Kristen Bell, star of “Frozen” and TV’s “The Good Place,” recently told an interviewer that she’s not “100 percent comfortable” with the Disney princess tales, and believes the movie “Snow White” conveys a bad message about “strangers and consent” to kids. Being something of a self-styled Disney princess film expert myself, I was intrigued.
Every time we close ‘Snow White’ I look at my girls and ask, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?’ I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m doing something right.’
I do think it’s weird. And I get it.
My kids loved “Snow White,” as well. After watching it, I would look at them and ask, “Don’t you think it’s weird that the prince brings Snow White back to life? You don’t think it’s okay to let some wealthy, handsome sovereign give you an unconsented kiss simply because you’re lying in a coma in a glass coffin in the middle of the woods surrounded by crying dwarves and anthropomorphized forest animals, do you?” Probably because of my inadequate parenting skills, or maybe it was just the power of the movie’s message, the response was, “Don’t be silly, daddy, it’s a magic kiss.”
So you have to stay on your toes, because Disney movies are a minefield of atrocious life lessons about magic and princes that can lead your unsuspecting girls astray. “You don’t think a young woman should ever live with seven short unmarried, older diamond merchants who use obviously fake first names—and whose house you’ve broken into to take a nap and cleaned for some reason—do you?” I once asked them. And my kids were like, “I don’t know.” And I’m like, “Okay, I’m doing something right.’”
It’s not just Bell. I recently learned that Keira Knightley, star of the upcoming “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” has some concerns about Disney, as well. Especially Cinderella, as the grieving teenaged prisoner “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don’t. Rescue yourself obviously,” she told Ellen. Obviously. As I always told my kids, if a Fairy Godmother and some incredibly helpful rodents show up and try to get you to attend a snotty shindig, you tell them you’re not that kind of girl.
Nor does Knightley like the message in “The Little Mermaid,” a movie about the underwater princess who trades in her voice for a pair of legs to escape her brutish workout-addicted dad, King Triton, and follow the brave Prince Eric. I hate that one, too. It’s highly improbable, after all, that anyone would leave a magical sea realm for a place teeming with uptight scolds who take issue with fairy tales.
The fact is, as I look back, I think I’ve failed my kids on the Disney front. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a fan of “Brave’s” Princess Merida—a young teen who proficiently wields her deadly weapon in defense of her Bear family—and “The Princess and the Frog’s” Tiana—a young woman whose success is reliant on her hard work, capitalistic opportunity and a talking Cajun firefly. And, certainly, we all cheered as Mulan helped slaughter the Hun. There are plenty of good lessons to be found in these films.
But I should have been more diligent about their viewing habits. I mean, are my teenage daughters now going jump on some wisecracking petty criminal’s magic carpet after knowing him for mere hours? Will one them run away with a tramp just because he buys her a nice Italian meal? Did you know Pongo and Perdita had something like 100 kids on a brittle planet that can hardly sustain any of us?
Parents, be vigilant.