A Little Princess (1995)
Appropriateness Rating: Don’t Miss It
Entertainment Rating: Great
A Little Princess is about a girl called Sara Crew who has to move from India, where she lived very happily with her father, to a boarding school in New York while her father participates in World War 1. Sara’s father is very rich and because of this she is treated very well and even pampered by the principal of the school, but Sara is not arrogant or mean. She treats everyone around her with kindness and respect.
However, when a message arrives saying that her father has died and that all his money is lost the principal reacts by making Sara into a servant at the school and mistreating her terribly. Despite the hardships she goes through Sara remains kind and caring and compassionate.
Sara loves to make up stories and this helps her get through her hard times, but some of these stories she tells/imagines about a princess and prince in India have kissing scenes and not the most appropriate dress. These are brief scenes that can be skipped or discussed with your child – overall the movie is a wonderful tale with great themes that you should not miss.
Warnings: kissing scenes
The stories Sara tells are important to her character and there are a few of them throughout the movie. The movie starts off with Sara’s voice narrating a story that appears on screen about an Indian princess and prince who are married. They kiss in the first couple of minutes of the movie (their faces are covered with their hair, but it is obvious what’s happening. It would be good to skip this scene with small children or discuss with them why it’s not appropriate to watch/show such things.
There is also a scene where the mean principal’s sister decides to run away with the milkman to get married to him. She jumps out of the window one night with a packed suitcase. This character is a grown woman but she is being sneaky because her sister is very controlling and she has a weak personality and can’t stand up to her sister in person. Overall, this isn’t portrayed in a way that’s too bad and it’s more funny than serious, but it does emphasize the idea that finding love is the most important thing.
Ideas and Morals: importance of romantic love
Sara’s stories and the stories and hopes of the people around her tend to revolve around finding love, etc. It’s set in the early 1900s so it’s made clear that this kind of romantic love means marriage and it is much more respectful than the portrayals we see in most media today, but parents should be aware and make their children aware that this kind of romantic attraction/love isn’t the most important thing in life no matter what Sara or the moviemakers believe!
However, this movie doesn’t only focus on that kind of romantic love. The biggest theme of the movie is Sara’s love for her father and her father’s love for her. She also shows love and compassion for her classmates and friends, even the bully/enemy she had at the school is forgiven and shown love and friendship at the end.
Messages: critique of cruelty to servants, compassion, cultural ‘otherness’ as beautiful/powerful
This film gives a very beautiful insight into the effects that cruelty to servants can have and offers a critique of such mistreatment showing clearly that it’s very ugly/wrong. When Sara is made a servant she becomes much closer with the other servant girl at the school, Becky, and learns how hard a servant’s life really is.
Sara handles her hardships with grace and treats everyone, even those who were cruel to her, with compassion, which is a great message.
Another thing I loved about the film is the portrayal of India and the Indian character in the story in a very positive way. Sara loves and admires Indian culture and the Indian man living next door is portrayed as a very dignified, majestic, kind person who ends up helping Sara and Becky through their hard times. This is such a refreshing departure from the usual “other is scary” or “other is evil” messages that we often get in media.
The film doesn’t really delve into the fact that Becky was Black and I suspect her mistreatment at the time would have, in real life, been much worse because of racism. Sara and Becky’s friendship is great, showing that the good, moral hero character is not racist, which is a great message, but it must be noted that the movie doesn’t give Becky any agency of her own. She accepts her fate and often expresses her fears and seeks reassurance from Sara.