It is no secret the Disney’s Princess franchise is one of the most lucrative for young children today. It is the number one girls’ toy brand in the US and made profits of $4 billion in worldwide sales. Therefore, these characters are going to be role models for countless girls across the world. I want to look at what lessons children can take from these characters and stories that will be positive and why each of these characters can be a positive role model to girls- and boys, for that matter- of any age.
Snow White has incredible emotional strength. She is able to handle everything she is put through with only one emotional breakdown (which was right after she was almost killed and then has to run through a dark forest alone.) Through it all, she keeps her positive outlook on life and never loses her cheerful disposition. While many would be hardened and calloused by her experiences, Snow White comes through unscathed. She also handles separation from the Prince much better than many of the other women our children have to look up to. She only even mentions him when prompted to by the dwarfs and the old hag. She also shows a shrewd mind for business in the way she runs the cottage. Everyone has a job to do, and everyone must be up to her standards. While being kind and gentle, Snow White is a good leader and has a spirit that is impossible to break.
Cinderella, like Snow White, shows emotional strength that can’t be paralleled. She puts up with years of what everything her abusive step-family has to dish out to her, but not once does she sink to their level. She keeps her head up and maintains her dignity, proving her worth over the Tremaines even in the most degrading of situations. Even in her times of trouble, Cinderella takes time to help the mice and show kindness to them. She shows that someone always has it worse than you and that, even in our lowest moments, we should strive to help those who are in moments even lower than ours. However, that’s not to say Cinderella does nothing for herself. When presented with an opportunity to leave the manor, Cinderella does not let it slip through her fingers. Cinderella and graceful and gracious with an unshakeable core.
Aurora is one of the more subtle role models. She is kind and patient, gentle and classy. Aurora respects the authority of those around her, and this is something our children need a role model for more than most anything today. So much of the entertainment involves children sassing those in authority, it is good that someone with as much exposure as Aurora, one of the most well-showcased princesses, shows so much respect. Aurora also shows impressive emotional strength and selflessness. Aurora discovers her entire life is a lie, and that the one person who made her happier than anyone in the world, as well as the only one who wasn’t in on the whole plot, she is forbidden from ever seeing again. However, Aurora still takes on her duty as a princess and finds it within herself to serve a people she never knew. You can’t ask for anything more in a ruler.
Ariel shows that we should take a step outside our comfort zone and that only doing things in surroundings we are used to will restrain us from a full life. Ariel is a role model to do what is frightening and uncertain to achieve our dreams. Ariel is driven. She has a dream of reaching the surface and living as a human and that’s exactly what she’s going to do. She has perseverance and high aspirations that she strives to achieve.
Belle is a perfect role model for education. She is especially strong considering she came out in a dark time for reading, and Belle provided someone for girls to look up to who showed that reading is an asset for any savvy girl and even glamorous enough for a princess. She is an inspiration to accept being smart and not to be ashamed of being labeled a nerd. Unfortunately, many are still found in the situation of Belle being made a pariah for her love of knowledge and learning. She shows those who experience that to be proud of their knowledge and never to compromise themselves for the desires of others. Belle is also a strong role model because she can see to the heart of a person. She judges based on the heart of a person and not by the looks. That is an admirable trait from anyone. Everyone needs to try to be more like Belle.
Jasmine is one of the most assertive princesses. She is never afraid to speak her mind. She stands for what she believes to be right, and she always speaks her mind. She is a role model to those who need to speak up for themselves more and find themselves hemmed in by the expectations of others. When Jasmine thinks something is wrong, she speaks up. Jasmine does not fit the typical feminine ideal, and she shows that that’s okay. Jasmine is also crafty in the way she adapts to situations that are difficult and unfamiliar. She is an example of a woman using cunning, and in a positive light. She shows that a woman does not need to be seen and not heard and a woman using her wits is something to be admired.
Pocahontas, like Aurora, put the needs of her people above her own desires. She stayed with her people instead of leaving with John. She also found a way to stop the war, showing that love is stronger than hate and also that if two sides are willing to listen, they can usually find a way to work things out without bloodshed. Pocahontas is also a role model for women to be involved in local politics and for everyone to be informed about what the government is proposing and executing. She, like Jasmine, is a role model to speak up if there is something that does not seem right. I also think the fact that she listens to the spirits actually makes her a good role model. She shows that you should listen to the advice others give, especially because it is so often shown that you shouldn't pay attention to what others tell you and almost that taking advice is weakness now. Pocahontas shows that listening to what those who are wiser have to say is a good thing. Pocahontas stands up for what she believes in and is an active member of her community.
Mulan is a strong role model to anyone. She is incredibly brave and goes into a situation that means almost certain death for love of her father. Mulan is also a role model for selflessness. Mulan risks everything for her father, and she later puts everything on the line for the people of her country, even in the lowest position in which she ever found herself. Mulan puts the wellbeing of those around her above her own, risking her life for theirs many times in her movie. She also has extreme loyalty. Mulan went back to help those who humiliated her. Mulan is also a role model to stay true to yourself. Mulan never succeeded when she was trying to fit into a gender role, either male or female. It was only when she allowed herself to use her intelligence and live up to her full potential- disregarding gender roles- that Mulan succeeded. Mulan is also incredibly intelligent and analytical. Girls often feel the need to suffocate their intelligence for social reasons- or even worse, to be admired by boys. However, Mulan’s plans rooted in her intelligence causes her to be lauded more than any woman in China- not to mention being admired by a strong, noble man. I think this is an important message we need to send to girls, that men will accept you with your intelligence. I know this was something important I took from Mulan, that being my own zany, intelligent (I’m so humble) self didn’t mean I would be rejected. Mulan is an inspiration.
Sorry if I got biased there.
So far, I am exceedingly pleased with the role models Disney is creating in the new age of princesses. If a daughter of mine ever said she wanted to be like Tiana or Rapunzel, I would be overjoyed. Tiana is ambitious and hard-working to the core. She relies on herself and does everything in her power to make her dream come true. This is what I think makes Tiana such an incredibly strong role model. We live in a society where everyone feels entitled to everything, where nobody feels the need to actually do anything for what they want but that everything should be provided. If I had to describe the flaw of modern society in a word, it would be irresponsibility. The fact that we have been given a role model for our girls whose mantra is “hard work,” who does not expect to be given everything she needs on a silver platter, is huge. Tiana is a strong role model for having high aspirations and working for them. Tiana does what she needs to and is self-reliant.
Rapunzel is another great example of emotional strength. Even after Gothel’s systematic mental abuse and manipulation, Rapunzel is still self-reliant and finds a way to make her dreams come true. She tries to do what Gothel does and be an obedient daughter, and it is only when Gothel lets slip she will never be allowed to leave and she realizes the severity of the situation that she goes outside her rules. She is a good and obedient daughter, but she has her limits and will not let herself be used. Rapunzel is creative and finds ways to occupy her time. She educates herself as best she can and is very successful, even able to chart stars. She works for her dream and faces fears along the way to do so. While the abuse Gothel put her though did have a profound effect on Rapunzel, she is still able to fend for herself and has the strength to handle all the unfamiliar and frightening situations she finds herself in on the way to the lanterns.
Special thanks to:
for their comments on my polls. They were great help in this article!