When I was growing up I don’t recall being consumed with princesses or being covered with pink boas or sparkly dresses. Sure, I had Barbies and I wouldn’t have considered myself a tomboy by any means. But it just didn’t seem we were forced into consumer princessism like girls are today.
I have a 12-year-old stepdaughter and a 7-year-old daughter. For the past 11 years or so, I have witnessed the increasing amount of princess crap being crammed down their impressionable throats. I never liked it much, but, compared to Bratz Dolls and other strangely skanky alternatives, I gladly chose the crowned beauties.
I suppose the whole princess concept was gross to me. They had to be perfect, “lady-like” at all times, long flowing hair and eight-inch waists and worst of all – they were always expected to strive for nothing other than to be chosen by some sword-wielding Prince.
Today I took a couple of seven year olds to see Brave, the new Disney Pixar “princess” movie. I was sort of dreading it as I rarely see children movies I actually like. Toy Story, Nemo and Wall-Ewere exceptions, but usually my goal is to simply stay awake.
But I have to admit, I really liked this one. I thought the message was great and better late than never. Merida is a princess in Scotland who was raised to be proper and perfect and when it was time for her to marry – she wanted nothing of it.
Merida longed to be riding her horse, shooting arrows and climbing mountains. She appreciated her moments of freedom with great abundance. And her out-of-control red hair matched her fiery personality. It’s not that she wasn’t princess material; but more like other princesses simply haven’t caught up to her independent standards.
Of course, her mother was insistent on her doing what is expected of her and marry. They butted heads much the same way most of us gals did with our mothers. Sometimes I think there were moments when no one angered me more than my mother. She could just look at me in a certain way and I would snap. But eventually I learned to deal with her naggy criticisms and she learned to deal with my obnoxious mood swings and we became close.
Merida was very angry with her mother and employed a witch to cast a spell that turned her mother into a bear. While on a quest to reverse the spell, the mother was able to see how capable and talented her daughter truly was and Merida was able to see how much she truly needed her mother. I think that is a lesson so many of us can only hope to learn before it is too late.
I want girls to grow up without limits on their potential. I want girls to know it is okay to color outside of the lines and think outside of the box. I want girls to know that a man’s approval or desire is absolutely NOT their purpose in life – prince or not.
There are elementary students wearing belly shirts and eyeliner. I see pre-teens who look trashier than some bar hags. And I wonder, do they even know why they are presenting themselves this way? And why do parents let them?
Emphasis on brains over beauty, skill over seduction, independence over imprisonment and capability over apathy…this is what I wish for every girl growing up in today’s world of impossible expectations and lessening virtues.
I hope I can raise my girls to be more like Merida – the princess who chooses a sword over a crown and herself over the approval of others.
Bravo, Disney…it’s about (once upon a) time.