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Friday, May 19, 2017

Disney princesses may have put pretty gowns and happily-ever-afters in the spotlight, but there are other lessons we can learn from them. Khevna Pandit tells you about a few Disney-centric life lessons

From catchy soundtracks to animated specials and live-action features, Disney has left us with some extremely fond memories. From Cinderella’s glass slippers to Rapunzel’s enviable tresses, we’ve soaked up a lot of the Disney world; but we shouldn’t forget about the lessons it’s taught us. Forget Prince Charming and making it to the ball, we’re talking about strength, resilience and bold female characters at the forefront. Here’s a look at what we’ve taken from some of our favourite characters, including the currently trendy Belle from Beauty & The Beast.  

Perhaps one of the oldest films on our list, Mulan was one of the first Disney princesses to teach us an important life lesson: you can make your own way in a man’s world. Even though we wish Mulan didn’t have to disguise herself as a man to do that, she eventually succeeds in going against societal restraints to save her father and fight a war. She is naturally strong and quick on her feet, and her ingenuity, creativity and bravery define her. Mulan teaches little girls that they don’t need to stick to gender imposed rules that suggest girls are the weaker sex.

Although slightly historically inaccurate, Disney’s Pocahontas is a classic based on legends that portray an independent, free-spirited woman of colour in a world of white supremacy — something that is even more relevant in today’s world. She confidently tells John Smith off with the lyrics, “You think you own whatever land you land on, The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim, But I know every rock and tree and creature, Has a life, has a spirit, has a name,” and shuns materialism. Her message to girls is to be bold and stand up for what they believe in. That’s a great lesson, isn’t it?

Though originally not a Disney princess, Pixar’s Brave made it to the world of Disney produced classics, becoming one of our favourites. After going against her mother’s wishes and refusing to marry, Merida sets off on the journey of a lifetime to save her mother. Apart from the fact that the film teaches us the importance of self-discovery, it also has the message of respecting your elders. The film talks about the relationship between Merida and her mother, and doesn’t have a prince whisking her away in the end! Now, that’s what we call a positive change.

It wasn’t common to refuse what was seen as a ‘good’ marriage back when Belle was a Disney treat. However, the ‘odd’ small town girl stood her ground and refused to marry the obnoxious Gaston. Belle taught us not to settle, to educate ourselves and to stand up for what we think is right. The tale also taught us about the importance of family (the way she stands up for her father is a lesson we should all learn), and the most obvious take-away from the tale as old as time is, of course, never to judge a book by its cover — or in this instance, a beast by his appearance.

Not many who have watched the Princess and the Frog have been able to decode the important message buried within the fairytale. The hardworking princess Tiana isn’t born wealthy. She works as a waitress, hoping to own a restaurant someday. However, after marrying Prince Naveen (and after his parents cut him off), they are shown running a restaurant together with musical alligators in New Orleans. That’s a fun ending, and more steeped in reality than if they’d been bestowed with wealth.

Elsa & Anna
Frozen has definitely taught us a lot of things, but if you’re watching the film for the first time, you may not be able to see beyond the sisterly love it portrays on the surface. We’ve grown up watching true love’s kiss breaking spells and creating magic, but Frozen goes against this to show the love of two sisters that thaws a frozen heart. And, of course, Elsa refusing Anna’s wish to marry Hans (because “you can’t marry a man you just met”) is one of our favourite parts.

A story borrowed from Persian lore, this fairytale has a happily-ever-after, but a recent ten-minute sequel being planned shows Rapunzel as the first Disney princess to refuse a marriage because “she just isn’t ready”. While this may seem bizarre to most after the happy ending we’re used to, we’re glad Disney is telling little girls not to rush into things or hurry to find Prince Charming. You go, Rapunzel!


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