If I wish upon enough stars, my prince will magically manifest himself out of the woodwork and we will ride off together upon his noble steed to the magnificent castle we will reside in together forever. If I wait long enough and dream hard enough, I will live happily ever after, and that is all I need in this life. That’s what it means to admire the Disney princesses, right? As a member of the millennial generation it seems that I am conditioned to think the way the beautiful early Disney princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, and Ariel), lived their lives was completely wrong. At 16, they meet the men of their dreams and at first glance, fall hopelessly in love. They never get jobs, they never seem to think for themselves, and their primary aspiration in life is to find that one man to support them for the remainder of their days. But is this really what these films are doing? Is this really what the Disney Company intended little girls to think their lives would be like? Of course not. These films with hopeful dreaming princesses aren’t in place to fill the heads of children with ridiculous fantasies, but in fact, they are in place to ensure the process of continual dreaming. According to self-proclaimed perpetual dreamer Rudy Ruettiger, “dreaming is a lifetime occupation,” and without these dreamers, we wouldn’t be graced with the imaginative genius of the Walt Disney’s of the world.
Maybe a little girl does imagine a handsome prince sweeping her off her feet and whisking her away to a grand castle, I know I certainly did; but as she grows and searches for Mr. Charming, she is unknowingly finding herself. The point is not to focus on the silliness or irrationality of these Disney women, but rather, to encourage the pursuit of a better life while finding oneself on this journey. As the climb upward progresses, the realization sets in that maybe there won’t be an actual prince, or a castle, or a far away fairy tale land, but the discovery will be made that the ladder we are climbing has endless possibilities and that we each have limitless potential. Desiring a fairytale ending, then, takes the form of relentlessly dreaming, hoping, and working for what you whole-heartedly desire in life. Disney is prompting us to find a passion and to never let it go. We are to pursue it with all we have, and that even means dreaming about it.
On the surface, it is easy to think that Disney princesses send the wrong message, but if you look deeper you will find their purpose is to bring to light that being a strong, independent person and being a dreamer aren’t mutually exclusive.
Disney taught me I can become anything I set my heart to. Did I want the library that Beast gave Belle in his extravagant castle? You bet I did. Did I fantasize about dancing in a ball gown with a prince? Absolutely. But my love of Disney and desire to become a princess didn’t make me weak…on the contrary, it helped shape me into the person I am proud to be today. I am no less able because of my childhood and adulthood dreams, I am made more complete because of them.
I will always dream, no matter if it is about owning my own castle or changing the world one podcast episode, one business, or one ray of sunshine at a time. Thanks to the magic of the Disney princess, I dared to walk once upon a dream…will you do the same?
“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam. Yet I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem. But if I know you, I know what you’ll do. You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream.”
-Disney’s Sleeping Beauty–