So Keira Knightley has banned her daughter from watching Disney’s Cinderella and The Little Mermaid. Apparently Cinderella waits around for a rich man to come and rescue her and Ariel gives up her voice for a man. I am rolling my eyes.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe very strongly in equality but I also believe that we’re getting onto very shaky ground if we remove any reference to women *possibly, maybe, perhaps* being interpreted as anything other than completely independent and strong. Any children’s story can be interpreted with negative connotations – for example, there’s a school of thought that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is all about colonisation because white children go to a new land and immediately become kings and queens over the other races. Should we ban it? No, it’s a bloody great story and reading too much into anything will always ruin it!
By not allowing children to watch (or read) these fairy tales I’m assuming the assumption is that it will set a bad example? If that’s the case why aren’t we all completely subservient waifs who can’t think for ourselves? That’s the implication by banning it.
My own interpretation of The Little Mermaid is that a girl who is unhappy with her life actively seeks a way to improve it. In doing so she makes a great sacrifice, not for ‘a man’ but for LOVE. In the end, because she’s a good person, she gets everything she hopes for. Yes, one of the things she wants is a handsome man to love her but isn’t that a desire held by a lot of straight women? I don’t see any sign of weakness in it, wanting companionship is human nature. If Prince Eric was Princess Erica would it be raised as an issue?
My generation were raised with these films and I can honestly say that none of the women I grew up with has been harmed by them. Did I dream of being swept away by the love of my life into a romantic fantasy? Damn right I did! Did I wait around for it to happen? Absolutely not! Instead I went to university, worked hard at a kick ass career and bought a house by myself. I didn’t settle for a man that would take care of me, instead I waited for the right man to come along before I shared my life with him. By the way, he does half of the housework and parenting. I know that not everyone is as lucky as me and one person doesn’t create the norm but there are lots of strong, brave and independent women of my generation and after.
As a mother of a son, I also think we’re in danger of swinging in the complete opposite direction and being too afraid to portray a strong male lead in case it suggests that women are somehow not as powerful. The key is balance. Yes, there has been a lack of stories portraying strong female characters but this has slowly been changing in the last few years. There’s definitely a lack of same sex relationships in these films. With the awareness now being raised around these issues new narratives can be created to tell these tales, that doesn’t mean that we have to erase the old ones. Surely there is room enough in our children’s minds for all the stories?
What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Keira or do you agree? Comment below!