As I browse the little girls’ clothing department at Target, I see adorable shirts with the words “Daddy’s Little Girl” written on them. As a Girl Mom, I can’t help but feel a bit irritated that there are no “Mommy’s Little Girl” shirts in sight.
Why is that? Why does "Daddy's Little Girl" take precendence over "Mommy's Little Girl"?
Is Disney To Blame?
Disney’s portrayal of mothers in their fairytales has been practically non-existent. Most of the mothers of the princesses die when they are very young. The mothers of Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Pocahontas, Ariel, Elsa, and Anna all pass away before the princesses’ stories even begin. In most of the fairytales, the fathers are the only parent figure, and they are very protective of their little girls.
Disney’s portrayal of mothers in their fairytales has been practically non-existent.
For example, the very protective King Triton becomes furious when he discovers Ariel’s treasure trove of human belongings because he fears humans and believes they would kill Ariel if given the chance. When Ariel later goes missing, King Triton commands that everyone in his kingdom not rest until his precious little mermaid is found. The love Disney dads have for their daughters is evident, deep, and powerful.
In many Disney fairytales when the father is present, he goes above and beyond for his daughter. At the end of The Little Mermaid, King Triton gives up his title and powers as king to break the contract Ariel made with Ursula. After Prince Eric kills Ursula, King Triton grants Ariel’s lifelong wish to become human and live in the human world without him. Similarly, Chief Powhatan listens to his daughter Pocahontas’ wishes, sparing John Smith’s life and refraining from fighting the Englishmen.
In many Disney fairytales when the father is present, he goes above and beyond for his daughter.
Another great Disney dad is Maurice, Belle’s father. Maurice always supports and respects what Belle wants. While other girls are trying to win Gaston’s heart, Belle is consumed by her love of reading. Although Maurice mentions Gaston as a potential husband for Belle, she explains why he isn’t right for her, and Maurice leaves it at that.
There are actually very few good mother-daughter relationships when it comes to Disney movies. In Brave, the story begins with Merida and her mother having a difficult relationship because they don’t understand each other. During the movie though, they go through a transformation and end up having a much closer and deeper relationship because of it. In The Princess and the Frog, it is apparent that Tiana and her mother are very close, which is wonderful. Despite this fact, Disney still made sure the strong bond Tiana had with her deceased father was present throughout the entire story.
There are actually very few good mother-daughter relationships when it comes to Disney movies.
Representation of Stepmothers
When both parents die in a fairytale, some princesses are left with their stepmothers. Disney has given stepmothers a bad rap since they seem to love to make them evil characters. Snow White’s stepmother tries to have her murdered by a huntsman. When he fails, she poisons the poor girl. In Cinderella, her stepmother forces her to become a slave in her own home. Later, she locks her away when she realizes Cinderella has a chance at freedom and love.
Although Mother Gothel technically isn’t Rapunzel’s stepmother, she doesn’t disappoint when it comes to being evil. Not only does she kidnap Rapunzel when she is a baby, but she also keeps her prisoner and lies to her about her identity, just so she can use Rapunzel’s hair’s powers to keep her young forever.
With the level of influence Disney has worldwide, it’s important for them to know that representation matters. Yes, father-daughter relationships are precious and special, but so are mother-daughter relationships (and father-son and mother-son relationships for that matter). It would be nice to honor the strong bonds all parents have with their children and to reflect that on the big screen for everyone to see, relate to, and cherish.