When my daughter was born I implemented a strict "no princess policy." That is to say, I made it clear that growing up she would at no time be called a "princess" — either as a nickname nor as a term of endearment. Heck, I even vetoed the “Daddy’s Little Princess” chestnut.
Ridiculous? Probably. Necessary? Absolutely.
Despite the plethora of eye-rolls and judgy side-eyes from family and friends, I managed to maintain this rule in our home for the past three years. In our house the word "princess" has always been reserved solely for those moneymaking Disney gals we dress up as, sing along to, and dance with on the daily. Cosplaying as a princess has been fine, but coddling her as one is a no-no.
If you’re like me you’ve probably run across a teeny tiny tyrant or a tween kween with attitude thanks to their upbringing as a precious perfect little princess. In my experience, the little girls I’ve encountered who’ve been called a princess — and most importantly, treated like one — tended to be spoiled, entitled, awful little creatures. For me, the modern-day definition of the word "princess" has always been a noxious term that carries with it everything I do not want for my little one.
That is, until this past weekend. Enter Wonder Woman to change my worldview.
My hubby and I had our moniker moral high-horse cut out from under us after taking our little girl to the splendid new Wonder Woman movie. Suddenly, I realized being referred to as a princess didn’t seem like such a terrible thing.
As a super geeky gay man with a lifelong love and admiration — some may say obsession — for the iconic DC Comics character, the movie did not disappoint. I’ve read and religiously collected Wonder Woman ever since I discovered the first issue of the classic four-part comic book series Legend of Wonder Woman by Trina Robbins and Kurt Busiek back in 1986.
That’s over 30 years worth of devotion to the Amazon princess. I waited most of my life for Wonder Woman to hit the silver screen and I soaked up every breathtaking moment. As a devoted reader and lover of the character, I should have been prepared for how special the movie would be.
For me, Wonder Woman has always been more than just a fictional superhero. She’s the embodiment of compassion and love, while being powerful and confident. Wonder Woman shows that empathy isn’t a weakness, it’s the source of her strength. All of her inspiring traits were on full display in the movie.
Finally we have a modern pop culture example in Gal Gadot, who winningly plays the titular character, showing that a princess can and should be both a hero and an inspiration for empowerment and goodness. (I also give mad props to my treasured Lynda Carter and her untouchable take on the character that so inspired my own childhood.)
This is why, I believe, the movie has been so overwhelmingly beloved just two weeks after its release. Unlike the sea of grim and gritty superhero television shows and movies today, Wonder Woman is about a hero who generally cares about others. She ultimately loves those she’s sworn to protect. And best of all. she stands up against those who tell her "no," "don’t, and "you can’t."
She persisted. And she did so with dignity and strength.
During our family viewing of the film, I tearfully watched my little Wonder Woman-clad, 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter pretend to kick butt in the aisle of a packed movie theater. I realize to some, her energetic routine might have been a bit distracting, but to me, it was glorious. (In my defense, her spirited antics were off to the side near the exit, so few could see her.)
My daughter had just witnessed the Amazon’s epic Paradise Island beach battle and was so inspired by the scene that she spontaneously got up and started to kick, jump, spin, and hop as though she herself were fighting the invading German forces. If I weren’t already that borderline rude moviegoer who lets their young child not sit in her seat, I would have totally recorded the performance on my phone.
That was when I realized that I would be lifting the princess ban in my home.
Of course, I realize a word can’t just magically turn a child into a terrible monster. It isn't simply because they’ve been called a certain term of endearment. It’s the parents behind the princess. It’s the parents who encourage horrible or exemplary behavior.
But I’m happy to call her a princess now because she and I finally have a representation to look up to of what it means to be a true princess. If my daughter can one day become even a tenth of what is embodied by Princess Diana of Themyscira, then she’ll be the amazingly confident, kind, and powerful person I already know her to be.
BRIAN ANDERSEN is a writer and indie comic book creator who lives in San Francisco with his husband and gorgeous daughter.