And now, I have daughters. I have two smart, independent, strong daughters and want nothing more than for them to know that they will never need to wait around for a prince to come, or for true love's kiss, or to be part of his world. I want them to know that there is more to them than a ball gown or a tiara, that their worth in the world is not measured by how adorably they pout or how lovable some man finds them to be. I want them to have goals they chase, not wishes they wait for.
It is hard. I have some warm, nostalgic memories, even of the stuff I now see as negative, the stuff I hope my kids don't feel they need to take on. It is too easy a response, to say, "Well, I grew up with it, and I'm fine." I'm not even sure that is true. I spent a good chunk of my late teens and early 20's unlearning a lot of what that Little Mermaid cassette taught me.
But, I do remember so fondly seeing Beauty and Beast in the theatre. It was one of the only movies my little sister and I ever agreed on. We were both entranced, by the music, by the story, by the romance, and we rarely agree, to this day, on anything. I do remember working in the park and seeing so clearly the love and awe on countless little faces as they lifted up their autograph books, reached out for hugs, or lifted up their sun dresses to show me that I was, in fact, on their underwear, to the intense embarrassment of their parents.
And now, as a parent, I see all of the stuff, the heavily-marketed merchandise, that fills the toy chests and rooms of little girls I know and love. I see the agressively-branded costumes, the big-eyed dolls, the cheap plastic knick-knacks. I see the way these types of toys limit play, especially for little girls, defining so early the roles that they are permitted to hold. The tiny lucite high-heels are a particular sore spot, so completely non-functional, destined to result in a twisted ankle, reminiscent of the clear plastic shoes I imagine a stripper would wear. They seem to be the first thing both of my girls are drawn to, as if to punish me for my participation in the Big Mouse Machine, where, by the way, all of the princesses wore sensible character shoes which may not have been suitable for running, but were, at least, suitable for dancing.
I want to believe that I was involved at a simpler time, when there wasn't so much stuff, when the culture of the princess was not quiet so damaging, but that isn't true. In fact, if anything, the more recent female Disney role-models are stronger and more independent than the princesses of my youth. Plus, at least, the conversations are being had. At least, the questions are being asked.
I am conflicted. I want them to be in the world. I want them to be able to engage with their peers about popular culture. I want them to be able to take joy in the positive things about Disney, no matter how short or long I might believe that list of positives to be.
I don't have an answer, just a dilemma. O has seen Cinderella. She has seen Tangled. We had an aborted attempt at watching Brother Bear, whose warm, familial title is misleading. (Spoiler Alert: EVERYONE DIES.) I held off until mid-April, but they have both seen Frozen, and now, at the end of April, O can sing and recite every line and Jim is pretty certain he heard P singing a twenty-months-old rendition of Let It Go.