Is Keira Knightley Being Unreasonable for Banning Disney Princess Movies in her Household?!

Keira Knightley recently went on the Ellen show to promote her new role as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the upcoming film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and while doing so, she mentioned to Ellen that she banned her daughter from watching Disney’s Cinderella and The Little Mermaid. She explained that both princess movies have negative morals for girls. In reference to Cinderella, Knightley said that Cinderella “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don’t. Rescue yourself! Obviously.” She also explained that she loves the songs in The Little Mermaid, but refuses to let her daughter watch it because Ariel gave up her voice for a man.

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Her comments about the movies received both support and backlash in the Youtube comment section. Many people said that Knightley is misunderstanding the characters and looking at them through a negative light. A very popular comment (with 181 thumbs up) by a girl named Gabby reads:

“Keira, you have misunderstood these characters greatly. Cinderella does not wait for a prince to rescue her and Ariel does not give her voice up for a man. Cinderella, an abused servant living a wretched life, just wished to spend an evening at the ball away from her troubles. Ariel, an adventurous young woman, wanted to experience a life on land even when everyone was telling her not to. They both had agency and gall. It takes great courage for Cinderella to show up at the ball and Ariel to sell her voice, knowing there could be great consequences for their actions. Just because they meet men on their individual journeys does not make them "weak".”

There are many other comments similar to this one with people defending Cinderella, Ariel, and the positive morals found in each movie.


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Being someone who respects Keira Knightley as a person and actress, I honestly thought “wow she’s right” when I first saw the interview. However, after I thought about it for awhile, I wasn’t so sure. I grew up watching every princess movie and singing along to The Little Mermaid quite frequently. I am also a feminist and strong supporter of women’s rights and independence. Yet, I do not feel as if these princess movies negatively impacted me in anyway. I never grew up thinking “oh I need to find a prince before I can do what I want” or “I need a boy to rescue me”. I grew up thinking “wow Cinderella and Prince Charming are so cute! I would like a Prince Charming one day!” but never the fact that I NEEDED to have a man in my life.

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I know this debate about the agency of classic Disney princesses has been around for a long time, but it is definitely a topic that makes one think. Is Keira Knightley being unreasonable by completely banning the movies? A little bit. If I had a daughter (or son) I would allow them to watch the movie and then discuss it with them to gauge what they thought the message of the movie was. Of course there are many points of views in regards to the decisions each princess made on their journey to happily ever after, but I still believe that most of them are positive.


Growing up, I believed that Cinderella’s moral was to be kind to everyone, stay humble, and work hard until you achieve your dreams. Cinderella's dream was never to fall in love with a prince - that just happened along the way. She dreamed of having a fun night out and feeling confident in herself after being treated horribly by her stepmother and stepsisters. Ariel was about a girl who forges into the unknown out of curiosity and makes sacrifices to be the person she truly wants to be. These may be extremely optimist views on the two characters, but I really do believe that these tales can be spun into a positive light. I understand Knightley’s feminist stance 100%, but I don’t think she is approaching this issue reasonably by banning the movies from her household.