I’m a feminist and I love Disney. There, I said it. Know who wouldn’t agree with me? Rebel Girls-founders of “goodnight stories for rebel girls.” No more princes, princesses or fairy godmothers they say, it’s all about empowering female astronauts, chefs, painters and so on. Which is great, but nothing like the nostalgic stories I grew up on along with many other satisfied little girls. My personal favourite was Sleeping Beauty by the way. Umm who wouldn’t want a handsome prince waking you up with a kiss? The recent video Rebel Girls released in April depicts a male version of the Cinderella story called “Cinderfella,” emphasising the absurdity of a fairy story when gender roles are switched and how harmful these stories are for young girls growing up. Cue eye roll. Relax, people. It’s a fairy story and is meant to be taken like that. As a child, I always knew I would be no princess but I still loved drawing them with their long, flowing locks. I still loved making up my own fairy stories, which sometimes featured a prince and sometimes didn’t.
Rebel Girls co- founder Elena Favilli says that “Recently I realized that not a single story I read growing up featured a girl who took her destiny in her hands and made something on her own without the help of a prince, a brother or a mouse.”
Yes Elena, not everyone ends up with the hunky prince in the end and there isn’t always a happily ever after in life but why not hope for something resembling that? There isn’t anything wrong with hope, as long as its fairly realistic. And everyone can do with a little help from the men in their lives. I still take advice from both my boyfriend and brother, that doesn’t make me less of a woman.
The tooth fairy is a classic example of timeless hope that prevails throughout the generations. I soon learnt as a child that there is no winged lady flying through your bedroom window adorned with a necklace of toothy pegs and clutching a purse full of pound coins. But I still loved imagining a magical tooth factory where mine were the greatest of them all. And I’m still going to tell my kids there is a tooth fairy. Because, why the hell not?
Cinderella may have needed the prince to save her but Belle in Beauty and the Beast didn’t. She is a bookworm, an independent thinker who constantly rejects the advances of the narcissistic village arsehole, Gaston and relies on her wits for her happily ever after. Yes, she was kept a prisoner by a beast which is terrible, but girls-she made that noble choice to stay in the castle instead of her sickly father, which is truly admirable. Her shitty situation also didn’t stop her from rising above it, taking matters in her own hands and achieving her happily ever after. This came through powerful choices, a determined spirit and a forgiving nature, which saw past an ugly exterior.
I left that cinema along with lots of little girls and boys clutching their parents hands. I can only hope they were also touched by the spectacular performance, the stunning visuals, the moving songs, the sheer passion of it all. I hope they were inspired by a strong female character who believed in the power of love and kindness over everything else. They may not have understood Belle’s tearful “I love you” to the tortured Beast at the end of the movie, but they will learn in time that whilst love is magical, it can also involve tears and compromise. Beauty and the Beast made me laugh and cry and whisked me to an enchanting place. I’m sure Rebel Girls can’t come close to that. What can I say? It’s something about those opening strains of Disney and that shimmering castle in the sky that leaves this big girl heart with “something there that wasn’t there before.”