A couple nights ago, my wife, my eldest daughter and I sat down to watch Disney’s live action version of Cinderella. Of course my daughter, being 12, loved it. (My younger two kids decided it would be more fun to go play together in another room. They didn’t break anything, so I figured the night was a success.)
Myself? I wasn’t terribly fond of the movie. But then again, I’ve never been terribly fond of the story of Cinderella, anyway. That’s because Cinderella is an extremely passive character. Throughout the entire story, she spends most of her time reacting to what’s happening around her, rather than actually trying to do something to change her circumstances. No matter which version you read, she typically only makes two choices – to go to a party, and to say yes to the prince. And that last point can be debatable, depending on the version. After all, he is the prince. If the choice is to get married or spend the rest of your days locked in a dungeon, what are you going to do?
In my opinion, Cinderella is a terrible princess for young girls to model themselves after. It presents the idea that, no matter how rough life gets, just wait and eventually a prince will come along and sweep you off your feet.
News flash, ladies – there are only so many princes in this world, and out of those princes, most aren’t looking for love. Or are handsome. And if there is a handsome, eligible prince out there, unless you’re working hard at looking good, there’s an excellent chance he’s not sweeping you up off your feet.
In terms of Disney princesses, there are many others that are much better models to emulate. One of the first that comes to mind would be Mulan.
Here we have a character who defies social norms to do what she believes is right – protecting her family. She’s willing to risk her honor and her life in order to defend her country and to prevent her crippled father from basically committing suicide. The Disney movie definitely plays with gender roles, but in a positive way. Sure, people may have different roles because of their genders, but that shouldn’t stop them from doing what’s right.
Another great example would be Merida from Pixar’s Brave.
Yes, due to her short temper and her stubbornness, most of Merida’s troubles are self-inflicted. But she also shows a willingness to learn from her mistakes and tries hard to atone for them. She changes over the course of the movie, mainly because of her experiences. And she doesn’t have to rely on a prince to bail her out of trouble (yes, I’m looking at you, Ariel and Aurora. Come on, ladies – step it up!)
So if my daughter – either one of them – is interested in trying to model herself after a Disney princess, I certainly hope it’s a more dynamic one. A princess who is willing to step out of the “damsel in distress” role and go make something of herself. In other words, not Cinderella. Yes, she may make mistakes. But if she’s willing to learn from them, then it’s for the best.
But I feel pretty good about my eldest daughter. She has expressed some interest in learning how to use a bow. That could be partially inspired by her recent discovery – and love – of the Hunger Games novels, too. Then again, Katniss was motivated by a desire to protect her family as well, now that I think about it.
I think my daughter has chosen well.