Are Disney Princesses Problematic?

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Snow white

I recently had a chance to sit down with Adam Holz and talk about the comments actresses Kristen Bell and Keira Knightley made about Disney princesses. Those actresses have begun to filter what their children see and hear as it relates to these animated characters and the choices they make. Kristin Bell said that she is trying to teach her two daughters critical thinking skills as it relates to certain aspects of beloved childhood movies.

But not everyone liked what the two stars (who have both been involved with Disney) had to say.

What did we have to say? Click away and find out.

Who wrote this?

Kristin Smith is the most recent addition to the Plugged In team. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. When she's not writing or editing, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, Eddy, and running through Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods. She loves coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan), and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first baby, Judah.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

charitysplace 16 days ago
Interesting that these actresses are admitting that movies may have a detrimental effect on people... and yet when I look at the movies Keira Knightley has done (and I like her, so I've seen most of them)... adultery comes up in almost every other one. I wonder if she ever thinks or talks about the effect movies have on adults, and not just children. ;)
Smitty Fan 18 days ago
Truly the stuff that bothers me the most about the Disney Princess movies is that some of them are based on some evil witch or something cursing the one and the other has to save the other by a kiss or act of true love. (Snow White, Little Mermaid, Princess and the Frog, Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, etc). And then, of course, several of them openly defy their parents, like spoiled brats and yet end up getting their dreams all fulfilled and being heroes as if it was all okay? (Mulan, Little Mermaid, Merida, Moana, etc.) Then the new live-action Beauty and the Beast pushes the gay agenda. And then there are the spirit realms that are portrayed as okay and wholesome, which also bothers me. (Pocahontas, Merida, Mulan, etc. for example.) Truly, it's hard to find a Disney Princess movie I can fully support due to Biblical standards. I can understand certain elements of imagination and fantasy are involved with creating fairytale stories, but I kinda gotta draw the line. I'm going to have kids of my own one day, so gotta be responsible and consider stuff now. Cinderella was obedient to her stepmother, and later her fairy-godmother granted her wishes. Granted, fairy-godmothers aren't real, and can't grant all your wishes, but at least it shows that good children get rewarded. I have to give Cinderella kudos for that. Rapunzel was kidnapped from her real parents so I can forgive her leaving the tower against her mother's wishes. Besides, it's probably considered abusive to lock one's child up in a tower perpetually.
Rocketshipper 20 days ago

I kind of think the comments from the two actresses are reading too much into things.  Cinderella does not just sit and wait to be saved, someone should watch that video that was mentioned by a commenter in one of the other blog posts.  And the whole kissing Snow White without permission?  She didn't really have the ability to give consent, and also...everyone thought she was DEAD, so there's that.  They weren't complete strangers either, Snow White met the prince at the beginning of the movie and clearly liked him.  And if they knew that the kiss had the power to revive her, would that make a difference?  If someone was dying and you could save them with the Heimlich maneuver or CPR, would you wait for them to give you consent first?  If they were unconscious you couldn't get it anyway.  (I know there actually ARE controversies about the issue of consent for life saving maneuvers, but that just seems very silly to me).  Even the little Mermaid thing; I get the comment "don't give up your voice for a man" especially if they are thinking of "voice" as meaning "agency, opinion, identity, control over yourself", but at the same time...doesn't love often involve some kind of sacrifice?  It does feel like a bit of a double standard in that if you have a story where a man sacrifices something important for his relationship with the girl; a career or behavior or what not, it is typically viewed as being romantic, but we are very suspicious of any story in which a woman gives something up for a man, even though *technically* it shouldn't;t be any different.  Maybe it is because men are assumed to have independence and autonomy right from the get go, while a woman is often depicted as having to earn and struggle for her independence and autonomy?


I was disappointed that this vodcast was not actually about the topic of Disney Princesses, but just a general praise about discernment.



Julienne Dy 20 days ago
My problem with Ariel isn't the voice thing.  It's the fact that she spends most of the movie having an attitude problem with her dad and doesn't learn from it. 
Anonymous 21 days ago
Hey, did you know that Kristen Bell plays a Disney Princess too? Yep she plays Princess Anna in Frozen. Yeah, the girl who got engaged to someone she just met that day! Forgive me but I think that Snow White or Belle or Aurora or insert name of Disney Princess here, made smarter choices than Anna did. I mean, Snow White was asleep and thought dead by everyone else, and it was her prince who kissed her, not the other way around. And Belle (1991 version) is my favorite princess role model. She's intelligent, (Gaston can't even read, in case you didn't notice,) she's sacrifices her own chances at happiness for her father, (and don't you give me any grief about that, she chose to do that of her own free will,) and she gives Gaston the boot gently, (and yes again I know that she opened the door and let him fall into the mud, but he had her pressed up against the door, what would you have done?) In conclusion I think that if you have reservations about letting your son(s) or daughter(s) watching Disney movies, watch them with your children and discuss the problematic content with them. -Bunnygirl
Anonymous 21 days ago
First off, I really doubt people as worldly as Kiera Knightly can make decisions that can be classified as "discerning." Now, I don't know what's in her heart, but can a person so...unchanged really be called discerning? Now, I subscribe to the idea of total depravity, probably more excessively than most, so I'm probably more cynical than most of you. Still, I find it odd to praise someone who is more than likely blinded making a decision to say, "these are ideas I don't want you being exposed to."

As for the whole argument about Snow White being kissed, one thing I would also like to point out is that, at the time, everyone believed she was dead. Now, we as the audience knew otherwise, but from the view of the dwarfs and the prince, she was as dead as a door nail. I find it unsettling, but it was at one point acceptable to kiss someone who had died, usually on the forehead or cheek. Looking back on it as an adult, I'd view it as the prince paying his last respects to a love he would never know. Yeah we can argue about them barely knowing each other, but that's another discussion.

I will say as someone who grew up with Disney, the only one I have changed my opinion of is Ariel. For starters, she's an ungrateful little brat who repeatedly disobeys her father (and I would also argue that Triton did nothing wrong by destroying her collection), and she basically sells her soul because she's mad. And yet, we're supposed to be happy she gets her way at the end?

Just my two cents for whatever they're worth.

-Nameless
Julienne Dy 20 days ago
Nice to see someone else who doesn't like Ariel. 
Anonymous 14 days ago
I don't think Ariel is as bad as some people are saying she is, since I think she's ultimately just a land dreamer who's fallen head over heels in love with her prince charming so thus would do anything she can to make her dreams come true, including making that horrible deal with the sea witch. And I for one am gad her father came to his senses at the end and let his daughter be with the man she loves. She may not be my favorite Disney Princess (that would be Snow White with Aurora and Tiana being not far behind) but she's definitely not the worst either (that would be a toss up between Jasmine and Rapunzel in my mind), who are both way more bratty and annoyingly full of bad choices than Ariel ever was.
Anonymous 14 days ago
As you can tell I've never been a huge Aladdin fan in the least, save for Robin Williams brilliant portrayal as the Genie, and Tangled for me has always rubbed me the wrong way.
Julienne Dy 21 days ago
Okay, I am a HUGE Disney princess fangirl.  Granted, I don't like all of them, and I definitely have my favorites.  The Little Mermaid is probably smack in the bottom of my list.  I mean, I liked the songs, but I just can't stand Ariel as a character, and it isn't just the fact that she gave up her voice for a man.  I can't stand the fact that she has an attitude problem.  I mean, Merida had an attitude problem also, but at least, she learned how to meet her mom in the middle.
B Evans 21 days ago
Thank you both so much for not taking the approach I anticipated - "any criticism of Disney Princesses must come from man-eating feminists, etc." An incredibly refreshing departure from my (incorrect) expectations. 
Anonymous 21 days ago
Girls need to be saved by Prince Charmings, that's why princesses exist in the first place. Girls shouldn't have to rescue themselves, no matter what feminists might say.
Anonymous 21 days ago
You are not living in the real world my friend.
 
-Posted by Chuck
B Evans 21 days ago
Princesses exist because monarchies exist.
Anonymous 21 days ago
Despite the somewhat magical connotation of the word "princess" a princess is simply the daughter of a monarch, a close female relative of a monarch or the wife or widow of a prince. Therefore, many princesses have existed before the idea of "Prince Charming".
Anonymous 17 days ago
Call me crazy, but I'll always believe the man should take care of the woman, so for me that's no different than a prince charming coming in to save the day really.
Anonymous 14 days ago
Why is that?
Anonymous 1 days ago
Because men should be the breadwinners in the family, and women shouldn't have to do anything but stay at home and take care of the children.
Anonymous 1 days ago
Unfortunately in this day and age that hardly ever happens which is sad.