When I was a child, I had an obsession with The Little Mermaid. My mother likes to recall the day I asked for it on repeat and that it was 'the only thing that kept me quiet'. I used to watch over and over again as my favourite heroins found true happiness while singing the catchiest of tunes. More often than not a common reason for this happiness was love, love that had been attained in often strikingly sudden circumstances. Don't get me wrong- a magical solution to your problems is a sketchy idea to teach children at best, and that coupled with the idea that a male needs to come and rescue you from your problems, can be downright damaging. With this in mind, its not very surprising that so many people believe that Disney films are harmful to young minds. So how did I, a little girl fed a constant barrage of Disney film after Disney film, end up a hard working feminist with a passion to succeed by my own means, alongside thousands of other Disney fanatics? Well, I think I view the stories a little differently to some, and so here are some of my theories...
1. True love isn't such a bad thing to aspire to.
Much of the controversy surrounding fairy-tales is their constant insistence that love will make you happy... and I don't really see the problem with this. True love- with someone who is respectful and kind, who loves you for everything you are and accepts what you are not- is the greatest blessing in this world. The concept of opening up to someone isn't something I believe we should discourage, and although I believe you are a completely whole person when you are by yourself, I also believe that love is the best source of joy, strength and support (which works both ways). Granted- people usually take longer than a fancy dance number to fall in love, but they only had an hour to get the plot across- give them a break.
2. We all make mistakes, and we can all recover from them.
OK, so I have never made a deal with a sea witch or let a crazy old lady feed me apples but I HAVE made some mistakes that I wish I could take back, and every time I have it felt like the end of the world. Whether it was trusting the wrong person, lying to the right person or being a selfish ass (*cough* Aladdin *cough*), I too have made an idiot out of myself and potentially hurt people I care about. Yet, here I am right? Life moves on and things get better if you make steps to do the right thing in the future. A little forgiveness goes a long way. I mean, if Pinocchio can still turn out good, there is hope for us all.
3. Doing the right thing isn't always easy or fun.
Cinderella could have had revenge on her abusive family, but she didn't. Belle didn't have to stay for her father and help the beast, but she did. Sleeping beauty didn't have to go back to the castle to marry the prince, but she did (she was also hella lucky- but that's beside the point). Disney shows us multiple times that good will triumph, but its not the easiest option. And if you can't see that Esmerelda and Pocahontas are bad bitches WAY before the men came along, I don't know what to tell you.
4. Not everyone has the same good qualities, and no one is perfect.
While the aforementioned Esmerelda's strength is outspoken and aggressive, Pocahontas uses a wise tranquility to help her cause, and neither one is wrong. Although snow white is timid and quiet, she is kind and sweet and forgiving. Likewise, Ariel's tendency to be bratty and selfish at times, doesn't take away from the fact that she is enthusiastic and kind. People are different and flawed, and what is one persons strength isn't necessarily another's... which leads me to my next point (and its a big one)
5. Sometimes strength is not in the defeat of evil, but in the endurance of pain.
Everybody assumes that the princesses in particular are weak because 'they need rescuing', and to a degree to I believe that is a valid point. However, nobody talks about the fact that most have them have endured hardship or massive restrictions for a long time and guess what- they still have hope. If you have ever been in a position in your life that you could not change that caused you pain, you will understand how truly difficult it is to keep living it everyday. The message I see in Disney films is that staying true and kind to yourself despite difficulties and the 'forces of evil' is a kind of strength. Heck, some of these women are abused and rejected by there own families, and almost all of them have lost at least one parent, yet they continue to hold themselves to the highest standards with dignity and poise (and great hair).
6. Just when you think you are ready to give up, hold on.
Because this is usually when something good is about to happen. The same can be said in life, perseverance is so important to achieve what you want and only those who wait and continue to stand up for what they believe in, even in the darkest of times, have their dreams come true. Hope is such a strong theme throughout every film, and it is the most important emotion when it comes to achieving your goals, as long as you put the work in. If you are going through a hard time at school or in life, just know that this is a dip in the road, even if it feels like it is never-ending, and eventually this will pass. And so my last point..
7. Sometimes we all need a little help.
I know I know, you shouldn't have a man come and rescue you from your perils and you should be an independent strong woman who can do it alone, only sometimes you just can't. I'm not saying you should rely on your boyfriend to complete you, I am saying that we can't all be Mulan heading out to save china, sometimes we need someone to help us win the battle. There is no shame in asking for help, a concept I have only recently grasped. Relying on others is human and completely necessary, whether it be a partner, a friend or family. I'm not sure how people expected Aurora and Snow to help themselves when they were under a sleeping curse, but it is often forgotten that the dwarves and fairies also play a large part in their protection, even if they don't actually save them. If people truly love us, they will genuinely want to help us, after all that is what love is all about. As I said before, love is a tremendous source of support, and if you have it, use it. Just be sure that next time they need your help, it works the other way round (Note* much easier if you have magic healing hair).
I hope you enjoyed my little pro Disney rant. Let me know what you think in the comments or if you have any to add to the list!