20 reasons why moms against vintage Disney princesses should calm down.
Many kids grow up watching Beauty and the Beast, and the story is so popular that it was turned into a live-action film starring Emma Watson. What criticism do some moms have of this movie? They don't like that Belle has a love interest, Gaston. People think that Belle's story shouldn't be about guys at all.
It's actually no big deal, though, because when we think about it, Belle is a feminist. She's a big reader and doesn't care about Gaston. As this mom at Happily Ever Mom puts it, "Belle was probably the most refreshing princess to hit the market when I was a little girl. She loved books, her family, her own interests, and she didn’t have any interest in the man who was practically stalking her, Gaston. She even fell in love with a beast."
Some moms criticize this Disney film because Snow White takes the apple and eats it... which basically means that she's taking food from a stranger.
This is no big deal because it's within the context of a fairy tale and kids are always taught by parents to not take candy (or any other food) from a stranger. Kristen Bell realized that her kids already know that this is wrong: Parents.com quoted her as saying, "Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, 'Don't you think it's weird that Snow White didn't ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?' I say, 'I would never take food from a stranger, would you?'" Her children say no, they wouldn't do that.
At first glance, The Little Mermaid is a fun, innocent-seeming tale. There's singing and a mermaid and kids love it.
People criticize this because Ariel gives up her voice and her life for a man, Eric, that she doesn't even know.
This is actually no big deal because if moms watch this movie critically, they will see that this is a lesson in what not to do. This can be a great conversation starter for following your dreams and not just doing everything for a man. As InStyle says, "There are a lot of positive things that kids can learn from watching these movies — things they should do, like work hard to achieve their dreams, and things they should not do, like take an apple from a sketchy lady they’ve never met."
When some people watch Cinderella, they don't see the pretty gown that the main character wears to the ball or the magic of the carriage and the singing birds. Instead, the main criticism is that Cinderella wanted to rush off the ball with the Prince instead of creating an amazing life on her own. Why did she have to be with a man?
This is actually no big deal because moms can use this story and talk to their daughters about what not to do. They can say that, sure, it's good to fall in love and find a wonderful partner, but you can absolutely follow your dreams and do what you want to do.
If kids want to watch Disney movies, they definitely are interested in The Little Mermaid. The idea of being a mermaid really appeals to young girls.
According to Bustle, Ariel is a much more incredible character than a lot of people give her credit for. While she gets criticized a ton for not having much agency or power and just doing anything and everything for Eric, that's not necessarily the only way to view her.
Instead, moms can see Ariel as someone who totally stands up to Ursula, the villain of the story. She's honestly not concerned about her and knows that she can succeed. That is really awesome, and it's a great lesson for young girls.
The biggest issue that some moms have with Sleeping Beauty is that when the Prince kisses Aurora, she doesn't give her consent.
There's another way to view this scene: in fact, the Prince was just trying to save Aurora's life. As Parent24.com says, "Rather than being a parallel to a kiss taken without consent, the Sleeping Beauty kiss is akin to a paramedic giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to an unconscious person who would most usually want to be revived."
This makes a lot of sense and is a really good way to think about this part of the story and Sleeping Beauty in general.
Instead of thinking that Snow White shouldn't be catering to seven strange men (or any men at all), there is definitely another way to view this popular movie.
When Snow White falls asleep, the seven dwarves find her, and they become friends. They are totally adorable and honestly not a threat at all. Kids would watch this scene and want to be pals with them, too. The dwarves even have really sweet and cute names: Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Dopey, Sneezy, and Bashful. These characters are charming and appealing to children, and there is really nothing to worry about at all here.
Moms spend a lot of time talking to their kids about not trusting strangers and always being mindful of their surroundings. When you send your children off to school, you want to be sure that they know to be careful and to not talk to random people.
Although some moms are worried about their kids watching Snow White, it actually teaches valuable lessons about not trusting strangers.
As a parent wrote on Reddit, "While a lot of those movies have problematic aspects to them, there a positive things to find in the movie as well - don't trust strangers, for example. Read the fine print."
When a little kid watches Cinderella, they think that the main character looks beautiful when she heads off to the ball. They love watching her in her huge gown and they especially love the whole thing with the glass slipper. Even the idea of wearing glass slippers is really magical to children.
Some moms are concerned that Cinderella's message is that you have to dress up and look fancy in order to be pretty. As a parent wrote for Cbc.ca, "I tell them Cinderella doesn’t have to change what she wears to be beautiful." That is a great way to approach this movie and shows that there is nothing to be concerned about here.
Anyone who grew up watching Cinderella definitely remembers one of the major storylines: Cinderella has really mean stepsisters and a mean stepmother. Moms don't love this and don't want their daughters to see this.
But this isn't a big deal, either, because kids know that being mean to their siblings isn't a good idea. If you have more than one child, then you have definitely taught them how to be kind to one another, and watching this movie isn't going to change that. And even if you have one child, they also know how to treat people. Thinking about it this way, moms and kids can enjoy Cinderella for the fun movie that it is.
One criticism of Pocahontas is that she falls for John Smith and that this is yet another example of a woman falling for a man and doing everything for him and giving up her life for him.
Is this really such a big deal? Can't we watch this movie and see that it proves that differences are beautiful and we should be compassionate toward everyone?
As this writer explained in a story for Bustle, "Falling in love with John Smith helps her see that the societal pressures that tell her she needs to be married are the same ones that teach her and others to [be uncomfortable with] people who don't look like them."
As a writer for Tor.com says, the main characters are the fairies, not Aurora, so this is what people should focus on. They say, "Think about it: it is Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather who make all the critical decisions in the film, the ones which drive the action. They are the ones who act with agency, to counteract their antagonist/enemy, Maleficent—who, it must be noted, is also female, and also the only other character in the film whose decisions and actions drive the plot."
When we think about it this way, it seems like a much better, more feminist movie, and it's an easier movie for moms to let their daughters watch. Sleeping Beauty isn't about a damsel in distress, it's about these amazing, wonderful fairies who are in charge.
When a girl watches Aladdin, she loves Jasmine immediately and thinks that she's really pretty. She wears lots of jewelry and has super long hair.
Some moms don't love that Jasmine is beautiful and that this appears to be something that is focused on a lot. But Jasmine is a great character and she has a lot of self-confidence. As Buzzfeed notes, Jasmine says, "I'm not a prize to be won." This is a really great message for kids to see and when we see it from this angle, there is really no reason to be concerned about kids watching Aladdin.
If moms are worried that Belle has a love interest, Gaston, and that this shouldn't be focus of the story, this isn't actually a big deal. In fact, kids can tell that he's a bad guy and that Belle shouldn't be with him.
As this mom wrote for Cbc.ca, "And my five-year-old turned to me when we were watching Beauty and the Beast last week and said, “Mommy, we get it. Gaston is not a nice guy and Belle can say no. Can you stop talking now?” Hearing a kid say that is not only adorable but it's also really good to know that children can tell what kind of person he is.
Some people are concerned that Jasmine's storyline seems to be all about her love for Aladdin. Shouldn't she have dreams of her own? Why is it about the guy in the story?
As Buzzfeed says, Jasmine says that she wants to be someone's wife when she's in love, and she doesn't want an arranged marriage. That is a really good lesson for kids to hear, right? Moms definitely want their daughters to know that getting married when you're in love is a wonderful thing, and that you shouldn't get married or even be in a relationship if you don't actually care about someone.
The main criticism of Pocahontas is the problematic storytelling and how the natives' way of life is threatened by the white English settlers. Some people are also upset that the movie doesn't show what really happened and really glossed over the sad, harsh reality.
A writer for Bustle watched this movie as a kid and saw it a different way: Pocahontas was always going on fun adventures, and she loved that. She wrote, "When I was a little girl, I made my Kindergarten boyfriend (if you can really call him that) play Pocahontas with me. I, of course, would be Pocahontas. He was Meeko. Yeah, the raccoon. When I pretended to be Pocahontas, I didn't want to meet my movie version of John Smith. I wanted to go on my own adventures — just like her."
Disney movies are teaching bad behavior. It's good to remember that these movies are based on fairy tales and at their core, fairy tales are about good and bad.
It's easy for kids to watch a Disney movie and immediately figure out who to root for and who to root against. They will definitely do this without moms even having to intervene, but if moms really want to, of course they can point out the not-so-good characters and start a discussion about it. But if parents are worried about these movies, there are a lot of good parts to focus on, and these movies can be part of a happy childhood for sure.
Moms can focus on how Ariel is a kind person and that she's nice to her friends under the sea. A lot of the movie shows Ariel interacting with other characters, like the crab Sebastian and the fish Flounder. These are lovable characters and kids love them right away.
Moms can also make sure to talk to their kids about these stories and what happens in them. As this parent wrote on Reddit, "It's not about what they watch, it's about what parents teach around that. Movies and TV can impart a lot of information but all of it is parsed through the parents action. You can totally use Little Mermaid to teach good values."
Like the other vintage Disney movies featuring princesses, Pocahontas gets a lot of flak, too, and there are moms who aren't sure about showing this movie to their daughters.
If moms are still worried about Pocahontas, here's something else to focus on: the fact that the title character is a good person who is kind to animals. That's a good message for kids for sure. This movie is really no big deal because kids are going to notice how nice Pocahontas is and her cute raccoon friend and how she sings about the colors of the wind. There is a lot to love in this movie.
As this dad wrote for Jezebel, he and his wife were throwing a Disney-themed birthday party for their daughter. He said, "Whatever she remembers from what we hope will be a blissful day, we trust that playing with a 'real' princess won't narrow her sense of what it means to be a girl."
At the end of the day, moms should see Disney princesses as a fun, light-hearted thing to share with their daughters. They can enjoy the experience of watching these movies together and even throw themed birthday parties if that is what their daughters want. As this dad said, a girl can love Disney princesses and still be strong.