BARRETT: Keep political correctness away from fairy tales

This is probably a view Keira Knightley's children will never see, given the Disney film "Cinderella" is banned because the titular character supposedly waits around for a man to save her. Ashli Barrett Photography

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Nothing is safe from virtue-signalling and political correctness, apparently – not even children’s fairy tales.

That’s right – if you’re a parent, you better stop allowing children to watch Disney movies because they’re terribly sexist – or so say actresses Keira Knightley of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame and Kristen Bell who voices Anna in “Frozen.”

Recently, Knightley revealed her daughter was banned from watching “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid,” because she believes Cinderella “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her,” and Ariel gives up her voice for a man. Bell echoed those thoughts, but with “Snow White,” which she says sends the wrong message about sexual consent – nevermind the context that she was in a magically-induced coma and required true love’s kiss to wake up, or that men weren’t seen as being some sort of villain back then.

Clearly, I watched different versions of those movies growing up, because those were never the messages I got from them.

I’m all for feminism, and I’m all for better representation of women in movies, but this archaeological dig to find sexism in everything – including movies which have inspired young girls for decades – needs to stop.

Are there perhaps issues with female representation in the earlier Disney movies? Sure, but in the case of Snow White, it came out in the 1950’s, which was a very different time, and to bar young girls from watching it and to see how things have changed since would be a detriment to the very feminist movement people like Knightley and Bell are trying to score brownie points for.

Are they perfect? No, but as Walt Disney himself said once about people laughing at Mickey Mouse and his series of mistakes, it’s that human element that makes them so popular. To err is to be human, making the characters relatable.

Have many of the Disney princesses made mistakes and done something silly or short sighted with regards to love? Sure, but has any human who has ever experienced any kind of love not done the same?

Ironically, many of the roles both actresses have taken on feature those very love-related mistakes. Knightley’s Juliet in “Love Actually” certainly isn’t immune to making them (she kisses her stalker), nor is Bell’s Anna from “Frozen” who was ready to marry the first prince that looked at her.

I get young minds can be impressionable. I also think we do children a great disservice by assuming they’ll absorb the worst messages, and not know right from wrong.

As a complete nerd, one of my favourite things about going to comic and anime conventions is seeing those magical moments where a little girl runs into a Disney princess cosplayer. Their whole face lights up, and you can tell they truly believe the cosplayer is the princess straight from their storybooks. They chat, they ask questions, but not once have I ever heard those girls ask them about their prince or making sacrifices for a boy.

They see the characters for who they are – determined women who didn’t let a few obstacles get them down, or stop them from having hearts of gold. Cinderella did her best to please her stepmother and stepsisters regardless of how terrible they were to her, and neither her nor Snow White sought revenge against those who did them wrong. Belle didn’t judge the Beast by his cover, looked beyond his terrifying looks to see the person he was inside, and Ariel saved Prince Eric’s life despite him not being her kind, and despite her father’s blatant disapproval of non-merfolk.

Those are traits worth looking up to, and each princess has inspired many little girls out there, showing them that no matter how difficult life can be, it is possible to find their own ‘happy ending.’

It’s a shame people like Knightley and Bell aren’t able to look at that positive side of these movies and stories, or allow their children to learn from the mistakes some of the characters make. I will give Bell credit for saying she reads with her kids, wanting them to learn critical thinking, but it’s still disconcerting the worst possible messages are being drawn from the tales.
They`re sending the message to their children that they shouldn’t open their hearts and dare to be kind, that they shouldn’t trust men, and context means nothing (saving a girl from a magically-induced coma that required true love`s kiss is apparently the mark of a pervert). It’s sad they’re teaching children to look for the worst, rather than the positive.
Yet somehow, it’s the movies they believe are problematic.

While Disney himself isn’t alive, I’ll let him have some words with a few relevant quotes:

“Children are people, and they should have to reach to learn about things, to understand things, just as adults have to reach if they want to grow in mental stature.”

“Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows.”

“I have no use for people who throw their weight around as celebrities, or for those who fawn over you just because you are famous.”

“We are not trying to entertain the critics. I’ll take my chances with the public.”