I was at a friends’ house the other day who had Disney Princess posters up in her daughter’s room. She felt the need to explain that they were a gift. Another friend was a little surprised when she found out that my girls have princess dresses and play dress up all the time. Other friends have commented that they make sure their girls know that “they are not princesses.”
A controversy is brewing over the rise of the Disney princesses. Ever since around 2000, it seems that princess clothing, toys, books, pictures, movies are everywhere. My kids don’t even watch Disney movies, but they know who all the princesses are. When Little Sis was potty training, I took her to get new big girl underwear and she picked Tinkerbell. I didn’t even know that she knew who Tinkerbell was!
I have mixed feelings about the whole business. One side of the coin is that princesses and Disney are bad because they introduce preschool girls to sex too soon. They set up a false idea of beauty and value. Princess stories teach little girls that the princess always gets prince charming and lives happily ever after. The other side of the coin says, let them indulge in fantasy. It’s cute and fun to see toddlers in make up and a gown. What’s the real harm?
Here are my thoughts:
First of all, I want to make it clear that I highly value modesty and purity. I highly value God’s design for marriage and sex. I do think that young girls are subjected to a sexual standard that they are not ready for.
I recently read an article in Thriving Family (a magazine from Focus on the Family) about how to handle the princess culture with young daughters. They talked about how with many of the Disney movies, the ones who are obsessed with outward beauty are not the princesses, but the villains. For example, in Cinderella, the stepmother and stepsisters were the ones who were wrapped up in outward appearance. In Snow White, the queen is obsessed with being the “fairest of them all.” In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is more concerned about the well being of her father than her own needs or beauty… it is Gaston and the Beast (at first) who judge according to looks.
I began to think about the newer Disney movies. They have taken a turn (for the worse in my opinion). Mulan and Ariel are defiant and disobey their fathers. Jasmine is scantily clad and sneaks about. A friend of mine was looking at a Disney princess seek and find book with my son. She pointed out to him that the kind of girl he should look for would be one like Belle or Cinderella or Snow White. They are servants at heart and dress modestly. She told him to stay away from girls like Mulan and Jasmine.
Now… I do not mean to harp on Disney. I think that many parents today want someone to blame for what’s happening to our children… and Disney happens to be an easy target. The truth is that we live in a sinful world. We have an enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a lion seeking to destroy us (I Peter 5:8). If it wasn’t the princess thing, it would be something else seeking to steal the attention of our children.
Here’s the thing. I am okay with my girls playing dress up. I am okay with them pretending to be princesses. I tell my girls that they are beautiful… with or without the fancy clothes. I teach them where their beauty comes from. I teach them about the One who created them… who happens to be the King of Kings. And, if I am not mistaken… a daughter of the king is, in fact… a princess. If I am praying that my children will know Jesus, and call God Father…. then I am actually praying for them to be princesses. I am teaching them that they are waiting for their knight in shining armor… their prince charming… and his name is Jesus.
If I left it up to the Disney channel or anyone else to raise my children, I might have a problem. Our family talks… a lot … about a lot of things. Our children are still young… but I am hoping that the habits we are building now with communication will continue into their teenage years. I am hoping and praying the conversations will remain open. I think that’s the key… because we cannot shelter our children from everything. We just need to be there to put it into perspective for them.. and to pray.
Make no mistake about it, we are in a war.. a spiritual war and our children are often the target. We need to be on our knees, battling in prayer for the purity of these precious ones. We also do not need to be afraid… I’ve read the Bible… I know how it ends… God wins!