I grew up with princesses. I adored fairy tales and Disney movies, and, as an only child, I was a bit of a princess myself. I also had a single mother who taught me that a woman should be strong and independent. The two ideas don’t mix terribly well, but I ended up embracing my mom’s ideals while still liking the whole princess thing. Disney has pushed their marketing of princess products up a few notches in recent years, and the media hasn’t responded well. I’ve read quite a few articles about how unhealthy the princess obsession is for young girls. It brings to mind the Barbie doll debacle a few years back, when Mattel changed Barbie’s shape because of the body image issues she was cited as having caused. I had tons of Barbies (blonde ones, at that, with lots of pink clothes) and never thought I had to look like her, but according to the non-media support of Barbie’s boob job, plenty of other girls did.
There must have been some other girls that had problems with the princess thing that I didn’t. I’ve certainly met a few kids who took “princess” to heart, being horrible brats because a true princess is Better Than You, but what about the other issues that the movies might cause? What would some girls think about their body image when watching a princess movie? What about their future career prospects? What would they think constituted a healthy romantic relationship? With that in mind, I’ve decided to rewatch most of the biggest princess movies and think about the things a child could learn from them. There are positive and negative messages in all of them, and a lot of different things that a kid could take away. Many have cited the thin female protagonists and always having a romantic plot or subplot, but those are issues with most movies, not just princess ones. I’m interested in the other issues that might come up.
One of the difficulties in this is deciding what, exactly, counts as a “princess movie.” I’ve compiled a list that I think fits best. The first movies added were the main films featuring characters from the Disney Princess line that’s being heavily marketed. This includes some characters that aren’t technically princesses (Mulan) and some that aren’t titular characters (Jasmine), but since they’re being presented as role models to today’s kids, they’re certainly worth reviewing. Despite their introduction of new princesses, I will not be reviewing any of the sequels. I’ve watched most of them before, and if I have to watch Mulan 2 again, I will blow my brains out. Those should never be shown to children, and the quality of role model material there is the least of your worries.
I’ve also included Tinker Bell, both in Peter Pan and her new direct-to-DVD movies, as she’s heavily marketed to children and has been for a while. The list also has some of the Don Bluth musical princess movies of the 90s, but that’s mostly for funsies. I’m on the fence about Disney’s Hercules, Tarzan, Alice in Wonderland, and Robin Hood – while they do have reviewable female characters, I’ve never seen them portrayed as role models. Thoughts? I will be reviewing the movies in order of release. Coming soon: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves!