Over at Diamonds and Toads (a really interesting fairy tale blog, check it out!) there's an article called Princessitude, in which the author looks at the reasons why wanting to be a princess is not necessarily a good thing and what the real fairy tales have to say about it. We live in a Disney-fied world, where all the unpleasant things in life are often tidied out of the way. The original fairy tales, as collected by the Brothers Grimm (so apt) end badly. In Snow White, the Wicked Queen is made to dance in shoes of red hot iron at the wedding. Prince Charming definitely isn't. He offers to buy the dead SW from the dwarves, so at the worst he's a necrophiliac. Sleeping Beauty isn't as lovely either.
I never wanted to be a princess. Yes I watched the films as a kid, I still have a few. But as a lit geek, I did read them all as well. All the gory bits. The conclusion I drew was that being a princess was boring, you have to sit around waiting to be rescued. I'd rather have magic powers. The only witch that ever scared me was the Baba Yaga, she's a Russian witch, and she's creepy stuff.
There are very few stories I can think of where the heroine rescues herself, or the prince. I know there are some rewritten versions with a feminist slant, and the heroine is strong and nobody's princess.
One author I've loved for years, is Tamora Pierce. When I was about 11, I read her Song of the Lioness quartet, which features a wonderful heroine, Alanna, who disguises herself as a boy in order to become a knight. Now that's my kind of girl! All of Pierce's books feature strong girls and women, doing the rescuing, fighting alongside the men, and some of them are princesses. I have pretty much everything she's written and I haven't grown out of her yet. And that's the thing. Brave, feisty heroines. They're important.
I was a huge Buffy fan as a kid (still am). She was another girl who slayed the monsters herself, and didn't need to be rescued all the time.
It's important to realise that yes, fairy tales are important to storytelling history, they show where we came from, but we shouldn't use them as life models. Stand on your own two feet, be your own hero/ine and fight your own battles.