A Response to Keira Knightley’s Characterization of Ariel

Disney Princess films, particularly the classics, have come underneath hearth for his or her portrayal of ladies in recent times. Given this, I wasn’t totally stunned to see an article on Fb from the BBC with the headline “Keira Knightley bans daughter from watching Cinderella or Little Mermaid”. BBC three shared the next quote from Ms. Knightley because the content material of their Fb put up:

“I imply, the songs are nice, however don’t give your voice up for a person. Hey!”

As somebody who grew up with the princesses of the Disney Renaissance, I can’t say that’s ever been the message I took away from watching The Little Mermaid. Earlier than I’m going any additional, I need to be clear that I’m not shaming Ms. Knightley for her determination. All mother and father have the precise to decide on what media we are going to and won’t expose our youngsters to, and I completely help Ms. Knightley’s proper to make that alternative. I simply disagree together with her characterization of Ariel and the message that Disney’s The Little Mermaid sends.

One of many nice issues about literature — and artwork on the entire — is that there’s all the time multiple strategy to interpret it. Interpretation of inventive works additionally change over time as our understanding and views of society evolve. Fairy tales aren’t any totally different. Whereas I can perceive how Ms. Knightley involves the interpretation that she has, I might ask her — and others who really feel equally — to take a second and check out to take a look at it from one other perspective.

After I was a child, I cherished The Little Mermaid merely for the enjoyment of Ariel’s singing voice and seeing her dream (of residing on land) come true. As a mum or dad, I see the film otherwise now. My daughter can’t converse together with her bodily voice. She makes use of another & augmentative communication (AAC) machine and non-verbal gestures to speak. An estimated 2 million folks use AAC units (of assorted sorts) in the US alone.

The place Ms. Knightly sees Ariel giving up her voice for a person, I now see Ariel navigating an unknown world just about on her personal — with no voice — and nonetheless discovering a strategy to talk, and sure, fall in love (and have somebody fall in love together with her). Ariel could be a highly effective character for my daughter as she grows up — a personality that demonstrates that you simply don’t want to have the ability to bodily discuss so as to have relationships with others or to pursue your dream.

My daughter can establish with Ariel in a means that she will’t with most different mainstream kids’s characters. What number of (human) primary characters in kids’s films are you able to consider that don’t converse for any size of time? I can suppose of some characters, however they’re both not human or not the principle character. October is AAC Consciousness Month, so I’ve been enthusiastic about all of this quite a bit recently. I not too long ago learn an article on Scholastic.com entitled “Why It’s Necessary for Children to See Themselves in Books,” and this quote stood out to me:

When children take pleasure in studying titles with characters who appear to be them, it helps kind a connection to the ebook on one other degree. Figuring out with the characters in a narrative permits for a deeper comprehension of the textual content as a result of children are making these sorts of self connections.

This positively applies to films and different media as effectively. Seeing characters that appear to be them is essential for all kids. The dialog I had with my daughter this morning actually captures this complete idea: (Please take into account she has solely had a tool through which she might construct sentences for a couple of 12 months)

Me: What have you ever discovered from Ariel?

Me: How did you study that from Ariel? (The next is a complete stream of thought she shared with out stopping)

That is probably the most she’s ever typed out in a single fell swoop! We stopped there for a bit whereas she had breakfast. A short while later I requested her:

Me: Why do you suppose Ariel is powerful?

I’m not going to lie, I used to be a bit teary after this. If her phrases right here don’t showcase the facility of having the ability to establish with a personality, I don’t know what does.

There are such a lot of messages one might get from The Little Mermaid. Dedication, love, acceptance (of self and of others). Are these not qualities we would like our youngsters to embody? Whereas I completely perceive (and agree with!) Ms. Knightley’s need to show her daughter about robust girls and encompass her with robust feminine fashions, I believe we do a disservice to kids to “ban” them from seeing sure Disney Princess films primarily based on how we interpret them as adults.

There’s a magnificence to the innocence via which kids see the world. Even when a toddler had been to remove the message that Ms. Knightley did, that gives the mum or dad a chance to speak with them — in an age-appropriate means — about that message. Kristen Bell not too long ago talked with Dad and mom Journal about doing simply this after studying Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs together with her daughters and realizing that she had some considerations with the story. Relatively than ban the story totally, she requested her daughters questions and opened up a dialogue about what they’d learn.

Now greater than ever we have to educate our youngsters easy methods to discuss probably troublesome topics, and to be open to listening to what another person has to say, even when they disagree. Youngsters study via play, via creativeness, via tales and characters, and thru the steering and modeling of their family members. That features studying easy methods to be open to different concepts, speaking via variations, and discussing probably troublesome topics. Let’s embrace that, not keep away from it!

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