Before I had kids I was pretty enthusiastic (to the point of being belligerent) about never giving in to their demands for up-to-trend Disney toys, especially princesses. Princesses, I decided, were a symbol of centuries of men turning girls into stupid, weak and completely dependent little porcelain pets. Little girls, no older than 16 in most cases, ushered promptly into the arms of powerful, marginally pedophile royalty. Not that for my daughters! No! My children should only play with good, solid, wooden, organic, gender-neutral, educational toys.
Then my first daughter Olivia turned 2 and spotted her very first Princess in the window of a toy shop. It was Belle, with her chocolate hair and golden dress, holding a blood red rose there she stood inside that pretty box with the see-through panel. Olivia tossed her wooden block and had to have her.
The other thing I wasn’t prepared for before having Olivia was that the joy of fulfilling her fantastical desires far outweigh my values (read: prejudices). I want her to know that she has the power to manifest the aspects, tangible or not, that she desires in her life. Right now she desires Princesses.
To my huge surprise, I bought her the Belle doll. And since then she’s been hooked. She has all the Princesses now, and all the villains too. But it’s not the pretty dresses and the tiaras she loves. It’s the stories! Adventures, journeys, conflict and trouble. Witches’ spells and brave quests to rescue the victim (and yes, sometimes the victim is a stupid and weak girl, but sometimes it’s the butcher, the witch’s pet stingray, or a banana).
Above is my Olivia in the depths of one of her Princess stories. Snow White had recently perished after falling in a pool of slime. Her funeral was attended by Van Helsing, Sophia The First, Maleficent, Anna and a Barbie priest.
Upon closer examination, I discovered how foolish and egotistical I had been in my judgment of the Disney Princesses. If my girls grow up to share some of the qualities of Belle, Cinderella, Ariel and the gang, then I will class myself a hugely successful mother. Here’s why:
Belle rejected societal pressures to marry the man most likely to fulfill the arbitrarily chosen measures of success. Instead she emphasized her own intellectual pursuits, until she fell in love with a man who was marginalized and rejected by society because of his deformity of body and mind. She showed great integrity and strength in standing up for him when under pressures from popular opinion, an act and attitude which ultimately transformed him and uplifted both her and the community they lived in.
She saved China from the oppression of the Mongols to uphold her father’s honor. Enough said.
Despite years of neglect, Cinderella maintained her belief in the innate good in people. She displayed compassion, patience and kindness throughout her lifetime of abuse, which kept her in the vibration of divine grace. By the Law of Attraction, this eventually manifested the love of her life. It is incredibly hard to believe yourself lovable when you have been shown time and time again that you’re worthless, so to have been able to keep her connection with her higher self and nurture self-love until she attracted someone to reflect that is an extremely admirable quality.
This young princess believed so strongly in her right to determine her own fate that she went against the will of her parents and publicly rejected the tradition of arranged marriage. She showed incredible courage, not only in standing up for her own divine right to freedom, but in her actions to rectify the damage caused to her relationship with her mother as a result of her rebellion.
As a black woman in New Orleans in the 1920s, Tiana adopted the “work hard for your money” mentality. Although it’s always admirable when a woman sees herself as the source of a bright future instead of seeking good luck, better breaks, wealthy husband type cheats, it’s even more admirable in my eyes when she is open to the lesson that good fun and joy comes first. It is tempting to say a woman should work work work for her career, but unless she is spiritually fulfilled she’s nothing more than a factory cog.
The young Powhatan Indian in the early 1600’s demonstrated that love transcends cultural boundaries. Her understanding of Spirit and the collective consciousness is so beautiful I still burst into tears whenever I hear “Colors of the Wind”.
Nurturing, gentle and motherly characteristics are rarely championed in women these days, I think. Yet there is little that is so close to a woman’s true nature as the divine Mary aspect of her soul. Snow White portrayed such a soft strength with her sweet kindness and compassion, and still she had that unparalleled maternal quality of being stern in her soft-spokenness.
I’ve always encouraged curiosity and adventure, and my daughters know to look for their own Truth beyond the walls of our home (and by “home” I also mean the doctrines and values that are important to their father and I). Jasmine shows the confidence and open-mindedness to look for meaning in cultural settings “beneath” her station.
Aurora is perhaps the most passive of the Disney Princesses, but I am reminded by her that there is a space in this world and a time in our life for just being feminine and graceful.
She’s a stinker – she represents to me the rebellious teenage coming-of-age defiance that is imperative to all young girls at one stage or another. She openly defies her father over some petty thing and displays absolutely terrible decision-making. I’ve been there. Learned a lot. Wouldn’t change it for the world.
Maybe my favorite Princess, Rapunzel is whip smart, brave and yet there’s an aire of imperfection, like she has a lot of growing to do. She’s almost clumsy in her emotional control and she floats between being firm in her ambition, to wavering in insecurity, then finding her conviction again. She has no idea who she really is but is called by a knowing deep inside that she is more than what she knows – she is greater than the tower that has contained her and the woman her mother has raised her to be. Pow. Punches me right in the mother organ.
So I changed my mind about the Disney Princesses when I saw how my Olivia interacted with them. I saw that my judgment of them was as shallow as anyone’s judgment may be of my daughters, for the facets of each other that we experience are to us what we perceive them to be. I choose to show my daughters the uplifting characteristics in every person, real or fictional, that has an impression on them.
Elizabeth is a mom, author, minister of metaphysics, and reluctant bureaucrat. Her comic fantasy novel “Ascension Denied” is set in purgatory but is nonetheless available to the living, now, online, at all major retailers. Stay in touch through: