For many of us, the experience of watching Disney animated films was a beloved staple of our childhood. But in a recent interview, Keira Knightley has revealed she won't let her own daughter watch certain Disney films because she doesn't believe the depicted princesses are empowering to women.
According to Indie Wire, during an appearance on Ellen Degeneres, the 33-year old English actress gushed about her daughter's career aspirations over a frosty jug of margaritas before admitting that there are two Disney animated classics, in particular, her daughter is simply not allowed to watch: Cinderella and The Little Mermaid.
Explaining her decision, Knightley reasoned that the movie Cinderella, which was released in 1950, gives young girls the wrong impression about independence. In the film, Cinderella is a woefully unhappy young woman who spends her days wishing for Prince Charming to come and save her from her wretched stepfamily. This, Knightley explained, is where the problem lies.
"She waits around for a rich guy to rescue her," the actress said. "Don't. Rescue yourself - obviously."
Following a round of applause from both the studio audience and Ellen herself, Knightley moved on to The Little Mermaid (1989) and explained that, while musically a delightful film, it is equally as toxic to young female audiences as Cinderella is. In the film, the teenage mermaid Ariel signs over her voice to an evil sea witch just so she can sprout a pair of legs and live on land with Prince Eric, a dashing human man, after only briefly meeting him on the beach. The symbolism of giving up a woman's "voice" to appease a man is what irks Knightley most about this film.
"This is the one I'm quite annoyed about because I really love the film," she began ruefully. "The songs are great, but do not give up your voice for a man." Following further audience applause, she quickly added, "But Dory is a big favorite in our house."
Ellen, who voiced the animated character in both Disney's Finding Nemo and its sequel, Finding Dory, firmly agreed with her. "Of course. There's nothing wrong with Dory."
While Cinderella and The Little Mermaid are definitely off the table, Knightley admitted there are some other Disney films that she feel are perfectly suitable for her daughter to watch, like Frozen and Moana, two new Disney animated pictures that came out within the last few years. Both films feature strong female leads who are completely independent and can fend for themselves against any threats that may come their way.
In response to this, Ellen cheekily quipped "There are some good ones. Mainly Dory."
The history of Disney films shows a number of female leads who, despite being the protagonists of their own films, often require assistance in their happily-ever-after by other characters, particularly men. In recent years, however, Disney has recognized the changing tide in the women's empowerment movement and introduced several characters perfectly capable of being the hero of their respective stories. We see this in Moana and Frozen, as well as in The Princess and the Frog.
Knightley was on the show to promote her upcoming role as The Sugar Plum Fairy in Disney's upcoming live-action film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms which is set to hit theaters on Nov. 2, 2018.
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