Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why my Daughter is not a Princess

So, since I’m basically just sitting around waiting for baby to come out (although it seems to have very little interest in doing so) I will go on another one of my spiels about parenting. If you don’t enjoy these, just skip this post.

Now that Inara is getting a bit older and could probably sit through a movie if we let her, I’ve been scrolling through kid’s movies online and finding that I’m not comfortable with her watching barely any of them. In my not so humble opinion, the majority are gender stereotype laden, violent, ADHD-inducing pieces of garbage. Especially Disney.

Let me explain. When it comes to the classical fairytale movies, such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, I cannot stand the gender stereotypes being forced down our gullets. Young girls are taught that they must be pretty (and very skinny), passive and weak to reach their end goal in life – finding a man. Things aren’t any better for young boys who are taught that they must be handsome (or possibly just extremely rich), strong and forceful and not take no for an answer in their pursuits of a beautiful bride, which in their case is not the main goal in life, but still a very important one.

This brings me to what I think I find most disturbing about a majority of kid’s movies: They’re centered around adult (always heterosexual) love relationships. Why are movies for kids frequently not about kids and the stuff that kids like? What interest does a child have in the life of adults trying to pursue a mate? Should they even be interested in it? Why are kid’s movies not more often about friendship, exploring the world around us and play? Granted, there are movies like Finding Nemo where the plot is centered more around the relationship between father and son. It’s unfortunate that one of the only female characters suffers short term memory loss.

I’m not an expert on this topic by any means, but it also seems that as soon as a movie is about something other than a princess, it has no female leads at all. Think the Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh etc. I’m guessing it would be difficult to find a movie where all characters are female and where they happily go about their business without ever pursuing a man, but if you can think of one, I would be very interested. So, half the population is either excluded from the plot, included as a side character, or in pursuit of a love interest (I use pursuit loosely, since it would never be appropriate for a princess to be the one pursuing).

Violence is another issue. I once let Inara watch an older clip of Pluto on youtube and actually had to turn it off. I had totally forgotten how violent the older Disney stuff is. Nothing but electrocution and dismemberment. More recent shows seem to have improved somewhat, but violence is still an essential theme.

The one Disney movie that I have slightly higher hopes for is Brave, which seems to be more about finding yourself and the relationship between mother and daughter without the end goal of marrying. Has anyone seen it and if so, what did you think?

Lastly, I’m concerned with the extremely fast pace in many shows. Several times when Inara has been watching clips on youtube, her eyes have been drawn to shows like Cars, which I’ve never watched more than a few minutes of, but man, are we trying to give kids ADHD? It’s so fast-paced my head spins.

The only movies that I’ve felt completely at ease with so far are the Miyazaki films (although some of them are certainly for older kids since they can be a bit scary). My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo are both about kids and seen from a child’s point of view, full of magic in everyday life. Then there is also Doctor Seuss, although there are issues there too.

Lastly, as far as I know, Inara does not know a princess from a cucumber. She doesn’t know what marriage is and has no interest in being pretty. However, both Andrew and I realize that it’s just a matter of time before she catches on to that people think she’s pretty when she wears certain clothes or acts a certain way. I’m certainly guilty of having said that she’s cute, although I try to keep my complements referring to her being smart, kind and strong. I’m also guilty of choosing a certain wardrobe that I find appealing for her, but rarely say anything about her clothes to her.

She will see other kids playing princesses and princes and she will start to learn what’s expected of her versus two of her best friends who happen to be boys.  We can’t shield her from the norms of society forever and probably shouldn’t. If she wants a princess dress, I’m not going to say no. But I will talk to her a lot about how being pretty can be fun, but how it’s secondary and try to counteract all the outside influences she will get. And I will certainly not let her watch garbage shows just because it’s easy.

Can anyone recommend other movies/shows that are free of (or at least have fewer) gender stereotypes, that are not about adult love relationships, non- violent and not too fast-paced? It seems impossible, but maybe someone knows of something?

As always, I enjoy hearing your opinions! 


  1. My kiddos loved the reading videos the school sent home (I think with Tucker). I still find myself singing the little songs every once in awhile. Each little song lasted about a minute or so. It seems like they were paired with some books. Here is a sample I found on Youtube. The Rusty and Rosy Nursey Rhymes and Songs:


    You can still get the set on VHS. LOL

    I'm sure you could find similar things in Swedish, too.

    The thing about the Disney movies is that many based on those Grimms Fairy Tales. Those are all pretty sick and twisted to begin with.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Margo! I'll have to check it out on youtube. We do let her watch little clips about counting, shapes etc. quite frequently.

      Well, I might be able to get them on VHS, but the question is, will I be able to find a VCR? :)

      Totally agree with you on the Grimm stuff. I just read one the other day about a boy who's stepmother kills him, leads his stepsister to believe she is responsible for it and promptly turns him into stew, which the whole family enjoyed. Don't ask me what the moral was. Good stuff.

  2. Håller med! Sånt vansinnigt tempo i disney filmerna, och allt våld och plötsliga klipp till läskiga saker. Ghaaa, blir tokig!

    Tipsar om barnen i Bullerbyn och Lotta på bråkmakargatan. Inge jävla giftashets där inte.

    Puss på er

    1. Verkligen! Och sa svart att hitta riktigt bra alternativ. Lott pa brakmakargatan kansek kan vara nagot, har inte tittat pa sa lange. Barnen i bullerbyn ar ysigt fast kanns ibland lite dammigt ocksa nar det galler flickor och pojkar. Fast det kan man ju forsta. Och det ar ju som sagt iallfall om barn som ar barn.

  3. I've felt the same way about the Disney movies, though I have found a few that are full of female characters not pursuing men: the Tinkerbell movies are about a group of friends who work together. Haven't seen all of them, but the "Hidden Treasure" one is about two friends working out their differences, forgiving, and strengthening their friendship, and the first one, I think, is about Tinkerbell learning to appreciate who she is, after she tries to be like everyone else. There is one friend who is a boy, but nothing romantic about it any of them, at least not that I've seen. Not a fan of their skimpy clothes, but I do like that there's no violence and no romance in them.

    1. I did actually think of the Tinkerbell movies a little bit when I had written this. I watched that first one a few months ago when I was babysitting a friend's kids and I thought it was nice how it wasn't about finding a partner. Then there is the thing about the outfits like you say and also their super skinny bodies etc. Maybe I'll have to watch it again and see what I think. If you come up with any others, let me know!

  4. I loved Mulan, it does have some war scenes but nothing graphic (for a cartoon) that I can remember. Mulan is a girl who doesn't like girly stuff and then dresses as a boy, in order to save her elderly father from being conscripted by the military for a war with the Huns. Also the Lion King. It's a male lead, but also about being brave and doing what's right. Both have a love side plot.

    Toy Story does have one bully and one creepy doll thing, but it's about helping your friends when they need you.

    Fern Gully comes to mind, but I can't really remember much about it. The Land Before Time is about dinosaurs, no love plot that I can remember.

    Madagascar, Happy Feet, and Ice Age are good ones, too.

    Also Atlantis.

    I never saw Lilo & Stitch but my sister who is rabidly anti-gender-bias has loved it forever.

    That's all I can think of.

    I'm totally with you on avoiding the princess thing for as long as possible. I always tell Mike, she can have it if she wants it when she's old enough to ask for it, but I'm not going to push it on her. (the last item we had this conversation about was Disney princess themed tennis shoes that light up when you walk)

    Unfortunately I'm not that great about not commenting on her appearance. She's so beautiful to me, I can't help myself! But I also do make sure to comment on her intelligence and other skills as well. So at least I can say I have a good balance and it's not all appearance all the time. :)