Yesterday one of my daughters pointed out a video about the Disney Princesses. As I was watching the video some ideas struck me. I wrote them down and then had a conversation with my oldest. I'd like to share my evaluation for two reasons, I find the discussion interesting, and because I think it is something to think about while developing characters in my own writing.
Snow White - slipped a roofie, okay I'll give you that. Rescued by a man, I'll give you that
Cinderella - small feet, saved by a man. I'll give you that too.
Belle - Stockholm Syndrome - yeah that always bothered me too. In fact if you really think about it, it was bestiality as well. Pretty sick that one.
Jasmine - tricked by a cheat? Was his intention to cheat her? No. In fact he fell in love with her and that's what made him do the crazy, stupid, misguided stuff he did. He was trying to give her what he thought she wanted. In the end they both grew together, seeing each other's values and the shah, her father started to become more liberal because of her, not because of him. Didn't he change the law because it was her better judgement over his own that was right?
Ariel - gave up a special talent. Yes she did and it was after she had seen Eric. What you are glossing over is that she wanted to go on land long before she ever saw him. She felt that was who she was. There was something more than under the sea and living at home. She wanted to branch out to the land. Eric was only the final straw that made her seek desperate measures, but he alone would not have made her do it. Did Eric drive the ship and kill the evil witch? Sure, that's what guys like doing, what they feel comfortable doing, big grand physical gestures. In the end didn't she save Eric from drowning? Wasn't she the final hero? Wasn't her father who finally saw her as a grown woman able to make her own choices the reason she could end up with the man SHE chose?
Also, let's get this straight. There is a difference between "need" and "want."
They missed some.
Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) - slipped a roofie too (though I should point out that it was some crazy, jealous bitch who did the slipping in both these cases, not a man). She would have been right for the video, but I guess it would have been redundant.
Mulan - I can see why they left her off. Not only did she compete and beat men, she was even better when she revealed she was a woman. This does not fit the stereotype at all. Did she end up with a man? Was there misogyny in that movie? She was not actually a princess either. Maybe that's why she can be so strong and independent. Maybe Disney is really suggesting we do away with the monarchy?
Pocahontas - Didn't she save John Smith from the axe? And in the end she married some other dude, a part not even in the movie.
Tiana - I'm not really sure what he message was here anyway. She rescues him, but he rescues her from her workaholism, maybe. What is that all about? I don't know. There was some bestiality in here too (why a sexy frog that looks like she has a bosom when frogs aren't even mammals - gah). What I do know is that Naveen is a mess before she straightens him out; they fall in love, are married and happy as frogs; and in the end she gets what she always really wanted. Was that a prince? Was that even a man? No it was a restaurant, and that's what she got. Did he help her get it: yes. Did she get a man to boot: yes. Honestly, it was a good friend (an alligator) who helped finance her restaurant. The restaurant was what she needed. Did she need a man; no. Did she want a man, sure, she'd take one if offered. By the way, in the end he doesn't seem to be so much a prince as her partner in the business.
Rapunzel - In the Disney version he saves her, she saves him. I think it's a wash, and a good one too.
Merida - Okay, I know there is some controversy about how they sexed her up, but aside from that does she even end up with a man? I'm not really asking, just pointing out.
Giselle - You remember her, from Enchanted. She ended up giving up all princessness to marry a single Dad in New York. I do believe she rescued him as well.
Another interesting thing to look at would be the villains.
SW = Evil Queen
C = Evil Step Mother
SB = Maleficent
LM = Evil "Queen"
B&B = Gaston
A = Jafar
P = John Rolfe
M = The Mongols (or the hunny buns)
P&F = Shadowman
T = Mother Gothel
B = NA
F = ?
The ones in red are Girl on Girl action, while the ones in Blue are women fighting men. I want to note that I don't think this is trying to say all women are evil, but that they are powerful and dangerous.
Let's look to see who is the strong role model in each:
SW = Huntsman?
C = Fairy Godmother
SB = Flora, Fauna & Merryweather
LM = Sebatian?
B&B = NA
A = Genie?
P = Grandmother Willow
M = Mooshu?
P&F = Mom, Mama Odee
T = NA
B = NA?
F = ?
And what years were they?
1930s - 1
SW = 1937
1940s - 0
no Princesses for the 40s: Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi were all 40s
1950s - 2
C = 1950
SB = 1959
1960s, 1970s - 0
nothin' (Disney low point)
1980s - 1
LM = 1989
1990s - 4
B&B = 1991
A = 1992
P = 1995
M = 1998
Double Aughts - 1
P&F = 2009
Tens - 3 so far
T = 2010
B = 2012
F = 2014
My daughter suggested that the older, more stereotyped ones should be revamped. I don't see why they need to revamp anything. Those movies are historical. If they want to go forward with new and enlightened princesses and princes that's cool. I think rather than revamp they should retire. Have you ever heard of the movie, "Song of the South?" It was a Disney live and animated movie, but it was racist so they don't show it anymore. It's out of circulation. They'll never take Snow White out of circulation because it was the first ever, but they can take Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc out if they're willing to lose the revenue in the name of progressive thinking.
My daughter also pointed out the very weak characterization in the earlier films. I thought it was a good point about the characterization. What was the name of the prince in Snow White; Cinderella; Sleeping Beauty? Wasn't it Charming in all of them? If not, then I don't know.
My bottom line is not that Disney is without faults; but that you can't just lump everything as misogyny or an attempt to subjugate women. Women may WANT to get rescued. Women may WANT a man. Neither of these precludes women doing some rescuing of their own, choosing their man, being strong or being themselves.
In fact, I want a woman who is strong, herself and capable of rescuing me when I need it. I also want a woman who would choose me, can be tender and can let me rescue her once in a while. Luckily I got one and it makes me one of the happiest people I know, man or woman.
On Flowers of Mundelein I'm running a poll on which princess you like best. Go there and vote on that and come back here.