DISCLAIMER, PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE COMMENTING THANK YOU: I love Disney, I'm not trying to convince you to hate Disney or any of the Disney heroines, my opinions are based on facts portrayed in these films, I repeat I LOVE DISNEY AND MANY OF ITS CHARACTERS. This does not mean I have to be mindlessly follow a franchise, I can still criticize something and love it. My worry of the Disney Princess franchise goes beyond 'I don't like this character just because', if you disagree with me you are free to comment but in a CIVIL manner. I won't tolerate personal insults.
In Tumblr, I follow a lot of Disney blogs especially the ones concerning confessions. After reading so many confessions and opinions I have to say that Disney has us by the balls when it comes to nostalgia. Whenever someone analyzes these movies in a intellectual manner especially the morals, fans take it as a personal attack. The reason of this is because Disney raised us as kids, they were our favorite babysitter. They told us stories, offered us quality entertainment and made us feel like we can accomplish all of our dreams. However, we are not children anymore so defending this marvelous babysitter in every single situation has got to stop because they have a huge responsibility.
Disney is a powerful company and has managed to sneak into our subconcious since we were children since the 1940's. This means that our grandparents and parents were also raised by the Walt Disney Company. Its become a staple and a huge influence in modern culture and you can't ignore this company's influence no matter how hard you try.
However, I am not here to talk about the Walt Disney Company as a whole but one of its franchises, more specifically the 'Disney Princess franchise'. Now for those who don't know, the Disney Princess franchise consists of merchendise focused on Disney's most popular female characters. There is a catch however, the line up is only limited to those female characters who are Princesses in their movie canon (This doesn't apply to all since Mulan isn't a princess) and their movie must be financially successful.
Now I'm going to talk about my own experience concerning this franchise. I was born in 1990 so I was raised by the big Disney blockbusters from the 90s. I was also raised by the golden age movies, more specifically the ones in Walt Disney's era. So early on I had Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle and Jasmine to choose as rolemodels. I chose Belle
from 'Beauty and the Beast' since I looked like her. My first Halloween costume was her ball gown and I even had the mirror to match. However in a rational perspective I can safely say I chose Belle because of superficial reasons, mainly because she looked like me and I adored the movie more than her personality. The story, songs, design and voice acting made Belle dynamic not her personality traits. If you think about it, Belle never went through a character arc so she didn't really change. Now I love Belle with all my soul but the point I'm trying to get across is that she was more of a rolemodel than dynamic character. The same fact applies to all of the princesses in the franchise.
Then when I turned seven, I replaced Belle as my rolemodel with Megara
from Hercules. I believe Megara was one of the best Disney heroines due to her progressive characteristics such as having a love interest before Hercules, being an anti-villain, and also sacrificing her life for Hercules thus helping in saving the day. She also had a very anti-princess personality she was more 'sexy' than cute, had dry wit and her design was very different. To top it all off she had a character arc and her personality and outlook on life developed as the story went along However I was disappointed that Megara didn't get much merchandise and wasn't featured in Disney Parks as much, despite being a more developed character than any of the Disney Princesses. The same applies to almost all the female characters that did not belong to royalty such as Esmeralda, Jane Porter, Wendy, and as a more modern example Charlotte LeBouff. Almost all of the Disney heroines that don't belong in the Disney Princess line up are more diverse, interesting and developed than any of the princesses and have character arcs.
Now there are exceptions to these rules. Tiana for example does go through a character arc as well as Mulan. What worries me however that Disney's most recent Princess movie features a Princess that goes back to the obnoxious Disney Princess tropes. The tropes are as follows;
1) The Princess must have a love interest and end up with one or get married. (This doesn't apply to Pocahontas if you don't count the sequels).
2) The Princess must have a dream even if the dream itself is abstract or vague. The dream is either ignored or its realized but thanks to the love interest. She also must sing about the dream and about wanting 'more'.
3) They must have a hobby. (This only applies to some especially the modern princesses).
Now let me analyze the Princesses individually, keep in mind that these are the official princesses in the franchise.
* Snow White -
Dream: Get a prince ('Someday my prince will come')
Hobby: Cooking and domestic work.
Outcome: Gets married and lives happily ever after as a princess.
* Cinderella -
Dream: Go to the ball ('A dream is a wish your heart makes')
Hobby: Not specified...but...singing and domestic work I suppose?
Outcome: Gets married and lives happily ever after as a princess.
Dream: Fall in love ('Once upon a dream')
Hobby: Singing (she has the gift of song).
Outcome: Reunnites with her parents. Gets married and lives happily ever after as a princess.
So far I have covered the princesses from the golden age, who are very very very similar. The only differences are the designs, voices and some hobbies but they all belong to the same trope. However I blame this more on the time period so while these princesses are the least developed and least interesting ones they can be seen as likable due to their designs, voice acting and songs. But this is all in a artistic perspective since they don't shine at all in the way they are written. If you slap on a bleh design and awful voice acting, they won't be as memorable. They are definately the least dynamic and progressive princesses.
Lets move onto the late eighties and nineties. This is the era where they tried to make more dynamic princesses but it was a hit and miss kind of ordeal.
Dream: First her dream was to live on land ('Part of your world'), but then it was to get married with Eric.
Hobby: Singing...um...finding things?
Outcome: Lives on land and gets married with Eric, lives happily ever after.
Dream: To live more than a provincial life ('Bonjour', 'Belle reprise')
Outcome: Saves the Beast thus breaking the spell in his castle and hooks up with him (there is no wedding so they are not technically married).
Dream: Doesn't want to be ordered around and be her own person.
Hobby: ...Bird keeping? Brushing her hair? Tiger training? As much as I like Jasmine, she has no hobbies,
Outcome: Hooks up with Aladdin. Again, there is no wedding till the third film.
Dream: ...Find her path....or...um...something ('Just around the riverbend'). She basically wanted the war to be over so she could be together with John Smith.
Hobby: Riding her canoe, cliff diving um...running.
Outcome: Stays home and bids goodbye to John Smith. The only Princess who doesn't end up with her love interest and doesn't get what she wants.
Dream: Find where she truly belongs ('Reflection), save her father from a brutal death.
Hobby: Horse back riding, martial arts, military expert.
Outcome: Becomes China's hero and returns home to her family. It is implied she and Shang start dating.
Dream: Get her restaurant ('Almost there')
Outcome: She realizes what she lacks to be completely happy. Gets married and gets her restaurant.
Dream: See the lanterns that appear in her birthday ('I Got a Dream')
Hobby: Painting among a great amount of talents that were shoved in for the sake of it.
Outcome: Reunites with her parents, gets married.
While these princesses are different in a superficial level, they all have at least one thing in common, especially on the outcome. Almost all of them get exactly what they want from the start of the film and have the same tropes such as a song that implies that they want more in life. Also, almost all of these princesses have the same body type, same sexual orientation, and same ethnicity (except Mulan, Tiana, Pocahontas and Jasmine) and most importantly ALL OF THEM have a love interest.
The problem with this is that this sends a messege to little girls early on in life that this is how they should be. These Princesses are not only famous characters but rolemodels so the idealize one life style that may work for some and not to all. In tumblr I constantly see people shun the idea of an overweight, crippled, asexual or even a lesbian princess because 'it will ruin their Disney experience'. This is because Disney has raised them with one idea alone.
I strongly believe that Disney needs to keep moving forward and reflect the aspect of society they cannot ignore. A lot of little girls WILL be overweight, and a lot of them will grow up to be of different walks of life. While the Disney company doesn't shun these aspects they are stuck in the 'Beautiful girl has a dream and gets married with a handsome man in the end' trope. This implies they live in their own little bubble and they don't show enough variety to make themselves look better in the eyes of critics. Since Disney has the resposibility to make children movies, their content must evolve to reflect modern times to help future generations understand the world they live in. The Disney Heroines that are more dynamic and have relatable personalities and strong character development take a back seat which is a true shame.
Now you may argue, what about Merida? She breaks almost all of the tropes. True, but Merida belongs to Pixar. This is why I sincerely wished that Merida was made by Disney to break the chain of tropes.
I truly wish Disney could make stronger Princesses in the future. Just like Sara Crewe said; I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us.
This is the reason why I disliked Tangled so much, because it reverted to the typical Disney Tropes and a female character that was more of a rolemodel than a dynamic, developed and progressive heroine. If you take out all of Rapunzels talents, shes basically one of the golden age princesses only with a more tangible dream.
What do you guys think?