So on Wednesday we looked at three of Disney’s most iconic princesses and the flaws with their stories. Today I’ll look at two more (a small sampling for sure, but these, to me are the most heinous) and also why Belle is the best.
The Little Mermaid was one of my favorites when it came out in 1989. Here is a “woman” searching for something more, wanting more than she can attain and trying to pursue her dreams. Her curiosity is pushing her to see what else is out there. I admire that. I’m doing it myself right now by writing this blog. It’s also one of the few Disney stories that does not involve an evil step mother (although there is an evil sea witch) and focuses more on Ariel’s relationship with her father.
However, Ariel has an unhealthy attraction to all things human. She is basically a hoarder. She says it herself “How many treasures can one cavern hold?” A lot apparently. She’s got it bad. It all works out in the end – she gets her kiss and they live happily ever after. Or do they?
Questions for consideration:
1) Does she give up all this junk when she goes to live in the “real world” with Eric?
2) What does Eric think of all this crap? Does he make her get rid of it? Is it a strain on their marriage?
3) Shouldn’t we encourage our little girls to deal with their baggage before heaping it onto another person?
4) Is it okay to tell our children that giving up your entire life, family and friends for a man is a good thing?
Now onto Princess Jasmine. Jasmine actually plays quite the bit part in Aladdin because the movie is basically centered around Aladdin who is out to make a quick buck. He’s a street rat. The largest chunk of the movie is about Aladdin searching for treasure and trying to better himself in this dry, arid world. He sings: Gotta keep one jump ahead of the bread line, one swing ahead of the sword. I steal only what I can’t afford… and that’s everything! (which BTW is one of my favorite Disney songs… their songs are the only saving grace to many of these movies.)
When he’s lured into a secret treasure cave he thinks is life has become easily… easier. Until it backfires and he ends up barely leaving with his life, much less the fortune. But he does get Genie and, with his help, decides to win Jasmine’s heart instead. (huh?)
Questions for consideration:
1) So he just gives up trying to be rich for “true love”? Except that true love is the Princess. Who is rich. Which would, by association, make him rich too. So we’re supposed to believe that he just wants Jasmine for her heart?
2) Why doesn’t Jasmine see through this guy? They have nothing in common.
But instead she gets suckered in by the “bad guy” (who among us hasn’t?) and she falls for him anyway. Once again – where are the parents in this fiasco? Wise up Jasmine – his lies will only lead to heartbreak and a zero bank balance.
Finally we’re at our beloved Belle.
Here are the reasons I love her so:
1) She’s smart. She isn’t a princess to start with and she has a hard life in a small village, but she doesn’t play the part of the damsel in distress (as portrayed by other women in the story), instead she reads. And reads some more. Although everyone in town thinks she’s “peculiar” just because she likes books, she knows there is more than this “provincial life”. She is mostly content to live with her father and help him too. (Being content in your circumstances is a good message – it’s even in the Bible.)
2) She doesn’t take anybody’s crap. Gaston is one of the most despicable male characters in any Disney movie. Worse, to me, than most of the villains throughout Disney history for his sheer demand that Belle marry him. For him, it’s a given that this “poor creature” will marry him just so she can have some standing in the community. Ick. For Belle to reject him is a GREAT message for our young girls. Don’t be a plaything or a prize to be won (Jasmine) – you have worth!
3) The love between Belle and the Beast grows over time – not with just one kiss. He has to learn to love himself and she has to see past excessive hair, fangs and totally disheveled house (although that huge library helps.) She essentially has to say to herself “Hey, others don’t understand me just because I read. Maybe there is more to him too.” They are two people finding solace in one another when society has rejected them both. It’s a true love story.
4) The underlying message of this whole story is also a good one: don’t judge. But it goes deeper than that:
(For more life hacks from Beauty and The Beast – see this article.)
So, in summation, Belle, and this particular movie, is one of Disney’s best because it gives real life situations and messages. It’s something every child can learn from – not just to find a guy and fall in love, but to find the right guy and fall in love.
I’m glad that my little god daughter went dressed as Belle this year for Halloween. Not only am I glad that she loves Belle (and Belle’s story), but she exhibits a lot of Belle’s tendencies: she loves to read, she questions things, and she has a good, smart head on her shoulders (she just won student of the month at school! One reason was because she is a “good role model” – what more could we ask for in this little one?) I can only hope and pray that she will continue questioning and reading throughout life instead of just trying to fall in love. There is so much more to it than that. Right Belle?
What do you think? Is Belle the best princess or who is your favorite and why?