File under sad but true: as far as self-fulfillment and personal growth goes, snagging a prince, no matter how charming, just doesn’t matter that much. And in honesty, how charming are princes, as a rule? A quick survey of available Disney princes hints they may not be very charming at all—Prince Eric, though sporting an extremely fine head of black hair, was totally okay taking weird advantage of the shipwrecked homeless mute girl he found on a random beach; those two generic-looking dudes from Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are fine, I guess, but strangely eager to marry women they’ve barely met; and, of course, the less said about the Beast, the better.
So what should a Disney princess do, if not marry a prince? Here are six self-help books to help those awesome ladies learn to value themselves, live happier lives, and unlock their inner heroines.
Paperback $14.68 | $17.00
For Belle: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft
I don’t want to belabor this point, but while Beauty and the Beast is absolutely a triumph of the Disney renaissance and probably the film that made me fall in love with animation, there is nothing okay about that central relationship. Bancroft’s classic book goes inside the mind of abusive men, relying on the author’s 15 years of experience working at the nation’s first center for male abusers. Why Does He Do That has helped thousands since it was published, and rightfully remains at the top of the recommended list for people in abusive relationships.
For Cinderella: The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke, by Suze Orman
What if Cinderella didn’t have to marry a prince to escape crushing poverty? What if, instead of getting married really young and having to adapt to the role of royal wife, she took off to Manhattan, worked in the restaurant business for a few years, made a bunch of really great friends, had amazing adventures, and eventually got her big break on Broadway because wow that girl can sing? Wouldn’t that have been better? For any of it to happen, she’s going to have to get her financial chickens in a row, and for that there’s nobody better to turn to than Suze Orman. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke is especially great because Orman skips the whole “if you just drank less Starbucks” lecture and goes straight for the important stuff: credit card debt, student loans, insurance, and the importance of investing in your retirement now.
For Ariel: All about Love: New Visions, by bell hooks
Ariel’s a girl who’s all about love, even when the people she lavishes her love on don’t treat her that well in return (well, not Flounder. Never Flounder). In All about Love, bell hooks asks what love is, and how it has been twisted by things like negative cultural influences to produce an idea of love that’s almost the exact opposite of the open, self-loving, generous force it actually is. A beautiful, upbeat reflection on what love can do, All about Love could lead Ariel to value herself more, and stop twisting herself into what she thinks she should be.
For Snow White: Too Good for Her Own Good: Breaking Free from the Burden of Female Responsibility, by Claudia Bepko and Jo-Ann Krestan
Snow White hasn’t had an easy life: driven from her home by an evil stepmother, she ends up keeping house for seven dwarves in the wood. She’s a classic case of a woman who allows her own needs to be subsumed by the needs of others—yes, she needs help, but instead she’s going to do a lot of housework for a bunch of dirty men. Too Good for Her Own Good offers a practical guide for women who spend all their time doing for others, only to find that at the end of the day they have nothing left for themselves.
Paperback $12.48 | $12.95
For Tiana: Men Explain Things To Me, by Rebecca Solnit
Honestly, I think Tiana’s going to be fine. Of all the Disney princesses, even including the girls from Frozen, she’s the one I worry about the least. She’s a smart, hard-working woman who knows what she wants and is planning on getting it, wishes or no wishes. She could probably give seminars to some of the other Princesses—like maybe they could all have a retreat in Taos and she could give workshops and they could all do yoga together. Still, at the end of a hard day dealing with the realities of life as a working woman, she might find commiseration and some laughs in this hilarious, spot-on collection of essays (one of which originated the word “mansplaining”).
For Tinker Bell: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
Oh, Tinker Bell. I suspect that most of poor Tink’s problems stem from not wanting people to abandon her (which is a totally reasonable fear when you’re hanging out with Peter Pan), but she goes about reacting in a really unhealthy way. Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic, updated countless times over the decades, can help her learn to make friends in a more effective manner; encouraging her to improve her listening skills, express appreciation, and focus on good manners. I don’t know how much it will help her psychological problems, for that a therapist might be in order, but at least maybe she’ll stop alienating people so quickly.