Posted by: Ophelia | November 5, 2009

What say you?

What do you think of this image?

princess(Jeff Brunner)

I agreed up until Belle. Perhaps it’s my inner little girl speaking but I don’t have as much of a problem with Belle as I have with the others. She’s independent and intelligent and isn’t waiting for the right man to come along and make all of her dreams come true–she knows that’s something that happens in story books not real life. I do understand the criticism of the message it sends that no matter how terrible he is to you, you can change him (there’s also a hint that potentially violent partners are an adventure in themselves). At the same time, I never felt that Belle’s personal goal was to woo the Beast or to make him a suitable partner–she was in a crappy situation trying to make the best of it and saw that he had the capacity to be more than a jerk. I just feel that if this were an earlier Disney movie, the movie would have ended shortly after the Beast saved her because when the prince saves you, you just fall in love–the end.

I mean much as I liked the Little Mermaid as a little girl, what does it really communicate? Obsessive stalking is love? Men like it more if you don’t talk? Change whatever you must about your physical appearance to get the man?

Also I feel that Belle and the Prince spend the most time together/have the most conversations before deciding they’re in love than the other princesses do in their movies indicating that love isn’t necessarily instantaneous. Additionally, along with the issues in the story re: Beast’s dangerous character, a more positive message is about not judging by appearances but by character–I can get behind that. If I had to pick my posion, I’d pick Beauty and the Beast. How about you? Are any of the movies salvageable? None of them?

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Responses

  1. Sleeping beauty was always the worst of these for me. I would watch the movie and promptly forget that the princess (Aurora, I think?) was even part of the film. I thought the point of the movie was the 3 fairies and Malificent, since they are the only ones that I recall having personalities. All the other “characters” were just flat. It was only years later that I questioned why “Sleeping Beauty” was the title, when the princess was hardly a character. She was more of a …. plot device.

  2. My gut response was that Snow White is the worst but I think you see more of her and her personality in that film than you do of Sleeping Beauty. At the same time they’re both helpless women who are killed by other jealous women and must be saved by a Prince. At least in Sleeping Beauty’s case she met the prince before and liked him. Snow White is kissed, wakes up and is off into the sunset on his horse in no time.

  3. Hi there,

    The person who “authored” the image is Jeff Brunner. Would you mind giving him a credit?

    http://contexts.org/socimages/2009/10/25/disney-princesses-deconstructed/

  4. Not at all, in fact I thought I had linked back to sociological images.

  5. I don’t know. I think The Little Mermaid was pretty bad. I mean, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were relatively incidental to their stories, Ariel put herself in all of her bad decisions, and everyone has to fix her problems for her. It’s like a cavalcade of bad decision, AND I think I would blame that movie for the ‘fan girl’ persona you see so often, obsessing over a character or person and believing that is enough to get them to love you, and that’s what love is. Hell, they even spend a fair amount of time together and never learn anything about one another, and that prince looks so damned bored the whole time. But fear not, women, you keep pressing on, throwing yourself at this guy and he’ll realize he loves you too.

  6. Ugh, I wish I could edit that. It should have said “I mean, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were relatively incidental to their stories, while Ariel put herself in harms way due to all of her bad decisions, and everyone has to come to her rescue to fix all the problems she’s caused.”

  7. I think my fixation on Sleeping Beauty has to do with the fact that Snow White was a movie that wasn’t in our VHS collection. Also, Snow White was so boring that whenever I had the chance to watch it, I didn’t.

    It might be interesting to consider which of these princesses have the most “staying power.” For some reason I feel like Ariel is still very pervasive, with perhaps Cinderella being a close second. I’ve now met several 6 year olds named Ariel because “their mommy liked the little mermaid.” Which means that at least some women my age still identify with her.

  8. It’s been a long time since I watched Aladin, but I don’t remember Jasmine being enslaved. Her father, totally, but not her.

  9. I think Belle was just as overtly “feminized” as the rest of them. She would run into her room and would have to lock the door with the Beast demanding her to come out. The rest of the movie she tries to change him, looking for the prince underneath his controlling tendencies, which sends strong signals to children. Just my take!

  10. I always liked Snow White the best. As a cartoon character, she seems the most relatable to children. She looks, talks, and acts like a child, instead of appearing sexualized.

    The movie is way corny but IMO has an innocent quality to it that you don’t find in cartoon movies these days.

    BTW, what ever happened to the other princesses, like Mulan, Esmerelda, Alice, or Pocahontas? I just googled Disney Princesses and Esmerelda isn’t even included although the newer ones Tiana and Rapunzel are mentioned.

    @Ophelia, Snow White *did* meet the prince before riding off into the sunset. She meets him by the well when she’s a servant in the castle.

  11. It would be interested to see the princesses grouped by era/generation. For example, Jasmin seems to represent a more progressive view (although it may just be appealing to the rags-to-riches fantasy on Aladdin’s part, which is an equally socially harmful plot device).

  12. Personally I quite liked Princess Jasmine, when I was a kid I thought she had balls. She does run away despite never having been allowed outside her garden for her entire life. Also, I thought Disney did well making her such a large part of the story, when originally the tale is even more Aladdin-centric. It was also nice to see a girl who looked more like me (i.e. brown) in a Disney movie! In the spin-off tv series I’m pretty sure she gets to wield a sword, which is pretty balsy. She’s also very critical of Aladdin, despite the fact that she eventually marries him.

    I’m not surprised to see Ariel on this list, after all, she goes through immense pain to become a human woman just to try to bag a prince, which is rather drastic! However, he does actually go for the ‘woman’ who can talk, before she gets her voice back, so maybe he does want a wife who can talk after all?

    My favourite Disney heroine (okay she’s not one of the princesses but she deserves a mention) is Esmerelda. The only problem really is that she goes for the good looking bloke over the hunchback, but when you watch the film you can see that Disney tried to show how much effort she wanted to put into maintaining the friendship, which is nice. Also, again her character is very ‘knowing’ about what assets they have to work in their favour – she does ‘use her sexuality’ to her advantage, but seems to do so in the full knowledge that she’s exploiting the male characters.

    The last one I think mentionable is Pochahontas. She makes John Smith look suitably ignorant and although even as a kid I wasn’t very into the whole singing tree thing, again it was nice to have a ‘coloured’ heroine – she’s quite political throughout it too.

    What do people think of those two?

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  15. I absolutely agree with the little Mermaid. Probably the worst one.

  16. I enjoyed this post quite a bit. I am wondering about how much Ariel was really interested in Eric. She surely sexualized him and saves his life first. She only meets him because she desires so much to be human. She is figuratively (and ironically) a fish out of water–a social outcast, she is not meant for the world she is born into or for its rules. Eric serves as an icon of Humankind at first, and immediately appreciates her voice and power and goodwill. He continues to talk about her voice until she comes back without it. I don’t remember thinking that her singing was particularly sexualized but i also didn’t have a strong understanding of that as a child. It is disturbing that disney makes him a mind reader. That’s definitely not a good idea to put into kids heads. As far as her making bad decisions for others to clean up after, i disagree. Her plan went awry because of the evil sea witch who used her own sexuality for evil and ultimately failed (a good moral i would say), and her friends were eager to help because they were her friends. Good lesson about loyalty and teamwork.

    How about the princess and the frog??


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