What Little Girls Learn from Disney Princesses

October 26, 2011  |  

From the time I was a year old Cinderella was my favorite Disney princess. This was the Golden Books story version, not the movie.  The way my parents relayed the story, Cinderella and the Prince danced “round and around and around.” For some reason, as a baby, I liked that image.

Then as I got older and started watching the movie I identified with the fact that she was able to escape a very bad situation and live happily ever after.  I wasn’t living in a bad situation but the story was universal. Cinderella made it out and I could respect that.  As a kid that’s all I took from the story.

It wasn’t until I got older, like during my preteen days, that I started to realize my girl Cinderella and all of her Disney princess friends weren’t sending the most realistic messages about life and love. I started to notice that for many of the princesses their entire existence centered around being beautiful and getting a man. That’s what they sang about, dreamed about and in some of their cases, struggled to obtain. You can see what I’m talking about in this illustration below:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be beautiful, finding a man and living happily ever after. As little girls we all wanted to be considered beautiful and live in some fantasy land with our latest elementary school crush. The problem comes in when you focus every fiber of your being on snagging the man. Becoming so consumed with him that  you forget to nurture your passions and talents. The above illustration represents some gross exaggerations. I sincerely doubt little girls were cognizant of these messages. (With the exception of Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” even as a child I recognized the fact that baby girl had to give up everything to get the man). But that’s not the point. As little girls it takes time for us to understand the concept of self fulfillment, balancing a relationship and achieving your own goals. That doesn’t come until much later.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a concept Disney couldn’t utilize in their lucrative movie-making empire to promote. Thankfully, somewhere along the line somebody at Disney realized this.

You want to know how I know? Two words.

Princess Tiana.

Now “The Princess and the Frog” wasn’t perfect but aside from the fact that she was a black woman, Princess Tiana was different from any of the other Disney princesses. Tiana had a dream, an empowering one at that. While she was gifted with the pretty domestic ability of being a good cook, Tiana wanted to own a restaurant. And while the other princesses were working toward getting the man, Tiana was working to get her restaurant. And I mean working hard. I’m not embarrassed to say that I was invested in her character. Watching her work tirelessly only to save a few pennies at the end of the day had me exhausted.

But at the conclusion of the movie what I dug about Tiana’s character was the fact that she brought something to the table. In fact, she had more on the ball than the Prince she would eventually marry. So much so that she taught him a thing or two about work ethic and drive. And he taught her something about taking time to enjoy life. Reciprocal relationships. Now that’s a story I can relate to.

And while little ones might not experience the movie on that level, please believe they notice how hard Princess Tiana worked for her dream and how her work eventually paid off. That’s a lesson little girls need to learn and I’m happy they received that lesson from Disney’s first black princess.

Getting your dream and the man. That’s the perfect definition of “Happily Ever After.”

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