How Disney Princesses Exemplify the Consistent Life Ethic
by Kae-Leah Williamson
My best friend Lisa Dawn Tynes and I both adore princesses and mermaids, even though we’re both over 30. She has a fantastic blog appropriately called The Princess Blog that discusses her opinions on all sorts of fairy tale-related media. Some of the most thought-provoking posts she’s made were about what fairy tale and Disney princesses represent to her: ideals of love, hope, and compassion. To me, that sounds an awful lot like the Consistent Life Ethic.
Disney’s Pocahontas gets a lot of well-deserved criticism for the film’s many historical inaccuracies, but taken as a fictional character separate from the real-life historical figure she was inspired by, Pocahontas expresses many Consistent Life Ethicist ideals throughout her entire movie. “You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you.” she so beautifully sings, calling John Smith out for his prejudices. The Consistent Life Ethic is about valuing all human beings equally, even if they look or think differently from us. Part of why we believe that abortion is morally wrong is because despite being smaller and less developed than we are, preborn fetuses are still human beings deserving of rights and protection. Pro-choicers often dehumanize preborn children as “parasites,” “clumps of cells,” etc., basically implying that because they are obviously not identical to infants, they are not human and thus not worthy of caring about. War and inhumane immigration policy are also often driven by dehumanizing and “othering” people. Pocahontas takes a strong stand by refusing to “take the path of hatred,”
In The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s father, King Triton, is extremely prejudiced against human beings, because he views them as a threat to merfolk for admittedly understandable reasons. Ariel is very upset by the way he calls them “barbarians, incapable of any feeling.” Ariel disagrees, and does value human life, rescuing Prince Eric from drowning, and refusing to see “how a world that makes such beautiful things could be bad.”
Throughout The Little Mermaid animated series from the early 1990s, which is currently available for streaming on Disney+, she is constantly taking the side of every outcast she comes across, valuing all life both under and above the sea consistently.
One reason why Enchanted is one of my top 3 favorite movies of all time is I believe the world would be a better place if we were all at least a little bit more like Giselle. Giselle is optimistic and trusting to a fault, seeing the good in everybody around her without exception. This contrasts her with her jaded, cynical love interest Robert. She is so sensitive that the very idea of a couple getting divorced causes her to burst into tears. I can only imagine her reaction when learning about abortion or nuclear war for the first time! Many people are so jaded by the many injustices of society that they’ve essentially become numb to them, so it’s a helpful thought experiment to sometimes try to look at issues through the eyes of a true innocent like Giselle.
Believing in the Consistent Life Ethic has only strengthened my admiration for the ideals these characters espouse. The real world is no fairy tale, but if we were more like Disney Princesses, we’d be much closer to living in a Consistent Life Ethic utopia.
For another take about Disney princesses on our blog, see:
For more of our blog’s commentary on Hollywood movies, see:
Hollywood Movie Insights (The Giver, The Whistleblower, and The Ides of March)