Disney movies are arguably the staple of any childhood, which is why it's hard to admit that they can sometimes be problematic. From unrealistic waistlines to the portrayal of gender stereotypes, the beloved classics can send the wrong message to kids.
But there's one issue parents have likely overlooked, and that's Disney's lessons of consent – or lack thereof.
Everyone's favourite honest mom, Kristen Bell, brought up the issue in a new interview with Parents Magazine. Although Bell admitted she loves reading Disney stories to her daughters, aged three and five, she often worries about what they're learning from the princess tales — especially Snow White.
"Don't you think that it's weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they're sleeping!" Bell tells her daughters.
But lessons of consent are just one of the actress' worries, which is why she always discusses the story with her kids after they finish reading.
"Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, 'Don't you think it's weird that Snow White didn't ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?' I say, 'I would never take food from a stranger, would you?' And my kids are like, 'No!' And I'm like, 'Okay, I'm doing something right,'" the 38-year-old actress said.
Bell isn't the first celebrity parent to openly raise concerns about Disney stories. Kiera Knightley recently admitted her three-year-old daughter Edie is banned from watching "Cinderella" and "The Little Mermaid" because of the questionable lessons they teach.
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"['Cinderella' is banned] because she waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don't! Rescue yourself," Knightley said on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
"And this is the one that I'm quite annoyed about because I really like the film, but 'Little Mermaid' [is banned, too]. I mean, the songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man."
Bell and Knightley make valid points, especially considering that kids absorb information like a sponge. In fact, this is so true that a study found that gender roles are firmly learned by age 10, meaning parents should be careful about what stories their kids are exposed to.
On Twitter, fellow parents agreed and voiced their own worries.
Even tho I loved Disney as a kid i think that Disney movies - especially the classics - are bad for young girls. Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty all give girls unrealistic expectations of the future and teach them they need a man for their "happily ever after"— Halle A (@1072202A) October 17, 2018
Classic Disney movies like Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty & The Beast, often teach young boys that they are incomplete without a girl to be in a relationship with...— Daniel MacLean (@FuzzyElevatorTV) October 18, 2018
...It teaches them that only a girl can make them a better person and nothing else...
But some pointed out that Disney films are OK to watch as long as parents use them as points of discussion to teach their kids the right lessons.
I'm the father of a 14 year old girl and I agree with Knightley 100% also. We've used Disney movies in our house as conversation and education tools to empower And to teach my daughter that she doesn't need a man to save her and that she should never give up her voice and power.— Jim O'Donnell (@jimodonnell2) October 17, 2018
Or... let them watch the movies AND teach them. It's not like people CAN'T do both. Watching Disney movies is probably one of the few times parents of young kids actually get to "sit down." LOGIC! It's a good thing!— Kixr Plxel's not-so-evil twin ⚜️🇺🇸💝 (@KixerP) October 18, 2018
Although Disney's older classics are outdated in their lessons and storylines, the company has made conscious efforts to create new forward-thinking, feminist films for kids. "Frozen," for instance, is a tale about sisterhood rather than finding true love (and also stars Bell as the voice of Anna), "Moana" features a strong female lead who takes her destiny into her own hands, and the live-action "Beauty and the Beast" was tweaked to make Belle the inventor instead of her father. All three movies have experienced major success as a result.