Some of Disney’s princess movies are problematic, but you can still feel good watching them.
I grew up watching Disney princess movies. There’s a reason why these movies are classics. Who doesn’t love a story filled with magic and catchy songs, where good triumphs over evil and where princesses live happily ever after?
During this pandemic, I’ve had to watch these princess movies dozens of times while isolating with my young nieces. Like most kids, they have endless “Why” questions, and I found myself cringing while answering them.
For example, while watching The Little Mermaid, my 4-year old niece asked: “Why is Ariel leaving her family and losing her voice to become human?” I responded, “So she can find Prince Eric,” to which she wisely observed, “But she doesn’t even know him.” EXACTLY.
Let’s be honest. Many of the old-school princess movies — I’m thinking Snow White, Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty — are problematic by today’s standards. Sure, the heroines are smart, kind, brave, and independent. But, these movies also reinforce gender stereotypes, they suggest that you need a man to get your happy ending, and it’s the men that are the heroes who ultimately defeat the bad guy.
I can’t help it. I still love these movies.
But watching them as an adult, my biggest takeaway is no longer the love story. To me, the funniest and most memorable scenes — and most powerful message — come from the animals.
I love how the animal kingdom bands together to save the day. One of my favorite scenes in A Little Mermaid is the song “Kiss the Girl” when Sebastian, the crab, organizes the sea creatures to create an ultra-romantic atmosphere in the lagoon so Eric will kiss Ariel and break the spell. At the end of the movie, the animals join forces again to stop Eric’s wedding to the evil Ursula by wreaking havoc on the ship.