When you’re a little girl, the most magical thing you’ll ever see on screen is a colourful Disney film and chances are that you’ll be fascinated by the big-eyed, rosy-cheeked Disney Princess who’ll become a role model of sorts.
Watch the same as a grownup and you’ll come to realise how messed up these princesses really are. Bursting at the seams with gender-stereotyping, these films build up ridiculous expectations in girls — from themselves, from relationships with men and life in general. And while I realise that the job of these films is to entertain, not prepare you for the world, the fantasies projected in them have deceived many a little girl and crushed many dreams. Someone should rewrite these innocuous tales to reveal exactly what’s out there. Here are just a few bad lessons that come out of Disney films.
1. No need to work, just find yourself a savior
The only reason Disney princesses breathe, eat, swim, sing, grow their hair, wear ridiculous clothing and shoes, is so that they will one day find themselves a good-looking prince. And once they do, all their problems in life are solved. That means if you don’t find a prince, or if yours happens to be on the ugly or on the less charming side, you’ll still be struggling all your life.
2. Crying solves everything
So your stepsisters practically stripped you for wearing their rags and your stepmother deceived you and wouldn’t take you to the ball, DON’T bother to struggle, talkback, rage or run away. JUST CRY, CRY, CRY! A fat lady will pop out of nowhere and take care of all your miseries. But the last time I bawled when I had nothing to wear for a shaadi, my mother told me to suck it up and act like a grownup!
3. Rodents make the best of friends
Inspired by Cinderella and her hardworking rat pals, I spent my own childhood trying to befriend the mouse in the house. And let me tell you, it has still not braided my hair, cooked for me, made me a brand new dress or wiped my tears. But it has ruined quite a few of my dresses.
4. In Disney world, no need for positive female figures
What is up with the fact that almost all Disney princesses have no mothers? Cinderella’s mother — dead, the Little Mermaid’s mother — dead, Sleeping Beauty’s mother — gave away the kid to some crazy fairies! With all these motherless role models, as a child, I didn’t know what to make of my alive-and-kicking amma. At the time, she seemed like an impediment in my own fairytale. But maybe if all these Disney princesses had mothers like mine, they’d knock some sense into their flighty heads and tell them to study instead.
5. No real career aspirations
Considering the princesses’ retirement plan has been to serve the prince, what happens when the prince breaks up with you, dies, or goes to war? The princess would have nothing to fall back on. Okay, that’s stretching it, because she could definitely make a great maid. Think about it — Snow White’s urge to cook and clean was so extreme that she broke into someone’s house and just decided to cook and clean for them probono.
6. Good always kicks evil’s butt and karma is your best friend
When you’re in the Disney world, everything fixes itself towards the end. The glass shoe fits, the girl comes out of her coma, the dragon is slain, the sea-witch dies — but none of that happens in the real world. I mean, if good triumphed over evil, would we be in this state?
7. Obsession with gora rung and never-fading youth
It’s always the FAIR princess — she’s called Snow WHITE, you know! There’s no sanwali princess, no Plain Jane heroine. Now maybe that’s why little girls want to powder themselves and put on some lipstick at age 5. No one is born that rosy and gorgeous, Snow White, so where are you hiding your stash of Fair n Lovely?
8. Everything ugly and old is evil
This is how a princess thinks: if it’s something cute, dwarfish and furry — trust it. If it’s old and ugly, run like a mad dog. The Queen in Snow White is so obsessed with youth, she’ll do anything and everything to get it. The takeaway from this is when you’re young, milk it, because when you’re older, you’ll only turn desperate and crazy.
9. Uncomfortable = pretty
You know the real reason why Cinderella left that shoe at the palace — it hurt like crazy! And what is up with all the pink frilly nylon tutus these Disney princesses keep wearing? Has anyone worn those while sweeping floors and scrubbing the windows and not developed a mad rash?
10. Once the prince is in your pocket — ditch your family and friends
I’m sorry, but the Little Mermaid is a conniving minx. After she gets the prince and her dream Caribbean wedding, she ditches her entire family and friends. I’m kind of glad though. Imagine what would happen to Sebastian if he showed up at the wedding — he’d end up served as an entrée.
The good side of Disney
Now it would be unfair to say that all Disney heroines are bad role models — it’s only those spoilt princesses. Whenever Disney shows a regular gal who isn’t conventionally beautiful, she turns out to be pretty smart and intriguing.
This girl is truly one of the most bad-ass chicks I’ve seen. She shows that if you’re not taken seriously because you’re a woman, trick them into believing you’re a man! Genius … that’s something us working girls with our stiff suits and manly pants have been trying to do for ages. She’s also a fighter and cares about her nation. And love isn’t something she sets herself out for — it just happens to her while she’s achieving her bigger goals.
She ended a war, she cared about the environment and her people, and she freaking jumped off a cliff — now that’s the girl I want to be!
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, September 30th, 2012.
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