Keira Knightley ‘banned’ Cinderella & The Little Mermaid in her house

ELLE Women in Hollywood 2018

It really feels like Keira Knightley has gotten more feminist over the past few years especially. I think giving birth to a daughter made Keira want to get louder and angrier about the state of women’s rights in general. I like Nu Keira, honestly. She’s more interesting, even if she sometimes comes across as a bit judgy towards royal women. Anyway, Keira is promoting Colette and The Nutcracker (a Disney film, lol), so she appeared on The Ellen Show this week. Ellen and Keira ended up talking about what Disney movies are banned – for feminist reasons – in the Knightley-Righton household.

Keira Knightley is currently making the rounds to promote Walt Disney Pictures’ upcoming movie The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (in theaters Nov. 2). But as the 33-year-old actress confessed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Tuesday, she’s not a fan of every movie the studio has produced, particularly when it involves Disney Princesses who don’t uphold her feminist values.

As a result, the actress has forbidden her 3-year-old daughter, Edie Knightley Righton, from watching certain movies. Cinderella, released in 1950, is “banned,” Knightley said, “because she waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don’t! Rescue yourself. Obviously! 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. Hello! But the problem with The Little Mermaid is I love The Little Mermaid! That one’s a little tricky—but I’m keeping to it.”

Not all Disney movies are off-limits. Finding Dory “is a big favorite in our house,” Knightley told Ellen DeGeneres, who voiced the forgetful blue tang. “Frozen is huge and Moana is totally fine…. “

Presumably, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is totally fine. Knightley stars in the movie as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and with her cotton candy hair, “I look a bit like a psychotic cake, don’t I?” To get into character, Knightley was covered head-to-toe in glitter. “We shot it almost two years ago and I think I’ve still got glitter in my house. It’s impossible to get off. It’s a disaster, and I was covered in it for about four months while we were making the film,” she said. “It’s a disaster. It is very definitely now in my contract that I won’t work with glitter. Absolutely not!”

[From E! News]

Eh. I’m from the generation which was “too old” to watch the revitalized Disney studio’s big push in the ‘90s, yet too young for the classics like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I mean, I still watched the “classic Disney” films, and Sleeping Beauty was always my favorite. Cinderella too. I always hated Snow White though? I mean, those films were of their time and of course the “message” of those stories was always screwed up. But… I don’t know, do you think that sometimes – gasp – feminist moms take it too far? Cinderella is a classic! As for The Little Mermaid… yeah, again, it’s problematic. But it’s another classic. I feel like Keira’s worried that if she ever did show those “problematic” films to her daughter, Edie would just want to watch them constantly and it’s more about Keira’s annoyance than anything else.

Keira Knightley promoting her new film 'Colette' at the BFI - London

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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118 Responses to “Keira Knightley ‘banned’ Cinderella & The Little Mermaid in her house”

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  1. Lydia says:

    I understand her completely. I watched those films when I was really young and it just impresses the “woman waiting for a perfect rescuer and not having any agency” thing on very young minds. It took me years to unlearn that.

    Lots of sexist and racists things were once considered classics. Us being so used to them as ‘classics’ doesn’t mean they’re beneficial to us.

    • SilverUnicorn says:


    • Suzy from Ontario says:

      I understand what she’s saying as well, but I think rather than banning them, I would probably watch them with her and then talk about them and what was wrong and why, etc. And balance it out with movies and books about smart and independent women!

      • lucy2 says:

        I agree – I think it’s important, when age appropriate, to see the negative stuff too, and discuss it.

      • jay says:

        Developmentally, kids this young don’t have the abstract thinking skills to debrief the themes of a movie. They’ll absorb what they watch. They’re very literal. So parents are in a tough spot…if the kid watches, and you can’t explain to them why it’s “problematic” until they’re older, some of those themes will get their hooks in. Very hard to unlearn. It becomes a default, reinforced by a billion implicit and explicit social signals every day.

      • KatC says:

        I agree Jay, I can’t tell you how many extraordinary days slipped past me because my framing was always; everything begins, once you meet him.

        I was more than aware of the ideas of independence, but my expectations were warped by the narratives that bore no resemblance to my life.

        These things are only safe with balance, and the scales are already tipped by the 3000 other ways they’re told this story every day.

      • JadedBrit says:

        ‘This afternoon Frederick is going to write a satirical essay about “Pocohontas” while observing other children’s play patterns.’

    • I did really well in school in 4th grade and was granted video rights by my parents – watched The Little Mermaid everyday after school for a good couple of months and I gotta tell ya – I turned out pretty well and I am feminist AF.

      But different strokes for different folks.

      • jwoolman says:

        A nine year old is a lot safer than a three year to plunk in front of any problematic movie..

        At 9, we are coming into adult ways of thinking even though our brains are still developing and we lack adult experience. So in your case – no harm was done!

    • Mina says:

      How is The Little Mermaid a woman waiting for a perfect rescuer?

      • Mara says:

        Yes this ^^^^^, Disney’s The Little Mermaid is much more feminist than people remember. Ariel is longing to explore the human world before she even meets Eric, she’s straining under the control of her father. It’s an argument with him that prompts her to sign the no voice deal, Eric is an incidental catalyst.
        I watched it again recently and thought that their marriage will actually be pretty sad because the human court and Palace will be just as stifling to her once the novelty wears off and she’ll be longing to explore different lands.

      • LWT00 says:

        This is always what I say when people come after me for loving The Little Mermaid.

        You know that song everyone loves? The one she sings in the cave that starts “I just don’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad?” That song IS THERE TO ESTABLISH SHE WAS OBSESSED WITH HUMANS BEFORE EVER SETTING EYES ON PRINCE ERIC.

        She’s been collecting human things her entire life in secret. She wants to be human. Rescuing the human prince (look who does the rescuing!) starts a chain of reactions for her to achieve her lifelong dream.

        And yes, she gives up her voice. But it’s not like she doesn’t think about it – she weighs the consequences. And makes an informed choice. And when she realizes she’s been tricked, she tries to save the prince again (second time that she’s the rescuer).

        /end rant.

        /end rant

      • Crassie says:

        I agree. My main complaint is that she’s only 16! And why doesn’t she have any female friends?

      • Kartell says:

        Keira pointed out that it was Cinderella who is waiting to be rescued from her bad family. Ariel give up her voice for a pair of legs…basically she reject what she is in the hope to have the attention of the prince.

      • Lydia says:

        To be honest, I have more of an issue with Cinderella and the movies from that age than the Little Mermaid. Ariel has more personality, and she does save the prince at the start. She loses agency in the later half of the movie, though.

        To me she’s somewhere in between those princesses from the ‘classic’ age and the ladies who came later, who shaped their own destinies and had personality treats that go beyond pure and beautiful.

        Like other commenters, I don’t think critiquing it at such a young age will do much good. There are lots of options now with assertive princesses they can watch, and then they can watch those “classics” when they’re 10 or something.

        If they want, of course, because they might be boring to that generation or not 3D enough.

      • North of Boston says:

        Yeah there are other options for kids that age. I remember my niece went through a really big “Doc McStuffins” phase, about a little girl who is a doctor/veternarian/stuffed toyinarian to for her toys that come to life when no one else is around – she was performing exams and patching up everything and everyone who came her way for about a year, while sing-song-ing “She’s not bossy, she’s the boss” That and Frozen were her two obsessions for a while (Frozen has its issues, but at least there are a lot of moving parts and varied characters in that one)

    • Donna Martin says:

      Agreed! Took me many years too. Disney films were banned from home too but kids go to school and they learn about them from their friends. Before I knew it books were coming in from school libraries so I took the opportunity to discuss why some of these stories are problematic.

  2. Dal says:

    I don’t want my daughter watching them either. Classic or not, it’s not a message my 4 year old needs.

    • cannibell says:

      Do you have a copy of “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko? If not, it’s a must-read for any kid.

      Here’s a Worldcat link (Worldcat is a union catalog of 10,000 English-speaking libraries around the world. Enter your postal code into the search box to find a library closest to you. I used 10001 in this link, just because…..)

      • SJhere says:

        Thanks for this link! Interesting, love libraries.

      • Inara says:

        As a preschool teacher, I absolutely love The Paper Bag Princess. Its one of the books I always have on hand because the message of it is so important for both boys and girls.

      • Guest says:

        my son was raised on the paper bag princess…as were all god daughters and sons! I loved the story!! Another Disney film I like tons is “Brave”. I have recently fallen in love with “Coco” which is not about feminism so much as it is about respecting our ancestors and learning from their wisdoms. I was raised on Cinderella, Snow White (the originals) and the idea of a white picket fence for every girl and boy. I had quite the crisis when at 25 I had achieved neither the boy or the fence or come close to having any of my preferred number of 4 kids….ended up with one kid, no mate, and no white picket fence of mine own, either. Unlearning those messages has been difficult, even whilst being one of the fiercest defenders on feminism! I am a complicated woman…… :)

      • Nikki says:

        Thank you; I will check it out for my granddaughter! Do you know Dolly Parton’s foundation gives away free books geared for your child’s age every single month?? It’s not even need based, and so far, my granddaughter has LOVED every book she’s received; they are mailed right to your door!!

    • Erinn says:

      Here’s the thing though. Can a child not watch those movies and a parent then say “so this is just a movie – Ariel should never have made that kind of sacrifice for someone she was interested in”.

      I feel like it’d make more sense to let them watch them and guide them in the direction of why it’s a problem instead of them seeing them at a friends house and nothing being said.

      • Sara says:

        When I was a kid my mom would pop me in front of a Disney VHS (OLD) once a week to have a well-deserved cocktail with my dad and she didn’t really comment on the movies, just let me veg out in front of them. So I’m thinking it’s important to watch problematic content with your kids (which my parents did especially with classic Hollywood movies with blackface etc.) but choose some easy viewing for that type of experience.

      • Pamela says:

        I agree. I actually think it is a great way to bring up this stuff with kids. Girls AND Boys.

      • Nancy says:

        I like that comment @Erinn. When you think about all of the things kids see and we as parents, probably don’t know about….I’d rather they watch with me and my husband. I can separate fact from fiction and still enjoy a fairy tale. I was Cinderella (lol) and my twin was the wicked stepmother!! We are so different, yet so much alike! With all these zombie tv shows, video games and horror flicks, these films are the least of my worries. My children range from 15 to 2 with the last 2 on the way. I know a thing or two about mothering and don’t agree with Keira and think her daughter will miss out, but she is her mom.

      • North of Boston says:

        While you make a good point…I think it’s better to do that when the kids are a little older. Keira’s daughter is 3 years old, maybe at 6, 7, 8 those critical thinking observations / conversations may be of more value. At 3, they are more like pop culture sponges.

    • Suzy from Ontario says:

      There’s also these books, which are great! They aim to show that not only can girls be anything, they already have been, with historical writeups, art, and comedy. The women covered are good, bad, complicated, and everything in between.

      This is a page for everyone who ever underestimated a girl — especially if the girl is themselves.

      “A series of illustrations of women whose stories wouldn’t make the cut for animated kids’ movies, illustrated in a contemporary animation style. In 2016, it became a book – and in 2018, there will be a second!

      Additionally, the site regularly adds profiles of “Modern Worthies” – women from living memory who would also not make the cut.

      Lastly, there’s a regularly-updated blog featuring items related to non-conforming women, art, and peculiar bits of history.

      Did they actually get rejected? Did you pitch these ideas?

      Nope, but I think we can assume that nobody’s going to want to do kids’ movies about a lot of these people. They’re either way too awesome, way too awful, or way too weird. For a much longer explanation of why “Rejected,” here is a more in-depth explanation.”

      Here’s some random Rejected Princesses
      Viking princess who decided she’d rather be a pirate than get married.

      Black, Muslim warrior queen of a tribe of griffin-riding Amazons – and the honest-to-god namesake of California.

      Marie Equi
      Once upon a time, there was a lesbian Wild West abortion doctor. She once horsewhipped a guy in the face and was tossed in San Quentin Prison for sedition. To the surprise of no one, she lived in Portland.

      The world’s fiercest all-female fighting force, and the incredible legend of how they rescued their deposed queen from slavery in Brazil…

      You get the idea. They also have a FB page:

      • Angela says:

        This is such a great book Suzy! I’ve taken it from the library a couple times but have never been able to read more than a few stories at a time.

  3. Becks1 says:

    Yeah I definitely have a problem with some Disney movies (Aladdin among them, because Jasmine is literally just waiting for a husband, and cant make it outside the palace walls for even a day.) but the thing with Little Mermaid is that Eric was the final push she needed to make her dreams come true, but she wanted to be a human before she met him and fell in love. Yes she choice the wrong path to become a human, and giving up her voice is really problematic from a feminist POV, but becoming human was her choice and it was her desire before Eric. So from that POV, I don’t dislike LM that much.

    My favorite Disney movies though for female role models are Beauty and the Beast (Belle is strong and brave), Moana, and Zootopia (even though I guess she’s not actually a woman, haha.) And Princess and the Frog.

    • chinoiserie says:

      Jasmine’s point is that she rebels against the way she is raised. It is not an ideal. I don’t think the film is perfect but if a film shows something is flawed like how she hates being locked up and treated as a price it is not a message of the film but how that Aladdin supports her wishes to travel an explore the world that makes her fall in love with him and they go to go have adventures in the tv series and the sequels.

    • Yup, Me says:

      The Princess and the Frog where the black princess is an animal for 60% of the movie. Nope.

  4. Missy says:

    My favourite as a child was the little mermaid, I can’t imagine my mom not letting me watch it. I know it’s a little problematic I guess. I turned out fine. When I watched it with my daughter, I explained certain parts a little. As long as you aren’t letting the movies raise your kid, they should know the difference

  5. mlle says:

    With her on this one. The kid will probably see the films at some point – at a friend’s house or whatever – but Keira is just deciding not to have that be the kind of content/messaging in their home. Every parent makes these decisions. Totally reasonable and certainly not too ‘feministy’ imho. It’s a choice either way (i.e. whether to show or not show), and she’s decided to fill her little one’s screen time with what she perceives to be less problematic role models.

    I like Nu Keira!

    • sa says:

      You’re right about seeing them at some point at a friend’s house. My parents didn’t show me classic Disney movies or read the stories to me for the same reason, they didn’t want to instill the idea that a woman should wait around to be rescued by a man. But, of course I saw them at friends’ houses, so at that point my parents explained to me their issues with the messaging (obviously in terms that a little kid would understand), but didn’t stop me from watching them with friends or even stop me from watching at home if I asked, it was more a matter of they weren’t going to instigate my watching them.

  6. Jane says:

    I love those films, but I waited til my kids were old enough to talk about and understand the problems with their messages.

    Like you say, they’re classics, so it’s not like you have to introduce them to a toddler or have them miss out on them forever.

  7. Lucy says:

    This seems reasonable to me. My 3 year old isn’t ready for full length films yet. (She watches about 20 minutes of Seasame Street or Daniel Tiger. (The potty song from Daniel Tiger is her favorite. Sigh.)) When she gets old enough for movies, I wouldn’t show her anything I thought was anti-feminist or problematic even if it was a classic. That said, I’m sure she’ll encounter them as she ages. When she does, we can talk about them and what they’re saying about gender.

    • Esmom says:

      Aw, three is such a sweet age. At that age my kids loved the Elmo segments of Sesame Street. Barney was banned in our house, lol.

      Your plan sounds good. We can only hope that the guidance and direction we give them early helps them process the problematic things with a critical eye and make thoughtful choices later.

      • jwoolman says:

        Long long ago, in the last century, I used to watch Barney if I was still working in the post-dawn hours. Not much else was on… It wasn’t too good as background if I was still in the thick of a translation job because I found myself trying to sing along, but if I was winding down with some mindless stuff the big purple guy was ok although admittedly a tad on the creepy side.

        Thomas the Tank Engine was okay for the same purpose. Ringo Starr and George Carlin weren’t bad as the Conductor.

        I also watched Mr. Rogers to wind down before going to sleep in the same era. (Sesame Street was way too hectic for an adult. At least for this adult.) I was especially fond of Daniel Tiger in the Roger’s Neighborhood.

        When I was a real child in the 1950s, I remember faithfully watching Romper Room. Probably because my mother couldn’t stand the stress of me going to a real preschool after the incident with my older brother. He decided to show his new baby sister to a friend and so they proceeded to walk to our house – in the middle of the school session. Teacher and mother were panicked until they showed up safe and sound eventually. I assume that I was a bit of a disappointment, since at that age I pretty much just lay there and did nothing interesting.

        Kids really often do want to watch the same thing over and over and over, so if you can’t stand a particular Disney film – don’t let it into the house! The little boy next door (now a big boy in his twenties) was like that with Disney films. He watched them so often that he had actually memorized all the dialog and would happily recite it all to his baffled but kind of proud mom.

    • Common Sense says:

      My soon to be 4 years old (next week ) son also does not watch full length movies. He also loves Daniel Tiger and Doc Mcstuffins. I can’t tell you how much I love the fact that those are his favourite cartoons because I also love them.

      • Nancy says:

        My daughter loves Doc McStuffins. I wish Olivia would come back. She was the best little girl piggie ever! Love the Olivia theme song! 🐷

  8. Caitlin Bruce says:

    Here’s the thing if you do your job as a parent probably you don’t have to worry about your kids watching those sort of things and getting the wrong idea. I watched all those things as a child and so did all my cousins. Not one of us ever thought that we needed a man to save us. Just like when we watched look whose talking and knew babies couldn’t actually speak to each other (shocking I know)

    • skipper says:


    • Esmom says:

      Very good point. I realize my mom unconsciously (I’m pretty sure) reinforced those messages while I was growing up but simply watching a couple movies probably won’t brainwash a young kid.

      Still, with so many better choices out there, it makes sense to pick the less problematic ones to watch in your own home.

    • me says:

      I agree. Also, not every girl is going to want to be a doctor, lawyer, or even have a career. That’s HER choice. Some may want to find a partner and have kids and be completely content with that alone. I have 3 nieces and hope they are happy in whatever they decide to do with their lives. If one ends up being a “housewife” then so what? If that’s what SHE wants then so be it. As long as they know they have options in life and they can pursue ANYTHING they want, it’s all good !

      • ttu says:

        Nowhere did she say she’s against her daughter becoming a housewife, or that she has to become this or that. That’s not what feminism is about…

      • me says:


        I never said she said that. I was just stating my opinion in general.

    • Nancy says:

      Agree. It’s make believe. She shouldn’t allow her children to read Humpty Dumpty, Jack & Jill, Rock a Bye Baby, and of the traditional songs. Ring around the rosie is about death. My daughter is only two, but she will watch Cinderella, like her sister did and still grow up to be a strong woman. God. The world is so politically correct.

    • ValiantlyVarnished says:

      Part of doing your job as a parent is monitoring the things your child is exposed to. I grew up watching those films as well. Do I feel that it did irreparable damage to me? I don’t know. I DO know that as a young black girl seeing Disney films that only featured white female characters made me think that was the standard for beauty. It took me until I was an adult to do away with that subconscious way of thinking. And I’m sure the same can probably be said about how we as women view our roles in relation to men and in our romantic relationships and expectations. I mean, where do you think the myth of the “soul mate”, “knight in shining armor”, “one true love” comes from?? Disney films!

      • Jan90067 says:

        You DO realize that Disney didn’t “make up” these stories? A LOT of Disney films are based on Grimms’ Fairy Tales, which were written/published in the early 1800s? The brothers went around asking people for stories that were passed down in their families, and wrote them down.

      • eto says:

        Ok Jan, you can chill with the capitalization. Yes, people know that but obviously Disney sanitized and popularized the tales.

    • otaku fairy... says:

      Yeah. I’d probably prefer to just let a kid watch things like that, but have conversations with them about whatever is problematic. But if Keira would rather not bring certain movies into her house, that’s fine for her too. It might just make her daughter more curious about those movies when she’s with friends, though.

    • Jegede says:

      @CaitlinBruce -

      And animals don’t actually talk back to you.

    • jwoolman says:

      It depends on the age of the child. Very young children and toddlers are extremely gullible. It just takes one comment from an older child or adult to wipe out all the egalitarian training instilled by their parents. This happens frequently in school – kids who happily played with “girl toys” and “boy toys” and loved “boy colors” and “girl colors” suddenly become rigidly locked into culturally gender-specific toys and colors. Some kids stubbornly refuse to shift, but many do. Maybe it’s a primate thing.

      But older children are different – big changes in thinking patterns start happening at about the age of five and about the age of nine or ten. Then you certainly can talk with them and expect them to be not as easily influenced by the outside cultural values. I’ve had deep conversations even with five year olds, they are very different from four year olds.

      I would recommend watching tv and video games with the kids and reading any books or magazines they bring into the house, though. Can’t talk about what you don’t know. Watching tv and video games with them is especially important with the tiny ones, though – you won’t know how your own kids are affected and by what otherwise except very indirectly. The older ones are far more articulate and can tell you about such things.

      I wouldn’t worry about a ten year old as long as we kept talking about it. I would tell them how powerful images are in the human brain, though, and that it’s wise to keep garbage out of their heads as much as possible. Too hard to get rid of the garbage, in my experience. But at that age, if they want to see something that I would rather they didn’t, they are mobile and can go see it at somebody else’s house. I just won’t make it easy by bringing it into my house and wouldn’t have any qualms about saying why I don’t want it for them and/or for myself. Same thing about other choices such as food.

  9. Svea says:

    I get it. But don’t care for the big self-satisfied public pronouncement. I have a friend who loves those. “I only see independent film,” she announces. Next thing you know she is eating popcorn at the most recent, big comic-book movie. She always goes back on her big pronouncements. It is highly irritating.

    • ValiantlyVarnished says:

      An interview in which Disney is being discussed is hardly a “big self-satisfied pronouncement”.

  10. Gaby says:

    I don’t think it is a real issue actually, I mean, every current “feminist” has watched these movies as a kid and turned out just fine. I think teaching your child the problem with these kinds of movies and comparing to the strength of Mulan, Merida, Elsa, and Moana is more important. Trust that your child will have enough knowledge to pick her own role modes.

    • jay says:

      Perhaps every “feminist” did watch those movies…but I wonder how many more women would grow up and identify as “feminist” if they didn’t…

      • Lex says:

        I know oh so many women who are allegedly believers of equality but still want doors opened, drinks paid for, protecting, and saving. They feel the need to bow to the ego of their suitors so as not to “emasculate” them, whatever that means.

        These distressed damsel stereotypes set in early and sometimes stick. I hate to see women subjugating themselves.

  11. Ren says:

    I think it’s over the top. I grew up watching and loving those cartoons and I’m feminist af as an adult. I don’t think it’s going to harm her daughter or teach her wrong values. it’s just a tale

  12. skipper says:

    That’s her parenting style and I respect that but as an actress, I would assume that she could explain to her daughter that these cartoons are not real. They are a work of fiction, a fairy tale. She could use them as a lesson that women don’t need a man to save them. I remember watching these films as a child and I don’t recall them affecting me that deeply.

  13. Astrid says:

    I have kids that are between the ages of 26 and 16. We spent years watching Disney movies and the likes while they were growing up. There are lots of good and positive messages in the old movies worth noting. When parents start “banning” things, these things take on a whole new level of need. Everything in moderation – screen time, junk food, sugar, Disney movies.

  14. Cindy says:

    I guess I’ll be the vote of dissent here but I always felt like moms look much deeper into this than their daughters ever did. I never really cared for the story in the Little Mermaid, I just thought the music was great and the characters were cute. If you want your daughter to see more empowering productions, then you can show her those as well. I’ve never heard a little girl saying “ugh, mom, why are the men not saving Townsville!? who do the powerpuff girls think they are!!”

    I can understand a fear of “brainwashing” little girls into this submissive roles through Disney movies, but that only works if that’s all your daughter will watch. And in the era of youtube and netflix that’s nearly impossible. I’d say Keira has to be more worried about the youtubers her daughters may eventually start following than Cinderella and her friends.

    • Swack says:

      Not only you-tubers but any social media. I agree that you can watch these movies and not become brainwashed.

    • chinoiserie says:

      I don’t know what issue there is with Little Mermaid, it was the villain who got her the sell her voice which was not a good thing and she was obsessed with human world long before she met Eric.

  15. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m glad I have boys lol. And each loved (still loves) My Little Pony ha ha. I have pics when they reveled in my jewelry and makeup. My youngest was drawn to the ‘pink aisles’ in every store. He would get frustrated because he wanted what he wanted but it was labeled for girls. We used to hear parents explaining to sons they couldn’t have anything in the section which angered me. I got mine whatever they wanted. Super heroes, GI Joes and Tinkerbell. Some parents…oy vei. They enjoyed The Little Mermaid as much as Spiderman. I steered them when they were toddlers, but then I also let them explore what they wanted. Saying no ecourages the opposite in my world of boys so yeah, I allow mistakes to be made and then hone in on messages. :P

  16. gingersnaps says:

    I agree with Keira, I’m not a fan of Disney and the like, the only channel I let my 2 year old son watch from time to time is Cbeebies and that’s because I see that most of the shows positively contribute to his learning and there are no adverts as well like the other channels have. Some may find it weird that he’s not into Firefighter Sam, Peppa Pig, etc but I’m okay with that. We limit his screen time though as he can get addicted to him and I would rather have him play and explore his environment than stare at a screen.

  17. chlo says:

    I have no problem showing my children the Little Mermaid and Cinderella.

    • Anname says:

      When kids are little, they show you what they like. My older 2 weren’t into Disney movies much at all, but my youngest was all about Beauty and the Beast. We would talk about it constantly since it was her favorite topic of conversation. Kids learn through play – the movie character is a jumping off point, imo. Whichever character or random obsession a child chooses, we as parents naturally guide them as with everything else.

      Banning something like this never works. Better to have the conversations and make it fun, than to cross your fingers and try to keep them sheltered from something as mild as a Disney princess movie.

  18. Esmom says:

    On a superficial note I don’t think Keira has ever looked more beautiful. Whatever she’s doing, it looks good on her.

  19. ValiantlyVarnished says:

    I grew up watching those films and they have a place in my heart as a result, but…she’s not wrong. Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast are probaly the most messed up IMO. One literally gives her voice away for a man and the other is a verbally abused woman with Stockholm Syndrome who falls for her captor. That’s messed UP!

  20. steen says:

    Hmm. Ariel wanted to do her own thing all along. She was a little rebelious and high spirited. Didn’t want to stick to the path laid out for her. She only gets what she wants when she finds her voice again at the end. And she saves Prince Eric from drowning twice. I don’t have a problem with her from a feminist standpoint. I grew up watching Little Mermaid but I was never allowed to watch Dirty Dancing or Pretty Woman and didn’t see them until I was an adult. Those were banned.

    • Maum says:

      From an adult perspective Dirty Dancing is hugely problematic. Baby (yuck) is 17 and Johnny is 10 years older than her! Yet just like Pretty Woman the bleakness of the plot is overlooked.
      I always feel sorry for Baby’s dad when I watch it these days. I’m getting old… :)

      Pretty Woman is such an odd concept. Can’t imagine how the script was approved in the first place. The only reason it works is Julia Roberts- I don’t rate her much as an actress but she was perfect in the role. She managed to transcend the seediness of the story.

      My worst feminist tirade to my 12 year old, however, is reserved for Grease. It’s such an awful story on so many levels. And the actors are all 10 years too old.
      But hey, catchy tunes….

      Love Actually is also terrible.

      • steen says:

        OMG Grease! Completely change who you are for a guy who is not good enough for you in the first place. ITA!

  21. Tanya says:

    I agree with her 100%. But I also have 3 daughters who are older than hers, and I think she’s gotta realize that she can’t control everything. Better to make it a teaching moment than ban outright.

  22. Maum says:

    I’m pretty sure Keira has discussed having a feminist mother in the past, so her taking that stand with her own daughter is not that surprising!

    I have to confess I never watched The Little Mermaid. The fairy tale is so horrific it put me off watching a happy Disney version. For life.
    Seriously, Andersen wrote some messed up fairy tales. Makes the Grimm brother stories lighthearted and fluffy.

  23. Beth says:

    I watched all of those movies, and never got the feeling that I’d have to wait around for a rich guy to rescue me. Even though I watched them all, I’m still open minded and aware that they’re just fairy tales, not real. Not everyone believes that the story is actually real, especially if they allowed to read and watch it and are told what a fairy tale is. Glad my parents didn’t ban these fun movies from my sister and I

  24. Valerie says:

    I don’t know. I don’t say this to make myself sound like a child prodigy, but I grew up on Disney movies in the early 90s and they didn’t make such an impression on me that I felt pressured to be like any of the characters. It wasn’t that I consciously felt the opposite either.

    I LOVED these movies. One of my favourites was Snow White, and I apparently liked The Little Mermaid for a time, because there’s video of me going around the house, singing the songs, lol. But as enamoured of them as I was, I honestly can’t say that I wanted to be a princess or be swept off my feet by Prince Eric. It’s more important to teach kids of all genders to separate fiction from reality. When they ask questions about it or are old enough for a discussion, you can talk about some of the problematic aspects.

    • Guest says:

      Dear Valerie, one of those god-daughters mentioned above just came out as non-gendered and wishes to be referred to as “them” rather than “she”. Bless you for your “kids of all genders” comment

      • Valerie says:

        It’s quite common now. I hope it becomes more widely used. I think being able to have open discussions about gender roles and expectations is important for everyone, even (and especially) for cisgendered people. Communication and understanding are crucial! I’m glad I checked back and saw your reply. :)

  25. SJhere says:

    I do agree that each parent needs to explain and talk with their kids on lots of issues. And, I’m one of those whose parents raised me to “be a good girl, do as you’re told, take care of your brother, etc”. I’m 57 now and I still have to really work on my thinking to break this thought pattern. Disney, the mindset of “women’s place is to be a wife, etc.” very, very outdated and was really never a good role model, even in the 50′s or 60′s.

    I am so happy to see society start to change.
    As far as Disney movies, tv, social media my thoughts are…be careful what you open your child to and take time to always teach and reinforce and listen to your kids. That’s more important than banning a certain media, in the long run.

  26. Andrea says:

    Not understanding this. I guess anything from the past can be problematic. As for Cinderella. She just wanted to get dressed up and go to a ball and be loved by her family. When I first watched that movie. I was young and the last thing I understood was the prince. Cinderella had a fairy godmother, animals as friends and got dressed up. That’s the what I think most girls pay attention too. Little mermaid wanted to be human. I firmly believe that children are influenced more by the people directly in their lives and they absorb the interaction between them. That’s how they figure out roles and expectations.

    • Jegede says:


      The Cinderella story is primarily family abuse. How to reward persistent cruelty with kindness.

      And the prince was a bonus, homegirl just wanted to party!

    • Mina says:

      Yes! The Little Mermaid is actually about a girl wanting to be free from what was expected of her, making mistakes and learning from them.

    • jwoolman says:

      There’s a Fairly Oddparents episode where they are telling Timmy the original Fairyland fairy tales, and their version of Cinderella has Cosmo (the fairy godfather) playing Cinderella’s role with evil stepbrothers. Wanda (the fairy godmother) is the ruler of the land who falls in love with the magically dressed up Cosmo at the roller skating-themed ball, and runs around looking for him…. Predictable Oddparents chaos ensues.

      Anyway – one huge difference between my childhood in the 1950s and today was that we didn’t have vcr’s or dvd’s or cable etc. so we saw these movies just once, in the movie theater. Maybe one would be run again on fuzzy b&w tv occasionally. But we couldn’t watch them over and over and over again like kids can now. That would seem to pose a very different problem for parents today. Now tv shows and movies are more like books, you can watch them again any time.

      There also are only 24 hours in the day, and there is no harm done by being very selective about what your kid can watch and when. There are so many other things for them to do. So if you don’t like something for any reason, you aren’t damaging them by not letting them watch it at home. The time will come faster than you think when they can watch and read anything they want in their own homes.

  27. BANANIE says:

    I think she’s overdoing it. Like some others have said, so long as she is pointing out the flaws in messaging and exposing her daughter to other, more positive stories and movies, it’s no harm no foul. I can’t help but feel that when people lash out at these more minor issues that they’re being somewhat performative. And hey, that’d be in her nature as an actress.

  28. MaryContrary says:

    My daughter, who’s now 20, loved all of those movies when she was little, and loved wearing princess dresses. She is a total feminist, competitive and going after a career in a traditionally male dominated industry. She’d had a long term boyfriend, and school and internships completely took priority for her over her relationship-so it’s not like she absorbed some kind of “traditional female rescue” message. Perhaps if your child watches those movies in a vacuum with no other information it’s a bigger issue.

  29. aang says:

    Not sure about this. My daughters watched Little Mermaid constantly. One is now a trans man and the other dumped her last boyfriend because “he wanted to hang out too much and I’m busy” and turned down a date with a new guy last night so she could go buy face wash at Target and then come home and watch The Golden Girls. So maybe the lessons from the actual women in their lives make more of a difference than cartoons do.

  30. Electric Tuba says:

    Hang on y’all I just cut my finger on Kiera’s sharp edge. So edgie. I’ve never heard these thoughts before regarding Disney and fairytales. Please anointed celebrity edge mom teach us how to be better women.

  31. KatInChicago says:

    I loathed the little mermaid. Something frighteningly awful about marrying at 16 years old!

    Go to prom, go on a date but marriage?

  32. Mina says:

    How feminist to start censoring stuff! It would be better if you actually watched with your kid and walk her through it. Both Cinderella and The Little Mermaid have very important lessons about feminism, actually. I guess she’s never watched them?

    • Trashaddict says:

      At least they are manipulating the message instead of someone else choosing it for them.
      No, I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I find accusing feminists of censorship to be ironically funny, given the media experiences of the last several hundred years, if not more.

  33. huckle says:

    “…even if she sometimes comes across as a bit judgy towards royal women.” That’s rich.

  34. Pandabird says:

    I can’t be the only one who came away from these films with the message of “believe in your dreams, chase after your dreams, be kind, be resilient, and be persistent”. As a poor kid growing up, theses films let me drift into the possibilities; and none of that included being saved by a boy or anyone.

  35. DS9 says:

    More white feminism I guess.

    I’m not mad at her, don’t get me wrong but her entire thought process comes from a place of privilege.

    Moms of color wouldn’t have much left to show our children if we removed problematic stories or ones that were less than stellar representations.

    That she can excise these movies and still have many to choose from just shows how far the industry has to go in terms of representation outside of a western European outlook.

    I really hope Keira’s growth brings her around to POC interests as well.

    • Veronica S. says:

      That’s a very good point. It potentially strikes me as more important to teach kids to think critically about what they watch and discuss potential issues that arise with them. I grew up watching all of these movies. It didn’t stop me from becoming educated, aware, and capable of critical self-examination later in life. Those were qualities my parents instilled in me otherwise, not movies themselves.

  36. Case says:

    I love Disney, but I understand where she’s coming from and definitely don’t think those messages are good for small kids. That said, her daughter could also enjoy Disney classics while she, as a parent, discusses with her daughter why some of these themes aren’t good for real life. It could be used to open up an important dialogue. There are a lot of important messages in these films as well that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are questionable things in Beauty and the Beast, but I was always inspired by Belle’s strength, smarts, and kindness. It’s all about how the movie is framed by the parents.

  37. Veronica S. says:

    I don’t find either of them that problematic, tbh. The original Christian story behind Ariel is pretty messed up, no arguing there, but both women are shown pursuing what they want in the movies. While it may bother some that Ariel had to leave behind her kingdom to be with him, the movie does a pretty good job of showing her scientific interest in human beings at the start. Her fascination went well beyond the prince. And it seems…rather unkind to blame Cinderella for getting a man to take her out of that life considering she’s an abuse victim. She has no power, no way out of that situation. Going to the ball was an act of daring all on its own considering how beaten down she was. She was remarkably kind, generous, and brave despite her stepfamily’s treatment.

    • Naddie says:

      Yes! Cinderella never had a chance to start, and Ariel wanted to be human and she went for it. The prince was just, as someone said, a catalyzer.

  38. Mina says:

    I’m a bit appalled at how many adult women don’t seem to understand the deeper meaning of these stories. I would recommend you to rewatch the films as adults and let go of the ideas you seem to have about them not being feminists, and then you can actually walk your kids through a story in the appropriate context they were made in. Keeping our children from something is not the best way to raise them, how about teaching them to be critical and analytical from a young age instead?

    • DS9 says:

      I’m very close to agreeing with this, mostly because I’m not certain these movies are as problematic as they are being made out to be.

      Ariel wanted to be a human. She was dissatisfied with the limitations that came with being the daughter of Triton. Today whole part of your world song is very little to do with Eric and everything to do with learning more about the world beyond her backyard. Getting a human to fall in love with her was the key to staying but not her motivation to go.

      Jasmine’s character wasn’t fleshed out well but she was also in a quest to control her own destiny, to choose her own husband, to gain a measure of autonomy and also seemingly to control the destiny of her country. At the end of the day, her choice of a mate was also a choice for who best to inherit her father’s legacy and rule his kingdom.

      What does Keira’s thought process mean for her child as she encounters the real life histories that inspired these tales?

  39. Amelie says:

    Aspects of the Little Mermaid are probably problematic but Ariel signs the contract giving her voice away to Ursula because she wants to have legs and be human. Not because she wants to meet Prince Eric. Yes, she just happens to meet him as soon as she washes ashore but Keira’s wrong about that one. And Ariel saves him twice–once in the beginning during the boat’s shipwreck and at the end when they are facing down Ursula. How is that not feminist??

  40. SpillDatT says:

    It’s so funny to me how ppl “ban” things like classic Disney.

    I’m old. I grew up watching all the classic Disney (on VHS), a host of other anti-feminist (by today’s standards) cartoons, anime, shows movies etc. and played with Barbie dolls, kitchen sets etc.

    Yet, I’d never thought that some man was going to come and magically save me. I mean yes, I had romantic notions as ie finding a prince or being a princess, but I never wanted to get married or saw the traditional concept of catering completely for men and having babies as my be all, end all.

    I think kids will be what and who they want to be, given some free reign and developing their own thoughts from watching, reading, playing with everything. Please don’t read this as some type of Scientology-type child rearing advice thought. Def. kids need guidance.

    Despite all the religious & cultural b.s. piled on me (I come from very, very conservative origins), I’m a feminist, I believe in equality & I firmly believe women can and should do anything men can.

    Banning Snow White or such things comes off as some bullshit to me. It’s like trying to whitewash the past in some ways. Plus kids watch a lot of fantastic, imaginary things, play games etc. doesn’t mean they will grown up and look for some hidden pathway in a wardrobe as adults, kwim?

    Just my $0.02.

  41. Alyse Leitao says:

    Grew up during the Disney renaissance. Watched Disney (old & new) on repeat. Total feminist.

    Snow White & Sleeping Beauty I always found pretty boring though!
    Aladdin, the Lion King, Hercules, The Jungle Book… all so good even today!

    Growing up I wanted to be Tink because she was pretty and still got to go on all the adventures.
    I actually wrote my greatest ever uni essay (A+) on the gender roles in Disney’s Peter Pan!! Wendy = the Virgin, Tink = the Marilyn, Tigerlilly = the exotic other & Peter as the boy who can enjoy all of them before he ‘grows up’… but that growing up means picking a Wendy.

  42. CocoNoir says:

    Keira is right, I just found out recently that children learn all of their life skills through hypnosis until they are about seven years old. After that whatever you’ve instilled in them – all the values and the principles are stuck. And it’s very difficult to unlearn them. Not sure if yelling about it during an interview is going to help anyone figure that out but, whatever.

  43. M.A.F. says:

    That is where your job as a parent is to have a conversation with your kid about the theme of the movie. You can still show your kids these movies then have a conversation with them. It’s not that difficult.

    Also, I wanted to be a mermaid after watching Ariel and after Cinderella I wanted to ride in a pumpkin. Not once growing up with those movies did I pretend to “wait around for some guy.”

  44. Meg says:

    I disagree-the messages in those movies do affect you even if just subconsciously. unless you have a clear message from your parents otherwise you take messages from who sends them-movies, tv, your peers, etc. I remember thinking as long as I was thin i’d be acceptable because princess jasmine from Aladdin had a flat stomach she showed off. messages about womens bodies and dropping everything for a guy-affect you.

    • huckle says:

      Did only that movie make you feel that way, or just your cumulative experiences as a female in general? I mean, it’s a cartoon. Me personally I didn’t start caring about my body until I was preteen-teenager. As a teenager, the things boys said to me about my body or looks, music lyrics and music videos influenced me about my body image more than any Disney movie ever did. That is my personal experience anyway.

    • Nibbi says:

      Oh me too. Jasmine, Pocahontas, Ariel, EVERYONE?? perfectly miniscule flat teeny waists & stomachs. even as a prepubescent kid i felt like my stomach was too round and stuck out too much- this, given that i was skinny as a beanstalk. pretty f’d up, really.

  45. Doomsday Colt says:

    My vegetarian son used to have a meat phobia. He couldn’t even walk past the butchers or meat section in the supermarket. Then when he was about ten he watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it worked as a kind of exposure therapy for him and he was able to tolerate being around meat even though he has remained a vegetarian. Three years down the track he still sites the TCM as being a huge help for him.

  46. Yes Doubtful says:

    I think it’s fine to watch as long as the parents explain to their children that it’s just a movie for entertainment. Personally The Lion King made more of an impact on me vs. the fairy tale princess stories.

  47. Nibbi says:

    to be honest i kinda wish i had this kind of concern coming from a feminist adult on my behalf when i was a kid. i, too, was OBSESSED with the Little Mermaid and would watch it over and over again. I loved Cinderella and the other princess flicks as well. like so many little girls, i wanted to be/ considered myself ;) a princess as well- and i do think it has taken years and years and tons of ‘reprogramming’- reaching to perhaps even the present day, i swear, and given LM being my fave kid movie that gives an idea of how old i am. those messages were just inculcated so deeply in me from so early on- not just from movies tho, but from my conservative family environment, so perhaps it’s not fair to direct too much blame on Disney movies- but yeah, growing up, all the messages i heard were about being exceptionally beautiful and virtuous and being swept away by a prince and living happily ever after, the end. it really affected the course of my life and my adult decisions, and i’m still trying to dig out from all of that, bc actually i learned the hard, and long, way about how that’s actually not a very good belief system. so good on you guys for being conscious of the messages your little girls are getting, truly.

  48. FF says:

    lol, At this rate she’ll be a shoe-in for the next new Star Wars feature.

  49. Foile.15 says:

    There is a great telling of Cinderella from the 70s (from what was then Czechoslovakia) which she is not portrayed as the helpless damsel in distress

  50. Trashaddict says:

    This is what bugs me about Disney and always has. “Song of the South” definitely comes to mind. Beyond that stuff that’s racist, it’s also so sanitized and neatly packaged.