Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a magnificent castle high upon a hill. Ever since she was a little girl, the princess had dreamed of becoming a rocket scientist in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. At night, after everyone else in the castle had gone to bed, her little mouse friends would bring her physics books and scale drawings of unmanned spacecraft that they had stolen from NASA, along with some tea and cookies for her to eat. But when the princess got older and told her father, the king, that she wanted to apply to Cal Tech, her father just laughed. “Dear girl,” he said. “Don’t be silly. Princesses are supposed to go to royal balls and marry princes and live happily ever after. They’re not supposed to lead fulfilling lives or God help us, have careers!” But when the princess protested, her father got angry. “I forbid you to apply to Cal Tech,” he roared. “From now on, you are not to leave the castle walls!” The princess ran to her room in tears, but she refused to give up on her dreams. With the help of her mouse friends, she hatched a plan to defy her father…
Have you heard the rest of this princess story? No? Oh, that’s right. Of course you haven’t heard it. You haven’t heard it because for some reason, Disney would rather recycle princess movies from the 1930s rather than make up new ones that might serve as actual role models for our little girls. I mean, really. Am I the only one who is sick of listening to her four year old singing Some Day My Prince Will Come? Am I the only one who rolls her eyes when she reads (for the thousandth time) the part of Sleeping Beauty where Briar Rose tells her animal friends about the true love she wishes for? Am I the only one who wants to vomit when Snow White essentially becomes a concubine for seven little men with questionable hygiene? Where the hell is the modern princess who cares about something other than finding a friggin’ husband???? And don’t tell me to go watch Mulan. Mulan isn’t a princess. She’s a cute girl in a kimono, and a kimono is NOT the same as a ball gown. Just ask my daughter.
I don’t think I’m being so unreasonable here. I get that the five “classic” princesses are kind, and gentle, and that they care about others, blah, blah, blah. It would just be nice to have a sixth princess who could be a bit more…well-rounded. A sixth princess whose story we could feel good about reading to our daughters before they go to bed at night. What about a princess who tells the prince that he’s just going to have to wait for her until after she finishes med school? Or a princess who decides that being happy forever might get kind of boring, and chooses instead to do something that will build some character, and give her a little wisdom? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for little kids playing make believe and having fantasies, but is it such a stretch to believe that girls might fantasize about something other than having a man to take care of them for the rest of their lives? Can’t we try to plant a seed that might be a little bit more responsible; a little bit more, dare I say, feminist?
Besides, these princess stories give a horrible impression about what finding true love is like, anyway. I was telling my daughter a story about when I was in college, and I mentioned to her that that was where I met her daddy. Confused, she looked up at me with this earnest little face, and she asked, “They gave you a list of boys, and daddy was the one you chose to marry?” Is that how she thinks it happens? Gosh, if that’s the case, then we need a sixth princess who breaks up with the prince a bunch of times before she marries him, or who goes on hundreds of crappy blind dates before she meets the right guy when she’s least expecting it. And while we’re at it, we also need this princess to wears flats, because my kid has almost killed herself about a million times, traipsing about in those silver, high heeled Cinderella shoes. I know - the sixth princess could be a cool, offbeat skater chick who wears black Converse high tops under her ball gown. Perfect.
As women and as working mothers, we need this sixth princess desperately. But the truth is, the other princesses need her, too. Because when their princes dump them for younger, prettier princesses (which they will), the only role model they’ll have is Fergie. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to see Cinderella crying her eyes out on Oprah and doing commercials for Weight Watchers. What I want is to see the sixth princess come to her rescue, and teach her how to love herself and take care of herself, whether she has found true love or not. Now that would be a princess story worth telling.