Most of my ideas about this came from Marjorie Williams’ article about Princess Di’s death, titled “The Princess Puzzle.” Williams noted that “it is rare the little girl who wants to grow up to be queen. To wish to be a princess is not simply to aspire upward, to royalty; it is also to aspire to perpetual daughter-hood, to permanent shelter. To dependency.” Williams explained more precisely than I could ever say the problems I had long felt about our obsession with princesses.
It’s not that I actually have a problem with the Disney princesses. I was just as enamored with The Little Mermaid as anyone else my age when that movie came out; I have fond memories of trying to swim like a mermaid whenever possible (and being thrilled that one of Ariel’s sisters was named Alana!). And in all honesty, I think Beauty and the Beast’s Belle is a fabulous role model for little girls. But despite that, there is something in me that cringes when I see the way princesses have been thrust upon young girls as the ultimate life goal. It was for this reason that I smugly purchased Mulan for Kendra this Christmas, rather than any of the other more princess-y movies that Disney has to offer. Mulan takes charge of her life, becomes a warrior, and saves China. This is the kind of role model I can get behind.