Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Princess Complex

As Natalie quickly sheds all signs of babyhood and sprints towards her preschool years, Craig and I are finding ourselves swimming through uncharted waters as we begin to dip into the Disney princess pond.

Apparently, there are people out there that have a lot to say about a little girl's obsession with princesses and everything pink or sparkly.  It's damaging to their self-esteem, one says.  Another bemoans the fact that girls are being set up for unrealistic relationship expectations.  And then there is the camp that believes it shortchanges the capabilities of young women.

And I think to myself...they're just movies.  Cartoon characters on a screen, acting out a pretty predictable story.

I had no idea the beloved movies of my youth were so controversial in today's parenting expert and feminist circles.  But then again, that was the 80s and I do believe that the movie and character marketing scheme was not quite the economical juggernaut back then that it is today.

Sure, I had an Ariel nightgown and played mermaids in the pool with my best-friend Kate....but that's kind of where our obsession stopped.  We understood that the movie we loved to watch was just that - pure entertainment.  It was something fun to watch and use to play imaginatively, but certainly not a lifestyle to which we aspired to live.  Today there are aisles of toy stores devoted to everything pink, sparkly and princessy.  But just because there are those toys available, it doesn't mean that I have to purchase them for my daughter.

I guess my issue with the backlash against Disney princesses is this - why are these critics so quick to underestimate and devalue the importance of the parents in the molding of a young girls self-esteem, values and strength of character?

My views of marriage as a partnership between two people with a deep love and profound trust for each other did not evolve out of memorizing the lines to every song in The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.  No.  I watched my parents interact every single day in my home.  I saw my father joke playfully with my mother in the kitchen and followed every gentle tease with a sweet kiss on her cheek.  I smelled my mother's Chanel No. 5 perfume as she put on the finishing touches of her outfit for a special night out with my father.  I witnessed years of love, devotion and compromise despite sick children, aging parents and personality differences.

In short, I didn't believe in the fictional "happily ever after" because I was living the real life fairy-tale ending by being a product of my parents love for each other.

When children are so small and impressionable, parents should still be in control of the household.  I set the tone for when we watch movies and the take-away message that Natalie receives.  I can either choose to teach her that women are weak and must have a man to rescue them or I can show her that women are completely capable beings that (if they want) can happily accept a man's company in her life.  I can allow her to be fixated on the prettiness of a princess, or the obvious luxury she enjoys...or I can reinforce the fact that movies are works of fiction and that a life filled with love, respect and joy is worth far more than any beautiful dress or fancy home.  I refuse to give up the power of influence over my daughter to any cartoon character or marketing scheme in the aisles of Target.

So for the time being we are keeping the occasional Disney princess flick as part of our movie library.  A little bit of fantasy combined with catchy tunes and an irresistible love story can be good for a girl and her momma.

No comments: