We saw the rehabilitated BluRay version on 70mm 50th Anniversary release of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" tonight at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood. What a pleasure! I remember seeing it when I was 5 but didn't remember much other than the images themselves. I attended with a lot of enthusiasm because it's a very fun date to have with my own prince, Ken, but I was eager to see what I would think of the gender messages within it.
I had forgotten how fun and empowering the good fairies, Flora, Fauna and Meriweather were. How sad it is that most little girls aspire to be Aurora/Briar Rose when clearly, it is far more fun to be one of the 3 good fairy god-mothers. They are a hoot. They are action oriented. They don't get bogged down in details and their lives are all about serving goodness and love. I guess the most sexist character in the cast is the Queen. She doesn't have one line, nor does she have a name. She's truly a breeding machine, set up to reproduce but certainly not have any agency of her own.
On the other hand, historically speaking, the birth of a daughter in "Sleeping Beauty" was a cause for joy and celebration, even as an only child and first born! That's pretty amazing and I had forgotten how happy they were to have a little girl. My own parents were not so happy that I was born a girl. They'd both wanted a boy. Sadly, in many parts of the world, being born a girl is a death sentence at worst, and at best, a road for challenges that boys still don't have to face. That's not to say that they don't have their own challenges.
Indeed, the prince in "Sleeping Beauty" sets up a pretty grim role model for boys: they have to be gorgeous, wide-shouldered and go through hell to get the "girl." What a set up for disappointment for both boys and girls.
In any event, I have never been one to want to censor anything in literature. I just want to have children's stories that have other themes and we have had that happen. Nonetheless, impossibly good, impossibly skinny princesses still abound. In many fairy tales the mother is dead or as in "Sleeping Beauty," a cipher. Thank goodness that the fairy godmothers are around to have actual character, integrity and commitment to values beyond marrying for money.