updated 23 Dec 2011, 03:22
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Wed, Oct 19, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer
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What can Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty teach my daughter?
by Audrey Tan-Zubiri

I've got princesses running around my mind tonight.

I have just come home from a fashion show featuring an incredibly talented Filipino designer. The show consisted of one jaw-dropping gown after another, with beadwork and fabrics befitting the most royal of royal princesses.

And then, coming home, I find myself in the company of royalty again, my very own little princess.

I live with a 3-year-old who adores princesses. She is particularly fond of Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, if you didn't know) and Cinderella. This fascination may sound harmless, even cute to others, but what it really means is that I have to tell the story of Sleeping Beauty every day and night, sometimes twice, thrice.

This also means that if she could, she would wear her Cinderella costume to sleep and during every waking hour. And the Disney princess songs? I think I can safely say that I've memorized practically all-a Princess sing-along plays all day long, every day.

But I'm not complaining. How can I, when I introduced her to them in the first place? And I can't say that I don't take advantage of her interest in them as I "threaten" to call Aurora on my phone when she doesn't want to eat her lunch or tell her that princesses "always" say sorry/brush their teeth/never shout, etc. I tell you, it works like a charm.

But tonight, as I finish the story of Sleeping Beauty, I start to think about these lovely girls and what they are actually teaching my daughter.

No resistance

Let's start with Snow White. Her claim to fame is her "snow-white" skin and she sits around singing to a well, "wishing for the one I love, to find me today." When she almost gets killed, she puts up no resistance to the axe other than putting her arms up to shield herself.

Eventually, she ends up in the home of the seven dwarves before being poisoned by a "wishing magic apple" which she accepts from a very shady-looking old lady. She looks a little uncomfortable about this, but she does so anyway, even if she knows her life is in danger with a beauty-obsessed queen out to get her. Not the smartest decision.

On the upside, I hear the dwarves thought she was a great cook. At least she knew her way in the kitchen.

Note to self: Enroll daughter in self-defense classes-tae kwon do perhaps? Also, aside from the age-old "not talking/accepting things from strangers," there is the lesson that one must stand up to a situation that makes her feel uncomfortable.

She doesn't have to be rude or make a scene, but she should know that she does not have to and should not go with something she feels is wrong.

Moving on, my daughter loves Sleeping Beauty. To me, it seems like Aurora doesn't do much other than get blessed and cursed at birth, grow up in time to fall in love with the first handsome stranger she meets in the forest (who claims he met her "once upon a dream") before being whisked back to her kingdom in time to prick her finger on the spindle. She then falls asleep until a complete stranger can come and wake her up with a kiss.

Let's go with the plus points. She is obviously giddy over her handsome stranger, yet she sadly but obediently listens to her fairy godmothers when they tell her that she is betrothed from birth to someone her parents chose for her. Very good. Always listen to your parents, they know what's good for you (or so I constantly tell my girl).

The next plus points of this actually belongs to Prince Philip, who fights Maleficent's evil not just with any ordinary weapons and violence but with his Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue. Though I'll have to wait another year or so to explain what this means to my daughter, I think this makes Philip, not Aurora, the star of this story.

And then of course, there is Adriana's (and my) most beloved princess: Cinderella.

A shoe can change your life

Dear Cinderella, we understand how a shoe can change your whole life (don't we, ladies?) but we still have to discuss a few points. I think it's wonderful that you're so nice and kind-hearted, but letting your stepsisters tear up your mother's vintage gown on the night of the ball? That's a little too much.

But you did show me the value of teaching my daughter to be nice while having self-respect.

I have to say, though, two thumbs up for how you took care of the animals. You should have pursued a career as a veterinarian. You would have been great. And then you wouldn't have needed the Prince to get you out of there.

Moving to a different world, we meet Ariel, the little mermaid. I honestly think she's gorgeous with that flowing red hair but I can't get over the fact that:

1. She deliberately disobeys her father;

2. Turns to the resident evil sea witch to help her with her problem, and;

3. Agrees to sell her soul to change herself completely to win over a man.

Oh, and she runs away from home, too. Well, the good thing is I've used this storyline over and over again to remind my daughter that if she ever has a problem, she must always come to mama and papa. Otherwise, she will lose her voice.

The verdict? Well, she does fight Ursula as well as she can in the end. And she did save a person's life, which is always a good thing. But she also did basically sell her soul to get what she wanted, which is definitely not good. Not good at all.

It's too bad Ariel didn't have a mother to tell her that the end never justifies the means. But I think she learns her lesson in the end, or at least I hope my daughter does.

Life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself; may as well learn from others. And because we love the songs, something tells me we will keep on watching this one.

Then there's Belle (of "Beauty and the Beast"). I like this girl. She's got a good head on her shoulders (probably from her love of reading) and she knows better than to be pressured into marrying the most popular hunk in town, who also happens to be a bully.

When she meets the Beast, she manages to stand up for herself and eventually, learns to look beyond the surface and find the good in him. Three cheers for Belle!

Putting her foot down

I think we're on a streak here as we move on to Jasmine, who puts her foot down and refuses to be married off to just any pompous prince who comes and tries to impress her and her father. When things get rough, she doesn't just sit around either waiting for Alladin to rescue her. She takes things into her own hands and she succeeds in tricking Jafar. A little too seductively for a young child to be watching, but oh well.

Now I doubt that Adriana sees the same things I do in Jasmine, but she's been asking for a Jasmine Halloween costume for the last three months and is absolutely delighted with it. Of course, her father was quick to notice the exposed tummy. "Isn't that too sexy?" he asked.

Maybe, but for now, she's 3 so we'll let it slide.

Closer to home is Mulan, who "fails" in all the conventional tasks and obligations (i.e. find a suitable husband) that a woman in her time is supposed to fulfill, but gets us all cheering with her courage and valor to fight in her father's place. Granted she leaves home without her family's permission, but you can't help but be touched by her love for her father and her respect for her elders.

Smart cookie

This is also one smart cookie who continuously manages to come up with all the right strategies to beat the Huns and save not just the day, but the King and his empire. She may not have been a princess, but how many princesses can lay claim to such feats?

As a young girl, I loved these Disney princesses and watched every one of them. Today, I have to admit, I have a blast singing "Bippity-boppity-boo" with Adriana and creating glass slippers and crowns out of bubble-bath foam. I love the magic they bring and the excitement in my daughter's eyes as she listens to what will happen next in their lives and adventures.

But as a mother, I've become a bit more critical of my favorite princesses, and perhaps rightly so. After all, if these princesses are going to be a part of my daughter's childhood, they better teach her more than just how to sit around and wait for the prince to come, because my daughter is worth a lot more than that.


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