We Heart: Advice for Young Girls from A Satiric Princess

Cartoon princesses give the best advice.

“Never be comfortable in the body that you’re given. If you don’t like how you look–snip snip!–there’s nothing wrong with that!”

“Don’t ever talk to a man until he kisses you on the lips first. Then, as a woman, you’re allowed.”

Thanks to a set of YouTube videos from comedy troupe The Second City, it is perfectly (and hilariously) clear that Disney princesses, like Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Belle from Beauty and the Beast, received some pretty mangled messages in childhood about dignity and self-worth as a woman–and they’re passing them on to young girls.

In the videos, comedian Danielle Uhlarik, in full princess garb, breaks down the insidious messages about heterosexual relationships, body image and one’s value as a woman in society that ring loudly in cartoon princess movies. Her message is clear: When it comes to Belle and Ariel’s advice, ladies, run the other way.

But what about the littlest ladies?

We’ve all heard that the first five years of life are when a person’s most important development takes place. During that time, children begin to understand basic social systems, identify members of a “category” or group and assign value to particular qualities or skills. So it’s safe to assume that advice from princesses, like “The key to love is to tolerate everything,” as Uhlarik has Belle saying, is probably being absorbed by little girls in some way.

The effect of these messages rang particularly true for me when I recently watched 12th and Delaware, an HBO documentary that debuted last month about an abortion clinic and a “pregnancy center” sharing one corner in small-town Florida.

In the film, an anti-abortion staffer at the pregnancy center advises a young pregnant woman who is seeking an abortion to stay with the father of her baby–a person whom the young woman has identified as verbally abusive and a bad partner. The staff replies, “Maybe the baby will change him.”

Sort of sounds like Belle’s advice (via Uhlarik): “If you find a man who’s big and hairy and beastly and it seems like he wants to hurt you but he’s got a lot of money and a really big house, stick it out. You can change him.”

Maybe it takes a sarcastic cartoon princess like Uhlarik to remind us that if a relationship feels like prison, it’s probably not worth “sticking out,” despite Belle, Ariel or Walt Disney’s opinion. Let’s hope we can share that advice with our most impressionable little gals.

Photo from Uhlarik’s YouTube video.

Comments

  1. savorydish says:

    Sometimes when a relationship feels like a prison, it has more to do with the princess than the relationship. Let's teach young impressionable gals about personal responsibility, the fear of intimacy and self-vicitimization. What leads a princess to choose a beast over a prince in the first place?

  2. When I saw this I couldn't stop laughing. I think it's time for a feminist princess. I wonder where Mulan falls?

  3. Other lessons from Belle:
    1. Reading is awesome.
    2. Don't fret if you don't fit in perfectly, because you're still awesome. Also, if people are hating on your dad because he's a bit odd, set them straight.
    3. If a really hot guy turns out to be a misogynist moron who wants you to have a million of his kids, shove him into a mud puddle.
    4. Family is important. So is courage in the face of danger.
    5. Even if a big scary guy yells at you, yell right back. Hold him accountable for it later until he changes his tune.

    Yeah. I can totally see why we're all hating on this character. I mean, look at the awful, unfeminist things she does. I sure don't want my future kids getting the idea that reading is cool. And the other princesses are just as bad. Just look at this line from Jasmine: "How dare you. All of you, standing around deciding my future. I am not a prize to be won!" What crap.

    Look, I grew up watching all these films–Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast. As far as I can tell, the most harm they've done me and my friends is get a few (pretty) songs stuck in my head. Give little girls the benefit of the doubt when it comes to delineating between "real" and "cartoon." I really have to tilt my head to see the body image issues the web series claims are in The Little Mermaid, so I doubt that young girls are going to see it–I sure didn't. Are there underlying messages here that can be analyzed? Sure. But I'd be more worried about Bratz dolls, frankly. At least Belle does something besides shop.

    • I totally agree with you! It was Ariel character that first awaken my feminist side as a child because she was outspoken and rebellious. She marched to her own drum and made the decisions that were best for her and not what her Father wanted. Then same for Jasmine. I felt just like her when I was growing up- as if I was all alone and there was no one who understand me and I had no real friends. And the quote that you have included in your response is the line I remember most from Aladdin. Belle's character made me less self-conscience about being a book worm and being loyal to my family.

      Now Snow White and Cinderella on the hand absolute work my last nerve!

  4. I think there are definately mixed messages about girls and women in the Disney movies. I grew up adoring Ariel in the Little Mermaid, and I think what set her apart from the other disney princesses for me was that she was active and rebellious. Not just waiting around waiting for her prince to come, she rescues her prince first! She saw what she wanted and went out and got it. On the other hand, I think there is the very negative message that girls should risk everything for and get married to the very first guy they fall in love with. This is a pervasive myth not only in Disney princess movies, but thoughout American culture. It's the subtle things like this that do the most damage, IMHO.

  5. punksweets says:

    poor Ariel everyone ignores the fact she ran away because her dad went completely psycho and destroyed her stuff and it was made pretty she was being used by Ursula

    also i don't quite get what their trying to say in the Belle video are the suggesting she should have gone with the total misogynist jerk

  6. I have beef with Disney princesses.

    That said, I have even more beef with Disney villains! Notice how all the powerful women are the BAD GUYS? THAT’S the problem here, folks. Yes, we do need to worry about these princesses, because I agree with the article–they’re not giving off good messages. But when every single woman who has some kind of power over magic, over politics, or even over their own life, is a BAAAAD WITCH, then there is a problem!

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