Monday, October 21, 2013

Princess Pride

With Halloween on the horizon, it's time to turn our thoughts to who or what our children will transform themselves into for the myriad of parties they will be attending and, of course--the happy culmination of the harvest festivities-- trick or treating.

Dutiful parents (and by parents I mean moms) buy, sew or assemble costumes of all kinds. They range from the impossibly cute to the horribly gruesome. 
Pirates. Pumpkins. Zombies. Mummies. Presidents. Vampires. Ghosts. Angels. Hippies. Unicorns. Witches.

And let us not forget the ubiquitous blood-covered psychotic killer.

Then there is the princess. The Disney Princess is  generally the princess costume of choice and they are readily available for purchase wherever Halloween costumes are sold. I have two daughters with thirty-one Halloween costumes between them. Of those costumes, they have been one or another Disney Princess seven times. 

I should mention that I also have a nineteen year-old son. But--so far-- he hasn't opted to be a Disney Princess at Halloween or any other time.  He does get along with the DPs, though. He especially hit it off with Ariel during his last visit to Walt Disney World. There were sparks flying in the Grotto.

I hasten to add that his father and I would be accepting of any costume choice he  were to make.

My reason for bringing up the princess Halloween costume is that I am confused and --frankly--upset by a trend I see among my friends and acquaintances. That is the uncalled for bashing of the Disney Princess.

Women who have little problem with their daughters pretending to be  a witch, a vampire or a pirate actively discourage dressing up as a princess. 

I want to know why. So, I've asked.  Each answer I've received can be boiled down to this, "I don't want my daughter to feel as though she needs a man to rescue her."

Really?! You think that the princesses in Disney movies are sitting around on a silk cushion waiting for a man to save them? I'm going to guess that these well-meaning moms haven't seen a Disney Princess movie from the last 25 years. 

I am an unapologetic Disney Princess-phile. My daughters (and my son) have seen every DP movie. Every DP movie made has a place on our shelf. The old, the new and the in-between. The Disney Princess approaches icon status in my home. I can assure you--and my daughters will tell you--that I have absolutely not brought them up to believe they need a man to rescue them from the possibility of a not-so-happily-ever-after. Not my daughters. They've been taught to make their own choices, paddle their own canoes, work for their own dreams, and never settle for any man who doesn't deserve them.

And it was the Disney Princesses who taught them. 
And me, of course. And maybe their dad... a little.

I can only assume that the anti-princess moms see the princesses as victims of DIDS (Damsel in Distress Syndrome). A common and unfortunate fallacy.

Sure, Cinderella wasn't the best example of self-reliance. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were perhaps the paradigm of the sit-around-and-wait-for-a-man-to-rescue-me princess. They were also from another era. An era when women rarely wore pants in public or worked outside the home, let alone found some way to extricate themselves from a self-inflicted comatose state.

The Disney Princess of  the millennial generation is a shining example of all that is good in the world of girlhood. If, by some truly unimaginable chance, you are not acquainted with these lovely and laudable (albeit animated) heroines let me introduce them.

Pocahontas. A devoted environmentalist. Believes that there might be better things in store for her than marrying the guy everyone thinks she should (a common value among the modern DP). Doesn't let anyone badmouth her peeps...not even the really hot guy with the sexy accent who she's obviously very in to. Fights against injustice. Risks her life to save aforementioned hot guy. Definitely does not suffer from DIDS. The only princess who, to my recollection, doesn't end up with the hot guy. A bit of a letdown to my view, but at least it means Disney wasn't willing to rewrite history...not much at least. Not sure how historically accurate the talking willow tree was. But you get the point.

Mulan. Not technically a DP, certainly has the right stuff to be. She doesn't want to compromise who she is to land a husband. Fabulous lesson. Yet, she is willing to disguise herself, leave home, endure hardship and risk life and limb to protect her father and save her country. No hint of DIDS there. She gets the hot guy, whom she saves by the way, not the other way around. Two princesses, two hot guys saved. Anyone sense a trend?

Jasmine.  She's absolutely not going to get married just for the sake of getting married. Really, if there were one unshakable thought I could put in my daughters' heads, that would be it. Don't get married until and if you find the guy -hot or not- you want to be with. Schools should teach that lesson. But they don't. Luckily, we have the Disney Princess.

Tiana. Work hard for your dreams. Nothing's going to get handed to you. If you experience setbacks, work harder. Taking shortcuts might turn you into a frog. If it happens, work hard again. You can get your dream and the hot guy. It just takes determination. And lots of hard work.

Belle.  Belle's admirable traits could fill a fairy tale castle. First and foremost, she loves books. A girl who reads won't be bound by limitations. She yearns to see the world that exists outside her small provincial town. She cares nothing for the good-looking stud who all the other girls adore. He's not nearly smart enough-or kind enough- for her. She risks her safety, then sacrifices her freedom to save her father. She looks beyond outward appearances and learns to love who a man is instead of what he looks like. She stands up to bullies and bigots and fearmongers. She keeps her promises. And, above all else, Belle is kind. 

Ariel  Ariel has a lovely singing voice. For part of the movie. Okay, so Ariel might resemble the classic DIDS-afflicted DP, but she has some fine qualities. She does save her prince from drowning. That's a good thing.  Also, her movie has a terrific soundtrack. I can't say I would recommend her choices to young women. But being willing to make a sacrifice for the man you love isn't necessarily a bad thing. She followed her instincts, which is something most of us would like our children to do ( provided they have good ones). And it did work out in the end. So, there's that. 

Let's just call Ariel the bridge between the old and the new. Even the DIDS-suffering princesses have many fine points. Far more than any vampire or pirate or blood-soaked pycho killer. 
Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora are good and kind. They love animals. They work hard. They dress well. And, though they may wait around for a man to save them, they pick good men. I mean, who can say something bad about a man who searches high and low to find the woman he loves? Who fights witches and dragons to save his princess? I'm all for self-sufficiency, but a loyal, brave, romantic man is nothing to scoff at. And being hot doesn't hurt.

Halloween is a fun and magical time. I wouldn't discourage my children from dressing as ghouls or goblins or anything else their hearts desire. 

But, while pirates, zombies, witches and homicidal maniacs may be fun to dress up as, they aren't  exactly ideal role models. Good role models have qualities we want our children to emulate. Kindness, intelligence, loyalty, love of family, protector of the environment, brave, selfless, a strong work ethic, the courage to follow your dreams and make them come true.

All the qualities of a Disney Princess.

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