Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How I Feel About Disney Princesses... and Their Men

When you have a little girl, it is only a matter of time before you amass a collection of Disney Princess paraphernalia that rivals the stack of money that our country owes to China.  Every birthday and Christmas leaves you wondering what items Disney will plaster its princesses on next.  This year, the first Christmas where my daughter was actually able to comprehend receiving and opening presents, was no exception.

Right now, there are no less than four Disney Princess themed items in my home, and they are as follows: a "music box" CD player, a table and chairs set, a vanity, and a ball pit.  These items were received as gifts, and therefore, we are stuck with them.  That sounds bad, I know.  I don't actually mind if my daughter receives Disney Princess gifts, but I do mind the messages that the films convey to her.  So, while she can enjoy the Disney Princess toys that she has received, she may never see the movies that the characters are from, at least not until she's old enough for us to help her decide which messages from the films are important for her to take away.

Here is an image that I found that pretty much sums it all up for me.

This material may be regurgitated for some of you, but I am a semi-new father, and I am just dealing with these issues for the first time, and there are many others out there who are fighting the same battles.  Are these really the messages we want our daughters to receive?

Women are amazing creatures, and I believe that when we teach our daughters the things that are listed above, we limit their capabilities to accomplish greatness.  The messages of the characters also set women against each other, and give comedians like Chris Rock (NSFW) the inspiration for great material like his bit about women ruling the world, "You would think women would rule the world, but they don't. You know why? Because women hate women."

I'm sure that these stories resonate with people because they are fairy tales.  They are fantasy stories that play with the emotions of those watching them.  Is it cruel of me to want to keep my daughter grounded in reality?  Is it wrong to want her to keep her fairy tales in perspective?  I don't know.  But there has to be a way to let her enjoy the fun of Disney films without letting their messages shape her ideals and desires.  Hopefully, she will see my wife as a great example for her and not listen to the frivolous fairy tale messages.

To any of you reading this that thought you were safe with Disney movies just because you have boys, you're not.  Disney movies don't set the best examples for our sons either.  Check out the princes from the same six movies.

Do any of you find yourselves struggling with the messages of certain movies?  How do you handle that with your kids?  When are they old enough to talk about some of the issues listed above?


  1. It seems like I keep finding new things that I will be worried about with my son all the time. I guess that's what I get for becoming a parent. Honestly I never even thought of the messages that these little tales were really giving. I always considered them to be sweet, and I did buy each of my nieces at least one piece of Disney princess paraphernalia this Christmas. I guess it's a good thing my son is only 1 and hasn't seen any of them yet, so I can keep a close eye on it.

  2. Thankfully my daughter is getting past the princess phase. I've already gone through being irritated by the message they teach about being a woman and finding the magic milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard. You will start seeing it in other movies as well because our society is just now growing past some of the female/male stereotypes that gramma and grampa instilled in us (which aren't always bad just sometimes archaeic). There was a time when the only purpose a woman had was to make a man fall in love with her, marry her, impregnate her and then learn how to make beef good.

    Anyway, love the new buttons. That big text like theRealMattDaddy is particularly sexy...

  3. Glad to have found your blog. It's refreshing to see a Dad's perspective, especially when it mirrors my own. I generally don't allow Disney para in my house unless it's a gift and couldn't be helped but definitely not movies. My take has two sides: I'm not actively supporting the company of a man who was a chauvinist bigot and whose toxic legacy didn't deem an African-American princess worthy of being on the big screen until 2009, not to mention the disastrous stereotypes that made us wish we hadn't gotten that AA princess we'd begged for after all *enter: the tip of the iceberg*. Then, of course as a Mom, I underscore everything you said above, although I never considered the negative messages given out by the princes- *very* interesting.

  4. Alright, I'm going to go against popular opinion here. I do agree there is a lot wrong with Disney Princess mega corp., one being how skinny and perfect those girls are; totally unrealistic. But we could pick any show to death. My sisters and I grew up watching Disney princess movies, and I'm perfectly well adjusted. I have no delusions about prince Charming coming to "save me", I am independent enough to do things on my own. I have a 7 year old daughter who watches the movies and adores them as well. As parents we need to be diligent about discussing what our kids watch, and how much they watch. But I certainly don't think by her watching a movie it will shape her opinions on men, self-esteem and relationships. I could if I let it. But children will learn far and away more from the behavior we model as parents. Bottom line is girls like to look pretty. Little girls like to dress-up, wear make-up, sing with choirs of animated talking animals, etc. Even when we get married, it's kinda about the dress. Good post Matt!

  5. We've made it very clear how we feel about the Disney Princess crud. I never say "I refuse to have that stuff in my house, don't buy it for my girls!" but I talk a lot about how dumb it is, just in general, and what a bad message it sends. Luckily my family gets my "subtle" hints and while they may not agree, they know that while I might give in to my southern manners and keep the toy once gifted, my girls' Daddy won't, and he'll just throw it in the trash. (He won't even donate it ... "Why should I give poor kids shitty toys?") So since they don't want their gifts in the dumpster, they look for creative gifts. Luckily my older girl LOVES Elmo so it's pretty easy for the lazy folks to shop for her.

  6. This is such a great post.. thank you for writing it!

  7. It's not just Disney! The sad fact is Hollywood pretty much pollutes ALL of us...my suggestion is to eliminate broadcast/cable TV in the home. At least you have some control if all anyone is watching is DVDs!

  8. @Meg - I wouldn't spend too much time "worrying" as that won't help at all. Instead, just be proactive. Know what your kids are watching and read between the lines. Help them decide what is important. For a great book about how to "lighten up" in your parenting style, check out "Free Range Kids" from your local library.

    @Christina - Can you make beef good? That's hot.

    @Kim HB - Thanks for stopping by! I agree with you on the race issue. Disney clearly caters to middle-class white folks with disposable income to buy all of the crap that they peddle. But there is a very large non-white middle-class that gets totally ignored.

    @Cari - So, you don't actually disagree with me that much? I am definitely for involved parenting with this issue. While I understand that the wedding is a big day for any woman, I do believe our culture pressures young couples to go into debt to have their "dream wedding". Most people know that finances are the #1 arguing point among couples, and maybe that contributes to our higher divorce rates. I believe we should be teaching our kids that the relationship is the important part, not how much we can spend on that perfect day. Our total wedding budget was $5,000, and we had a wonderful day. In fact, we still get compliments from friends who say, "You know what, I really loved your wedding. It was simple and sweet, and I could tell that you guys really love each other." That is what I am hoping to teach my daughter. "Stuff" (prince charmings, wedding dresses, big houses, etc) will never make you happy. Live within your means and take time to enjoy what you earn with those you love, and be sure to share with those less fortunate. Thanks for commenting!

    @Evin - Thanks for commenting. Tell your husband that the poor kids will love any toys they can get. Or just consign them and donate the money to charity. That's just my two cents.

    @Crystal - Thanks!

    @Bruce - I agree Bruce! No cable in our home, and the only shows my child will watch are on PBS. We get a lot of DVDs from our local library too!

  9. I'm a mom to 5, four boys and 1 girl who is 8. Princesses have lost their charm for her over the past couple years but we were eyeball deep in them for about two years.

    Yes, we own most of the movies. Yes, she had dolls, books and various other toys including "dress up" clothes. And at 8 she is spunky, opinionated and can definitely hold her own against any boy.

    The messages in the movies can be interpreted in more than one way. In our house, Cinderella was a platform for discussing how being mean to others isn't acceptable and the "see, mean girls don't win in the end" talk. Beauty & the Beast was her all time favorite and we focused on Belle's love of reading, the unconditional love between a parent and child, that you can't decide what to believe about someone's character based on how they look and that being men who are arrogant and overbearing are bad choices for a relationship.

    The boys watched the movies as well and didn't get the ideas expressed in the cartoon image above. In fact, Aladin is a great example for teaching lying hurts yourself and others. Gaston can be used to teach that girls worth dating/marrying aren't attracted to jerks. The Beast learns that being selfish leads to loneliness while giving of yourself and thinking of others first is the way to make friends and find love.

    In my opinion, the message any movie teaches ultimately lies with the parent. You can choose to focus on the negative aspects, or use the Disney Princesses as a tool to teach qualities you want your child to embrace as important.

    And for the record, we had a beautiful and memorable wedding & recption while staying within our $2500 budget for everything, including my dress. And my first movie experience as a child was Snow White. :)

    This is a great post, Matt! Reading how devoted you are to teaching the important things to your daughter made me smile. I have no doubts that she will grow up to be an amazing woman with strong values no matter what she watches!

  10. You can look at this anyway you want... Grown ups understand the storylines. Some of the messages that you think the stories are presenting are going straight over any kids head. They just see beautiful princesses and princes. I was just talking about this sort of thing with the movie Cars 2. The plot was way too advanced for a kid, they just see spies and guns and blasting. Tell your kids it's nonsense. Don't throw out the toys if they make your kid happy. You start doing that and you turn into bad guys like Jafar and Gaston. See it for what it is, good people and bad people.

  11. What I've found is that determination, communication, and really great alternatives can be victorious even in the Disney-dominated culture in which we live. We are a Disney free home, save for their ownership of ESPN, which pains me. But we don't stop there, because like others have said the Mouse ears get much of the hate but the real problems are far more systemic and widespread.

    The fact is that kids have much more potential and possess so much more originality than multi-national corporations would have them believe. From gender stereotyping to treating them as nothing more than a target market to sell more product and raise another generation of materialistic adults, it is a gross part of our culture that is often overlooked by adults who could spend their money elsewhere and help to break the chains of the commercialization of childhood.

    Be clear, I am not arguing against fantasy and whimsy in childhood. Quite the opposite actually. I am for a free & clear imagination in children; not a watered down, merchandised, and corrupted version of it.

  12. Thank you guys for your comments. I am encouraged to see so many active parents that take a vested interest in the messages that their child is receiving from TV and movies.

    @Jeff - Next time I'm in the Philly area, we're hanging out. Seriously.

  13. I hear ya brother. My 4 year-old is in the midst of princess mania. We didn't introduce them to her. She just found them. And we went along. Her choice, then ours.

    When she first started watching Beauty and the Beast, I asked my wife if she thinks it sends the wrong message. I said here's a woman being kept prisoner by an abusive jerk and she eventually falls in love with him. I thought my wife would agree with me.

    Instead...My wife, strong-willed, type-A, boss and manager said that Belle stands up to him, and eventually brings out the good in him. I hadn't thought about it that way.

    It's all in how you parent during and after the movie. Now I'm going to go and play with my daughter and her new Repunzel baby doll that Santa brought her.

  14. Thanks for the comment! I will keep you in mind when I need advice since your daughter is a few steps ahead of mine. You can help me stay ahead of some of the madness.

  15. My daughter and I have had great discussions about Disney (Cinderella specifically). While I do see your point, we have talked about good vs evil and the importance to choose good over evil and good people for your life. Also that even though people choose to treat you poorly, it is still important to stay true to yourself and be kind.

  16. That is great! Active parenting always wins in the battle of teaching good vs. evil. Thanks for stopping by.



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