“Have courage, and be kind” was Ella’s motto in the 2015 Disney film “Cinderella.”
Not “have an abortion and don’t appropriate other people’s cultures.”
But if Planned Parenthood has its way, Disney princesses will be a lot more involved in modern social justice and political causes, and little girls will learn very different lessons. Instead of demanding new “woke” princesses, we should focus on letting Disney princesses teach children good values based on universal principles.
A Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood branch faced backlash for a since-deleted tweet from March 27 that read, “We need a disney [sic] princess who’s had an abortion.” The tweet also demanded a princess who is an undocumented immigrant, one who is a union worker, and yet another who is transgender (unless they meant this should all be the same princess).
In response, Joanna Rothkopf wrote on the women’s blog Jezebel that statistically, two of the 11 official Disney princesses have had abortions and “aren’t telling you about it because of a national culture of shame and misogyny!!!” Jena Greene wrote in the Daily Caller that statistically, about half ofthese princessess would be pro-life and half would have voted for Donald Trump.
It’s not clear why either writer wants to apply statistics about modern American women to fictional characters whose stories take place all over the world and throughout time, from China in the Han dynasty to 1912 New Orleans (not to mention the fictional kingdoms of Agrabah and Atlantica).
Planned Parenthood based its gross statement in part on a tweet from comedian Sofie Hagen, which said, “We need a fat Disney princess.” Hagen is not the only one who has (sincerely) called for an overweight princess. Last December, the Independent, a British online newspaper, published an article about two advocates who also have demanded a fat princess in an Instagram post.
But in addition to focusing on the weights and political opinions of princesses, some have placed a greater emphasis on the cultures of the stories than the actual characters. Last October, Cosmopolitan published an article with the headline, “Maybe Don’t Dress Your Kid Up As Moana This Halloween?”
“Moana” tells the story of a young girl who sailed across a dangerous ocean to save her island. She’s an excellent example of courage, and when we view her simply as a Polynesian princess, we lose sight of the good values she exemplifies. Unfortunately, that’s just what Cosmopolitan did.
“It’s on you to teach your kid not to be racially insensitive,” the piece argues. “There’s no better time than when a kid is in their formative years to teach them that it’s not OK to mock other people’s cultures.” Cosmopolitan doesn’t seem to realize that children dress up as their heroes as a sign of admiration, not mockery, as if wearing a grass skirt and bandeau top is making fun of Polynesian culture.
Each of Disney’s princess films teaches lessons about the importance of good character. In “The Princess and the Frog,” Tiana recognizes that hard work is important for reaching her goals. Belle sacrifices her freedom for her father, and helps her captor find redemption in “Beauty and the Beast.” Pocahontas and Mulan risk their lives for their loved ones, as does Anna in “Frozen.” Children should be encouraged to think about how they can be virtuous in their lives, just like the princesses.
Senior Andrea Wallace portrays princesses and other beloved heroines at children’s events, and her job often includes explaining how princesses can serve as examples of good character.
“We see every princess as an example of goodness, truth, and beauty, who discovers and grows these characteristics through her unique story,” Wallace said. “I think it is important to appeal to universal themes so that princesses can continue to belong to everyone, not just polarized political groups.”
The world doesn’t need a Disney princess who has had an abortion, who voted for Trump, or who is overweight. We don’t need opportunists to exploit Disney’s popularity for their own causes. We need people who are courageous and kind, just like the princesses.
Chandler Lasch is a senior studying history.