Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Glamorized Disney princesses may not be affecting girls the way parents believe
Jacquelyn, age 8, said a princess is someone who is “always kind, and never mean to people.”
Bridgette, 6, said princesses are “nice and pretty.”
Six-year-old Hallie said, “A princess is someone who’s brave. You are a princess by being someone’s friend.”
Mia, 7, said, “You have to be royal and kind to others.”
Interesting. Most didn’t mention “beauty” as a requirement.
Question: Who is your favorite princess and why?
Sarah, 7, said “Ariel, because she’s a mermaid.”
Evelyn, 3, said “All of the princesses!”
Hallie said Belle, because “she’s smart!”
Jacquelyn said “Jasmine, because she’s courageous.”
Question: Do you think you’re a princess? What do you have to do to become one?
Cozette, 6, giggled and said, “No! But you have to be nice to others. I am nice, but I would have to be even more nice (to be a princess).”
Jacquelyn said, “Yes.” When asked if you have to be pretty, she quickly responded, “No! You don’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it matters how pretty you are on the inside!” (For the record, Jacquelyn is a very beautiful little girl — all of them are.)
Bridgette said, “Anybody can be a princess.”
Hallie said, “You need to be nice to your friends and family.”
Evelyn, my spunky little mini-me, said, “I don’t want to be a princess because every time I try to wear their dresses, my hair gets caught and it hurts.”
These sweet, honest answers both surprised and amazed me. Here is the core Disney demographic, ages 3 to 8, telling me what they think it means to be a princess. And very rarely did any of them mention dresses, makeup or high heels. And not ONE brought up Prince Charming!
To these little girls, being a princess means being a good person. They don’t notice or pay attention to princesses being “sexualized.” Could it be that, possibly, we parents are the only ones worried about such a thing? That our insecurities are being projected on our children?
Chapman argues that Merida was finally a princess that a girl could look up to. But I disagree.
What about Mulan, a girl who disguises herself as a boy and joins the army to fight in her father's place, clad in heavy armor throughout most of the film and learns to love herself exactly the way she is?
Or Cinderella, a poor housemaid taking care of her family with little complaint, who wears nothing but rags most of the film and never gives up hope?
Or Belle, who only becomes a princess after she learns how to truly love someone for who they are inside?
Or Pocahontas, who is willing to literally lay down her life to protect her friend, pleading understanding and tolerance for others whom we think are different?
I think Disney has always celebrated the “inner princess.” In fact, in most Disney films, the big ball gowns and glass slippers aren’t introduced until the end of the movie. It’s the imperfect, “normal” girls we all fall in love with, right from the get-go, and the single most common trait the young girls relate to in being a princess is, in the words of my 6-year-old niece Cozette, “having a big heart.”
I think we need to stop worrying and give our beautiful little princesses more credit. It’s fun to play dress-up and look “pretty,” but we don’t need to worry that’s all our girls will think of when they look at a Disney princess.
Chances are, their sweet innocent eyes see past the “perfect” and focus on the important qualities each unique Disney princess — and little girl — possess.
Just for fun, I asked my two boys their thoughts.
“Is Mommy a princess?” I asked with a wink.
“Not yet!” my 4-year-old replied.
Not exactly the answer I was hoping for!
“Who is a princess?”
“Grandma!” my 2-year-old declared.
Yes, indeed. Princesses take time, and I hope to one day be as “kind," "nice," "friendly" and "courageous” as my dear princess mother who continues to be an example of what being a queen in training is all about.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.
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