The Plague of the Princesses
I think that it’s not the princesses who are the problem—it’s the plot in which they always seem to get stuck. As much as we’ve all grown up with and loved fairy tales like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc., … they all have one common denominator to their stories. They’re collectively waiting for their prince to come and rescue them.
In the past couple of decades, in an obvious effort to toughen up those princesses in filmic versions, there have been varieties to that plot. We’ve seen that in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, as well as DreamWorks’ Fiona in Shrek, to name just a few. But in the end, their adventures (and the plot still) mostly revolves around the age-old beloved prince or love interest, who invariably saves them from some foul fate in the end.
But if you look at real princesses, they were basically working girls. Pampered in their times maybe, but nonetheless, they had a job to do for their kingdoms, whether it be as a diplomat or as a bargaining “tool” to bring kingdoms together in alliance. I think there was little waiting around for true love and eternal happiness in their lives. And back in the days in which the fairy tales of old were written, marriage was one of the most important jobs of a princess. It was part of their job, not simply a romantic notion.
When I came up with the idea for Princess Merida in Brave, that was how I looked at the story. The Queen was a working mom trying to prepare her daughter for her “job” in the kingdom. I wanted to break the stereotype of the princess, as well as the princess plot. There were princesses that were trained for battle in some kingdoms. They knew how to wield a sword, knife and bow and arrow because they had to. They also had to know how to deal with the politics of a kingdom and hold their own as a royal. No romantic princes or love interests in Brave—I at least made sure of that.
Don’t get me wrong. I am, at heart, a romantic. But I prefer to think that it is more than just beauty and a princess allure that leads to romance. And, more importantly, meaningful life relationships.
So I guess my answer is no. I don’t think princesses are bad for little girls. I think the tired and unrealistic plot of waiting around for your true love to come and find you, sweep you up on his majestic white horse and save you is what’s bad for little girls. I think little girls need to be exposed to role models that teach them to be strong, independent, free-thinking and, well, brave.
Queen Elizabeth I was a princess. She never married, and she was the greatest monarch England ever had. I wouldn’t say she was a bad example for little girls. What do you think?
Image by KJGarbutt via Creative Commons