“Lessons Learned from The Disney Princesses”

These have not been good times for the Disney brand. In fact, were he alive today and cognizant of the brand’s recent setbacks, I’d have to believe that Walt would be angrier than Mickey Mouse in the midst of a worldwide cheese famine.

The latest assault came in the form of a recent survey that says the various Disney “princesses” over the years (Think: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) have been detrimental to the self-image of young girls (I do think some of these researchers need to get a life, btw).

Regardless, here is today’s guest column penned by a self-proclaimed princess, Catharine Cody defending the late Mr. Disney and his veritable harem of cartoon princesses……

As a soon to be 28-year-old woman, I’ve grown up with the Disney princesses. I swam with Ariel as she defied her mermaid-stereotype and became a human. I fell in love with The Beast, just like Belle did, when I saw the person who was behind the face. I slept alongside Sleeping Beauty when she patiently waited for others to help her.

That’s why I’m outraged to see that time.com published the findings of a small survey conducted by Brigham Young University suggesting that idolizing Disney princesses is harmful for young girls.

I still idolize the Disney princesses. Belle read every book she could get her hands on (so do I.) Ariel made a huge leap of faith to achieve happiness (I changed careers from broadcast to PR and have never been happier.) Sleeping Beauty was a patient princess who knew that sometimes, the most important things in life are worth waiting for (I’m patiently waiting for my brother to come home safely from his study abroad program in the Middle East.)

The Disney princesses didn’t harm me, they taught me valuable lessons. Do I wish I was a princess? No, I don’t need to. I AM a princess. Any girl who knows what she wants, educates herself and follows her passion is a princess.

I’m a better person for growing up with my princesses, and I know that if and when I have a daughter I’ll instill the same values in her.

6 thoughts on ““Lessons Learned from The Disney Princesses”

  1. Love this post, Catharine. The Disney princesses are part of stories – and parents should be the storytellers. Even as a boy, I loved watching The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. But the values instilled in my parents are what truly molded me. Now as a parent of a boy and girl, I’m telling them stories and giving them the opportunity to grasp stories on their own, all while showing them what a contemporary, responsible adult of any gender should act like. It’s true that Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are bit outdated – but they should be viewed in the lens of their own time (the 50’s). It surprises me that so many people criticize The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. When they were released in the late 80s/early 90s, many critics loved the fact that they depicted more modern women with broader ideals and the courage to make their own decisions. And that’s the way I view them as well.

  2. Did the researchers actually study how these kids are being parented??? As the daughter of a 12-year-old girl, I was right there along for the ride during her Disney Princess phase. She had a lot of fun with it. But, as a parent, I also made sure she knew that a) the Princesses were fake and b) she didn’t have to adhere to any girlie-girl gender stereotypes. She would play with her Disney Princess toys, and then go outside and throw a baseball.

    People can complain all they want about big brands (Disney, McDonalds, etc.) brainwashing our children. But raising a rational, open-minded human being really comes down to parents doing their jobs.

    • Well said, Matt. The researchers did not study how the kids were being parented, but interestingly, found that Disney Princesses have a POSITIVE impact on boys.

      I agree that parenting plays a huge role in how children should be raised. While my parents let me pretend to be a princess, they also taught me how to play sports (I was MVP of my High School tennis team). Another fun fact about my childhood: I know every single battle fought in the Civil War, but can also recite every line from Gone with the Wind. My dad taught me about the Civil War and my mom introduced me to Rhet Butler and Scarlet O’Hara.

      It just proves that brands don’t instill values in children, parents do.

  3. Thanks Julie. I appreciate your response! I actually grew up watching all of the classic Disney movies, including Snow White. I don’t think this is a generational issue. My blog simply explains why I still idolize the princesses in the Disney movies. I’ve learned lessons from all of them and identify with their character traits (reading, looking beyond the surface, changing environments.) This post has nothing to do with finding a prince, because honestly the princes in every Disney movie are all forgettable.

  4. I think this is a generational thing. The Disney princesses I grew up seeing weren’t as progressive as Elsa and Anna in “Frozen.” Snow White sang “Some Day My Prince Will Come” — and countless others examples like this — reinforcing to young girls that life doesn’t begin or isn’t complete until your Prince arrives. I still like glitter and stardust. I just don’t like the sexism of those early Disney “classics.”