From Pretty to Powerful: How the Princess Paradigm is Changing for Our Children

The Princess Paradigm of Our Youth was simple.

The princesses we grew up with were beautiful and in love.  They were also victims of circumstance. To play princess it meant two things. First, you must be beautiful. Second, you must fall in love with a handsome prince. And the prince didn’t matter. Heck, half of them didn’t have names in my girlhood memories. You see, only the princess mattered. Only the beauty, grace, and passion of love mattered.

From Pretty to Powerful: How Disney is changing the Princess Paradigm for our Children

As I grew into womanhood, I felt repulsed at the princess image.

I hated everything it stood for. To make choices or wait for a man to rescue you is ridiculous. Pretty isn’t everything. I felt determined to raise my daughter differently. No princess fascination. No Barbie’s, whose focus was only shopping and Malibu Ken.  My daughter would be raised to value hard work, compassion, intelligence, and strength.

Posts you May also like: “My Preschool Princess, You are never Merely Pretty” from Breastfeeding World.

I never wanted my children to grow up thinking that “pretty” was important. Forget society. But that’s difficult. Because if you are a “pretty” child, lots of doors open quickly for you. You see, growing up, I was always told how beautiful I was. Poor me, right? The problem arose when I was told how beautiful I was far more often than how smart, how strong, how hard working…

And that’s the problem with the emphasis on complimenting a little girl’s beauty.

Between princesses and compliments, the little girls of our era grew up feeling that our worth is wholly wrapped up in how beautiful we are. If we aren’t seen as meek and helpless and beautiful, how can we ever find a handsome prince to sweep us off of our feet? And really, isn’t that all that is important in life? Of course not.

And let us not forget our sons, who also grew up thinking that the ideal woman is this unrealistic version of a timid princess. One who worships at the feet of her love, if only he take care of her financial needs. It’s a stigma and mentality damaging to both sexes.

Our generation of week, beautiful, in love princesses are pushing back for our daughters. We want more out of them than just beautiful.

“Yes, you are beautiful,” We tell them. “You are also smart, kind, creative, and strong. I love the heart you have, caring for others. See how hard you work, how stubborn and tenacious you are? Beauty isn’t everything. Don’t you see, our amazing daughters? How you treat the world around you means more.”

From Pretty to Powerful: How Disney is Changing the Princess Paradigm for our children
My creative, tough, thoughtful, passionate, intelligent girl.

The inventors of the meek, beautiful, silent princess- Disney- finally heard our collective motherhood cry- “We want more for our children!”

You see, in the last few years, I’ve noticed a huge shift in the Princess model that our children are growing up with. Of course, these new princesses are still beautiful. That stigma will take much longer to break in our society. However, today’s princesses are so much more.  Let’s look at them:

  • The Princess and the Frog: Tiana isn’t looking for love- but she is dreaming. She works hard, cares about others, and fights for what she believes in. Her dreams are bigger than some prince- she is ambitious, intelligent, and won’t stop until her dreams come true.
  • Tangled: We are still dealing with “love” themes in these movies- but it doesn’t encompass the plot anymore. Rapunzel is fearless and determined. She learns to stand up for herself and her journey is about self discovery
  • Brave: Merida is strong willed, determined, free-spirited and strong. She doesn’t even have a love interest! It’s about family, self-acceptance, and of course, bravery.
  • Frozen: Speaking of self discovery, Frozen is the movie that broke the princess mold. I could go on and on about all the empowerment themes in this movie, but perhaps that’s a post for another day.
  • The Live Action Beauty and the Beast: Moving past the Stokholm Syndrome thing- Belle and the Beast fall in love with the other’s personhood. It’s not about the amazing library. Or that she can break the spell cast over his castle. They fall in love in a real, intellectual basis. And let us not forget that Belle, not her father, is the inventor in this version!

Yet with all of this positive Princess paradigm PR Disney was spouting out, I still hesitated

From Pretty to Powerful- The model for princesses is changing, and our children are changing with it. It was still that princess mentality that didn’t sit well with me. I could play with dinosaurs and build blocks and color with my daughter until the cows came home, but it didn’t stop her from entering the “princess phase”. It wasn’t until we were watching Moana, that I realized that the negative mentality towards princesses that I inwardly carried was mine, not my daughters.

We were watching the part where Moana’s grandmother imparts her necklace to Moana, telling her to restore the heart of Te Fiti and save the island. Imp looked at me and said,

“She doesn’t look like a princess until she puts the necklace on. When she puts the necklace on, that’s when she looks like a princess.”

“Oh”, I responded cautiously. “What does a princess look like?”

“A Princess is someone who does good and saves the day. She puts on the necklace and saves the day, that’s why she looks like a princess.”

Out of the Mouths of Babes

A Princess is someone who does good and saves the day. That’s what today’s Disney has done for our daughters. (No wonder Hubs and I love going so much!) It’s shaken up our preconceived notions, and inspired our girls to do good and save the day. Now, as parents, caregivers, nannies, childcare providers, grandparents… we have help inspiring our daughters to build their own greatness. And who would have thought it came from Disney?

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From pretty to powerful: The Playground Chronicles explores how Disney is changing the Princess paradigm for our children, for the better, disney princess, not just a princess

What do you feel about Today’s Princess model vs. the ideal princesses we grew up with? Is it different from you to your daughter? Leave me a note in the comments- lets talk about ways we can raise our Littles with emphasis on internal qualities instead of external!

 

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Lauren Lewis is no stranger to childcare development, having spent over 10 years as a nanny or family childcare provider. She’s the wife of a travel geek, mother of two vivacious children, and has an amazing talent for trailing lost things behind her a la Hansel and Gretyl. Her varied background in writing, child development, marketing, and enthusiasm for mess-making provided the perfect foundation for The Playground Chronicles. Her life is full of busy, crazy and LOUD. It is full of love and hope, ups and downs. And coffee, always lots of coffee- but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

More information and her work can be found at www.the-playground-chronicles.com

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