Ever since I was young, I loved the idea of a princess. However, I learned in girl scouting that Disney has ultimately made girls more vulnerable to gender related biases thanks in partial part to how all the princesses were portrayed.
For instance, Snow White is, well you could only guess, white skin and raven colored hair. Cinderella was blonde and beautiful but mistreated by a wicked stepmother and marriage was her only escape from wanton cruelty by her family. Ariel the mermaid’s ending fate, spoiler alert, is not the Greek or original Hans Christian Andersen one where the girl must either kill the prince or become a child of the air. She gets exactly what she wants after killing a witch with her power of beauty alone. Well, her prince slays the witch, but the Disney adaptation of the story is profoundly sensationalized. And Ariel is not black, she’s pale like the rest of them, and has an overbearing father for a dad.
Belle was a French maiden and yes, was white once again. But has Disney created diverse enough female leads?
Mulan was by far the most badass character Disney managed to create. Though not technically a princess because she was a peasant girl by imperial class, Mulan did have some truth to her story of how she killed Huns, though Disney left out the part about her serving for twelve whole years in the army. Legends of the Hidden Temple did a better job of telling her story than Disney did. However, all other princess figures were pale, delicate, and expected to marry a prince, including Princess Jasmine, the only Arabic/Middle Eastern princess there was in the lineup. Aladdin was not a prince by any stretch of the imagination, and he was truly the main character. Jasmine was a badass because she defied Jafar, the evil vizier who wanted her for his own pleasure’s sake. Ah, the gruesome dictates of men!
So what about black and Native princesses? Pocahontas was an historic figure in real life, but married John Rolfe, changed her name to Rebecca Rolfe, and died at age 22 after having had her son. Rebecca was a Powhatan princess, but again Disney did not represent her well. The merchandise sold under the Pocahontas name and label contained one with a plastic Meko doll supposedly to braid her hair. My own bare hands could braid hair better than that. Fashion dolls of Pocahontas also showed her with buckskin clothing on, typical stereotypes of Native women of the times, but boy Disney messed it up this time because the Virginia Powhatan clan of the Algonquins married their daughters off at twelve, or sometimes younger, to chieftains like the warrior the father wanted his daughter to marry. Sadly, Pocahontas’ story does not end well for her people, the Algonquin tribe having been wiped out by European settlement and conquest. Disney does not show mercy to this strong, and yes a badass, native woman who had many hopes and dreams, but European Christianization left her role in the home only.
So what about their recent interpretation of the Princess and the Frog? Okay, toss in a black woman to play the part of Tiana, then toss in an evil white girl who wants a prince so bad she’ll mess Tiana’s life up, then turn both Tiana and the prince into frogs, and you get a story. Add some bayou buddies, like an alligator, a firefly, and some more frogs! Did we need these guys?
The Original Grim fairy tale of the Frog Prince shows us not a woman who wants to open a restaurant, messes with a voodoo practitioner, and gets a surprise, but shows us a delicate princess who lost a ball in the well. Ugh! Disney, when will you learn? There are wonderful ways you could have told actual stories of African princesses, Simba and Nala’s story left out here, but Africans had highly advanced kingdoms where women were highly respected. But Tiana was strong, but being faced with Charlotte was not how the plot should go. Tiana should’ve lost her ball in the water, Frog should have retrieved it. You went and added all kinds of frivolity to a story about promises! Robin Williams did a better job of interpreting the prince than this.
Wait till Disney tries to mess with Rumpelstilskiin. Rumpel certainly doesn’t need Disney’s help in determining what got wrong and what got right. There was a movie done of Rumpel, but I prefer him in Shreck or the original Grim book. Hey, here’s one. The little guy adopts a baby girl, spoiler alert here as well, in an alternative version of the story. But Disney, Moanna? As if we need any more princesses in our castle, Moanna emphasizes the Polynesians. Why is she a Hawaiian princess? What about a Maori princess? You left out the Japanese and the African princess stories should have more substance. No slaes, no drudge maidens, what about a few more badass girls to inspire and move our girls to be brave warrior queens? We don’t need delicate pale damsels in distress. Princess Leia should be welcomed with open arms.
Disney has some other great things to ponder. However, the choice of girls as princess and the way they portray a good princess is questionable. I’m not giving my future daughters princess only dolls. They’re going to be great girls, learn about good morals yes, but they will break the glass ceiling, be great leaders, and receive praise for their work.
Thank you for taking the time to read. Please leave a respectful comment and I will respond accordingly if you have any good things to say about what I’ve written.