Now that consent is (rightfully and finally) a topic of widespread discussion, many people are looking upon things from the not-too-distant cultural past with much more critical eyes. Unfortunately, many beloved stories and movies have some serious red flags—causing Keira Knightley, star of an upcoming Disney film, to reveal she’s “banned” Cinderella and The Little Mermaid from her home.
Also highly problematic: The part in Snow White where the prince kisses the sleeping Snow White sends a pretty awful message about consent. However, Kristen Bell takes a different approach than Knightley by telling Parents she actually uses the classic stories as conversation-starters with her two young daughters.
Explaining how she uses the book version of Snow White to prompt a discussion, Bell recalls asking, “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping.”
By talking about (and even learning from our kids) when it comes to these big topics, we’re enhancing the message of the classic stories—because, let’s face it, they could stand some updating.
And this isn’t just with consent. As Bell adds, there are other problematic storylines in classic stories. “Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?’ I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m doing something right.'”
Between the stories and the conversations they prompt, Bell says nightly story time is her favorite part of the day. “I look at my child’s brain like a hungry stomach,” she says. “I have to feed it every day. Even if I’m rushed, I have to feed their brain just like I feed their belly.”
Making time to read with our kids is a key part of that—but even more powerful is often the conversation that follows.