Hey there! This conviction might sound surprising to a lot of people. Disney princesses, or Disney movies in general, have taken vast roots in our pop culture that it infiltrates even our own lives.
So why I, an ordinary mum, would stray away from what is most loved by young kids and adults alike. Perhaps, I just can’t let it go. That there is something wrong with the lessons and messages conveyed by their stories. It started as a hunch, somewhat a kick in the back, that through the years has been matched with my maternal instinct.
Teaching them about Disney princesses may seem harmless. After all, the animations are sophisticated and they’re all pretty, and they have SOME good values. But at our kid’s young and tender age, the abstract and subtle concepts of reality are yet to be learned, exactly the things being undermined in the movies (e.g. why disobey parents who only have good intentions, why run away with a stranger). Those some ‘good values’ taught by the characters, which you can teach in other ways, are so much outweighed by the harm it brings:
The ‘saved by prince charming’ mentality
We want to instil to our daughters values like sound independence, feminine strength, and wisdom. Quite opposite to the moral lessons portrayed by Disney princesses, or if you could call it moral. They overcome their ultimate obstacles by being saved by a prince charming that is handsome, wealthy, robust and all.
‘And they lived happily ever after’ ending of each story
Then after finding the man of their dreams, it always ends with happily ever after. Let us always remind ourselves that marriage is not a bed of roses, it is met with sufferings even in the ordinary daily course of life.
The ‘And they lived happily ever after’ mentality creates an impression that after you found your partner, everything is rose and cheeky. In reality, it is not. It is just the beginning of another joy, happiness, struggles, hardships. It is a mixture of so many emotions, which is called life.
Our happy ending always and only can be found when we are all in heaven, which we have to work hard for as well. Until then, we don’t live happily ever after. I want my children to know that.
The protagonist travels with a stranger on a quest
Anna. Moana. Pocahontas. Rapunzel. What do they have in common? They all had strangers as companions on a ‘quest’. Eh! What happen to stranger danger?
Of course at some point in our lives, we will meet strangers whom we will have strong connections with. But that takes time, and not just on a first meeting. And Rapunzel’s Eugene isn’t exactly the type of guy you’d want to entrust your daughter. Beneath the handsome looks, he is a robber, law escapee, and smooth talker.
Let it go mentality
Yes we all have qualities or ‘gifts’ that can be quite extraordinary, but if it could cause harm, please don’t let it go. Fight it!
Yes, Elsa used it for good in the end. Or did she?
The seven dwarves
Going back to ancient tale, Snow White was orphaned by seven dwarves. But if you know the basic Catholic catechism, each dwarf represents a capital sin: Sloth, Envy, Anger, Lust, Gluttony, Avarice, and Pride.
Another thing, Snow White is empowered by her beauty, the main theme of the story. But what about strength, being wise, and prudent. Why did she willingly eat the apple given by the witch? Why would you eat something that a stranger offers? What happen to stranger danger and not eating what a stranger offers!?
They disobey their parents
Alright, this is the worse part. Parents giving their daughters words of caution are portrayed as authoritarian, controlling, or overprotective. Take the fathers of Ariel, Moana, or Pocahontas for example. They are portrayed as on the wrong side of things, or dumb, or doesn’t know or understand anything.
Parenting is hard enough, and giving cautions in this unpredictable, chaotic, and danger-filled world makes it more difficult with role models like Ariel or Moana. They ventured out into the wild with a goal: to prove their parents wrong. And that’s not a good motivation. For them to be exposed to movies like these are dangerous as they present abstract concepts of life that their young and tender minds cannot process yet. What they can only see are the vibrant cinematography and the idea that it is okay to disobey well-intentioned parents and chase a stranger.
Specifically for Moana, her father was motivated by his fear and past in stopping Moana from going into the oceans. That’s fair. Which father would consent to a child’s doom to danger he once escaped from?
We, parents, only want what’s best for our children. Sometimes, we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong, and we humble ourselves. But all of that is done in the name of love. All of that is done that they don’t get damned!
That is why we are doing what we are doing, right? And more often than not, our family values contradict with the norms of modern society. And it’s hard, especially when they have to go out there, and be part of that world? How do we teach them wisdom and prudence?
If you think raising children is a walk in the park, it is not. And it is made difficult everyday by mainstream media. For example, when we see a photo of Moana going away with a bulky stranger, I have to reiterate the basic reminders: Don’t talk to strangers. And most importantly: Don’t go with strangers. Even the most basic values are being challenged nowadays. Parenting is not for the faint-hearted!
So my daughter recently turned four. At her tender age, she is very receptive and malleable. Everything I taught her at toddlerhood, she knows by heart and I know she’ll bring that into adulthood.
But she doesn’t know the Disney princesses by name. One, because I never taught her. And, two I will never teach her. And even that is hard because Disney princesses are attractive, always smiling, their movies/ trailers have sophisticated animations that are designed to catch kids’ attentions. Their images are on bags, shoes, and wide scale posters on the streets. And eventually, she might get to know them as she grows older from other people. But at home, they are just a mere glance of the eye, not the apple.
So who are their role models? I teach them lives of the heroes of the country, real women of strength, and the saints of the church. Of course, by God’s grace we can only hope that the primary role models every child has will always be good role models: we, the parents. That after everything is said and done, they’d go venture out into the world not to prove that parents are always wrong, but to realize that our words were said for their own sake.