Self Esteem & Disney Princesses

Disney added a new princess to their line up, and it has people up in arms screaming about what it will do to the self esteem of young girls.


Merida from Disney’s Brave was added to the line up of Disney Princesses, but for the occasion she was given a make over. They made her look more like a woman and not a teenage girl.  They gave her some curves, put her into a pretty dress and took her bow and arrow.


Honestly I don’t see the age progression to be that big of a deal.  There is nothing obscene about how she looks, but honestly there was no reason for it to begin with.  The real disservice done to Merida is that she spent her entire movie showing she could be herself and still be a lady.  They make her a princess and they put her into a dress that she would have fought not to have to wear.

As far as princesses go there are worse princesses for young girls to look up to than a made over Merida.

Lets look at a few of them…


Ariel (The Little Mermaid)

Grade: F

(Disobedient & Selfish)

I love the music in this movie, but as for the heroine, she is not a strong role model for girls or any child for that.

Ariel is the youngest child of King Triton, the King of the the merpeople who live in Atlantis.  She is a dreamer who is not content with what she has.  She falls in love with a human and wishes to leave her undersea paradise for life on land with him. I’m all for a good love story, but what I dislike about this movie is that when her father forbids her to be near the humans because it is dangerous she disobeys, seeks out the sea witch, and puts the entire kingdom at risk of a Tyrant just so she can get what she wants.


It’s not a “love conquers all” story to me, it’s a “do what you want because it’s what you think is right for you no matter how it effects anyone else” story.

It tells all kids if you want something and are told no, do it anyway.  It does not teach respect for elders or respect for self.



Grade: C

(Stands up for what is right; Historically Inaccurate)

I wish I could give Pocahontas a higher grade.  I love that she doesn’t sit by idly and watch the wrong occur.  She stands up for herself and for others and that is to be respected.

But Pocahontas is the ONLY Disney Princess who is based on a historical character, and Disney overlooked important details that made her special.


Pocahontas never pursued John Smith romantically.  She was 12 years old when she saved him from being beheaded.  She did later marry John Rolfe and move with him to England.

Making her older and sexier is the real injustice to young girls.


Aroura (Sleeping Beauty)

Grade: C


Sleeping Beauty is the quintessential love story, damsel in the distress, saved by handsome prince, lives happily ever after.

The basis of the story Disney vs Charles Perrault’s version is similar.  A princess was born, fairies invited, evil fairy left out and upset over the oversight.  A curse is laid on the princess that   happens and the kingdom falls into a deep sleep… and that is where the similarities end.

When the prince in Perrault’s story stumbles upon the princess it is at the end of the 100 year sleep curse.  She wakes up and he’s the first she sees, they fall in love, and the adventure continues from there.


Disney takes a different approach. Aurora is helpless and will sleep until her prince kisses her. So a sleeping woman needs to be kissed by a strange man in order to save her?  Maybe not inherently wrong, but definitely falls under the category of creepy!


Snow White

Grade: C


Snow White is another story that falls under just plain creepy.


There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but the premise of a young woman running away into the woods and moving in with 7 strange old men is just odd…


Tiana (The Frog Princess)

Grade: B


Tiana would have a higher ranking for me if it wasn’t for the fact that she gave into superstition and kissed a frog…. eew!

She holds a dear place in my heart as she is the Bayou Princess…


… and she represents something that all children, girls and boys, should always remember… dreaming is great, but it takes hard work and dedication to achieve your dreams.


Jasmine (Aladdin)

Grade: A

(not bound by stereotypes)

Jasmine is the Indian Princess.  She lives in a land where station is everything.  Princesses marry Princes and commoners marry commoners.


So what is a Princess to do when she falls in love with a poor commoner?  She looks past social class and fights for what is right! She is to be commended.


Merida (Brave)

Grade: A

(Unique, Self Acceptance)

A Scottish princess who was happy being daddy’s girl. She and her mother butted heads over what a lady should look like. But when a wish to change her mom goes horribly wrong she stops at nothing to save her.  Along the way she realizes who she is and who her mother is are both perfectly acceptable and neither had to change.


Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

Grade: A+

(Compassion, Kindness)

Belle valued learning, and showed open disdain for rudeness.  After her father became a prisoner of the beast she offered her own freedom in exchange for her father’s.


Belle saw something in the beast, she looked past his appearance and saw his heart, falling in love and ultimately saving his life.



Grade: A+

(Humble, Kind)

Cinderella was left orphaned after her father’s death and in the care of her abusive step-mother. Cinderella acted as a servant to her step-mother and step-sisters. A chance to meet the prince was interrupted and she had to leave the ball.


It wasn’t her beauty the prince remembered, he couldn’t even remember what she looked like. It was her character, her kindness and gentleness that made the prince fall in love with her.



Grade: A+

(Courage, Honor, Strength)

Mulan is my favorite princess. Mulan was not just the only daughter, but the only child, of an aging man. She lived in a world where a woman’s job was to get married and tend to her husband.  It wasn’t a world she felt she fit into.

Then word comes that the Huns are trying to invade China and one male from each family must serve in the imperial army.


Fearing that his ailing health means certain death for her father (the only male of the family), Mulan disguises her appearance and poses as a man to take her father’s place in the army.

She courageously fights the Huns, assists in the rescue of the emperor and as herself is recognized as a great Chinese warrior.



I can’t grade her as I have not seen this princess’ story…

Do I think some (not all) of the Disney Princesses teach our children good character lessons?  Yes!

Do I think the Princess make over of Merida will be detrimental to the self-esteem of young girls? NO!

Self-esteem will not be built or destroyed by the appearance or character of a Disney Princess. it will be by how we as parents treat our girls.

When we provide opportunities for success in our children’s lives, encourage their progress, console them when they struggle and praise them when they succeed, we build our children up to trust their own abilities. They gain confidence and in turn think better of themselves and what they are capable of.

When we put unrealistic expectations on them, or even shelter them from every disappointment we do them a disservice. We teach them they aren’t capable or worthy and this tears apart their self-esteem and self worth.

Facing disappointment teaches children how to cope with unexpected and unpleasant situations.  It often motivates them to try harder or focus their energies on a different interest or talent.

We do not need to make things easier for our children to spare their self esteem, we need to challenge them to encourage growth.

Self-esteem and self-worth comes when children realize that it is okay to just be themselves and follow their own dreams. Confidence comes from us as parents encouraging this in our children and assuring them we love them no matter what.

If i have any issue with Merida’s princess makeover it is with them saying that who she is is not good enough as she is to be a princess.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. run4joy59
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 01:49:32

    I like your description of the story of each of the princesses…believe it or not, I’m not familiar with all of them…strange, huh? But I totally agree with your comments about self-esteem and how we play a bigger role in developing that in our kids than any stories ever could.


    • Rhiannon
      Jan 04, 2014 @ 04:56:23

      Thank you for your comment!

      Since I posted this I have seen Tangled (Rapunzel). I have a 4 year old daughter, so disney and pixar movies are common in our home. My daughter has a love for Aurora (or Briar Rose as Disney renamed her), because she wears a pink dress, but she has never seen the Disney movie. When she is old enough (as it is graphic) I will read her Parault’s version before I allow her to see the Disney movie.


  2. Trackback: I’m a Disney Kid | Miss Adventures

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