There aren’t too many mothers in Disney princess movies. In fact, there are far more evil “mother” figures than there are good moms (think Snow White’s Evil Queen, Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother, or Rapunzel’s Mother Gothel). The princesses’ actual mothers tend to be either dead, or (like Aurora’s and Rapunzel’s mothers) somehow estranged from their daughters. A few of the princesses have mothers who raised them (Mulan, Merida, and Tiana, for example), but most don’t. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that Disney princess movies don’t have such a high regard for moms. But you’d be wrong.
The reason that good mothers are largely absent in Disney princess movies — and fairy tales in general — is that, without a mother, the princess is catapulted unceremoniously into adulthood. Without a mother to guide and support her, a princess must forge her own path, break away, and make mistakes. A mother nurtures, supports, and instructs. And she understands, in a way a father can’t, what the princess — just on the cusp of womanhood — is going through. The princesses are horribly hindered by their lack of positive mother figures. And it is this that sets them on their journeys — journeys made so much more difficult by the fact that they have no mothers to guide them.
The evil mother figures in Disney princess movies are all trying to hold the princesses back from achieving their dreams. They don’t want them to grow up. They don’t want them to succeed. They want them to stay children forever and, in some cases, they’re willing to kill them to make that possible. The villainous “mother” figures in Disney princess movies deal in death, the real mothers are all about life.
Just look at Aurora’s mother, for example. King Stefan’s queen loves her daughter so much she is willing to give her up in order to save her life. She shoulders all the grief, and suffering, and hurt of allowing her child to be raised by someone else because she would do literally anything to keep her safe. She makes that sacrifice because motherhood demands sacrifice. Sometimes even a sacrifice as big as this.
Compare this to Snow White’s Evil Queen. Snow White’s beauty — and the fact that it outshine’s the queen’s own — makes Snow White inconvenient to the Evil Queen. She wanted to be young and beautiful forever — the fairest in the land — but here is this child who, through no fault of her own, has usurped her. The queens reaction? Kill her. It would solve the queen’s problem — at least temporarily — but it would also end a life.
In most Disney princess movies, the princess has lost the support of the woman who would do anything to keep her safe, and is thrust into a world in which a “mother” figure doesn’t think twice about killing her for personal gain. Her journey is toward life — away from death — and into the arms of the one who will love her just as unconditionally, and protect her just as fervently, as her mother would have, had she lived.
Disney movies have the highest regard for mothers. They show us what happens when a mother’s unconditional love, support, and sacrifice are taken away. They show us what happens when the woman who was supposed to care for the child cares more about herself and her own needs. And we, as the audience, cheer for the princess as she breaks away from death and chooses life. Embarking on the path that will, one day, make her a mother. And we know for sure that she’ll choose life. She learned the hard way. She knows what to do.
Here’s the latest episode of Princess State of Mind: “Why We Are Pro-Life”