I didn’t have to read about the record $170 million of box office earnings to understand the impact of Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast film.
Our home was abuzz with anticipation on Saturday morning – the movie provided an ample excuse for an overdue “Mommy-Daughter” day-date. And, if you’re wondering, my wife gave the movie a, “It was really good” while my daughter, Vivi, gave the film two enthusiastic thumbs up.
But, this is no movie review. Instead, this is about princesses – a concept that Disney has repeatedly mastered, and that I’ve consistently dismissed.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Disney’s hero-heroine movies are great. I would, however, prefer my daughter to leave the admiration for those pretty, imagery characters at the cinema – alongside the overpriced popcorn.
I can almost hear myself telling her, “Vivi, there are better heroes all around you. You should admire your teachers, scientists, great authors, and your mom – not Ariel or Belle.”
My propensity for princess-dissing enabled me to feel principle-centered on previous vacations to Disney as I refused to pay for the Princess Breakfast or to enter the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. No matter how much my daughter pined for eating pancakes with Cinderella or for that sticky, glittery hair sparkle, I did not give in.
I think I was wrong. Maybe, I’m discovering, I should have been slower to scoff.
It took reading about Disney’s “Dream Big, Princess” campaign to question my slighting of Rapunzel, Pocahontas and Snow White.
The truth is, my princess avoidance is due to surface-level reasons. I dislike the glittery, beautiful, bestowed-with-riches, prince-chasing female figures that my daughter loves to dress up like.
I focused on the glass slippers and ball-ready gowns as opposed to the hearts and minds Disney aims to create by virtue of their actions. My immediate dismissals ignored the good in these characters below the surface.
In doing so, I missed opportunities to chat with Vivi about Ariel’s tenacious curiosity in The Little Mermaid or the strength on display by the main character in Mulan.
When I asked Vivi about her favorite part of Beauty and the Beast, I expected to hear about Belle’s gorgeous, yellow gown at the ball. Instead, Vivi told me, “I liked the part where Belle stopped the people from hurting the Beast. He ends up being nice, you know.”
Her comment made me beam with pride as well as gave me pause to re-evaluate my thoughts about Disney’s princesses. Maybe, if I talk with Vivi differently about the characters she loves, I can emphasize their true valor – qualities that are more important than any pretty dress or flashy heels.
When I talk about Merida from Brave, I could focus on her determination rather than her gorgeous, red-curled locks.
Tiana from The Princess and the Frog becomes a tough entrepreneur and not a rags-to-riches story of good fortune.
These characters have courage, skill, toughness, perseverance and smarts – all qualities I’d like my daughter to value.
So, while my daughter’s costumes and plastic dress-up heels will eventually gather dust, the lessons she can learn from Disney’s “Big Dream, Princess” campaign should not.
I can help reinforce these qualities if I Let It Go while allowing my daughter to, always, Wish Upon a Star.
She’ll do so thanks to Disney, and without regard for an awaiting Prince Charming.
For more information about the “Dream Big, Princess” campaign, visit: http://princess.disney.com/