Feminist Disney Princesses… Or Not

This is no recent hot off the press news that for many years, Disney has been heckled for putting very antifeminist messages into their movies. Since the Disney Renaissance, it seems the Disney film makers have been doing cartwheels to try and create a Disney Princess that aren’t, well, to say it truly, subservient and misogynist. It seems that with every new movie Disney creates with a Princess, it is celebrated as the first feminist Disney princess, and finally a whistle blower scholar says, “Wait, they did it again. This princess isn’t feminist at all.” In this post, I will go over each Disney princess beginning with Ariel from The Little Mermaid at the height of the Disney Renaissance to show how these princess movies are somewhat feminist, but not quite enough. More to the point, why Disney has still not created a true feminist Disney princess.

 

Ariel

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Why the Movie Seems Feminist

 

Ariel was the first deceptive attempt of the feminist Disney princess, and for a first try, Disney got closer than most people could reasonably expect. Here is why Ariel at first glance can be seen as somewhat feminist. Compared to the Disney Princesses before her (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella) Ariel is very assertive. She defiantly challenges the will of her father. She shows multiple acts of courage, going up against a shark, and being close to humans when in her upbringing she was taught they were dangerous. She goes against normal court life.

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

So, yeah, Ariel has some good spunk. But when you come down to it, she is still pretty anti-feminist. This is mainly because of the myth of a mermaid entirely. According to the myth, a mermaid can only become human if she is kissed by a male, has sex with a male, or if a male tells her he loves her. In all these variations, it is pretty much saying that a woman cannot be considered a valuable member of society unless she is accepted by a man. More than this, we also must consider that Ariel feels the need to change herself for a man. And to do so she is willing to give up her voice, the main source of her assertive power. You could even say that by the end of a movie, Ariel is given back her voice by a man.

 

Belle

Beauty and the Beast (1991).

 

Why The Movie Seems Feminist

 

Belle is Disney’s first intellectual Princess. She is an opinionated, avid reader, who also desires to expand her horizons and encounter adventure. She also rejects a proposal of marriage.

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

While Belle has a lot of strength, she still, in the end, is an anti-feminist princess. Because in the end, she still has to be saved by a prince, albeit, a very hairy one. And she still has one of those iconic scenes in almost every Disney princess movie when she throws herself on the bed and starts sobbing uncontrollably. Also, it is a bit strange that Belle desires adventure, has a little of it, and then gets married. By normal standards of the 1800’s, other than childbirth, her adventures are over.

 

Jasmine

Aladdin (1992)

Why the Movie Seems Feminist

 

Very similar to Ariel, Jasmine has a lot of spunk and disobeys her father’s will. She almost violently opposes marrying someone she does not love. She is also very adventurous and opinionated.

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

Two words: the outfit. How can she be seen as anything but an object in those skimpy clothes? But, more than that, just like Belle, Jasmine also, in the end, needs to be saved by a man.

 

Pocahontas

Pocahontas (1995)

Why the Movie Seems Feminist

 

Pocahontas is probably the closest to a true feminist princess thus far. Mainly because rather than John Smith saving her, she saves him. It only took Disney six years to get that right.

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

Yes, Pocahontas saves John Smith, but the film is still very dependent on a romance. In the context of the film, Pocahontas is not being strong and independent just to stop bloodshed, but for her love of john Smith. A true feminist story would be her doing this without love in the picture.

 

Esmeralda

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Why the Movie Seems Feminist

 

Esmeralda stands up for her oppressed Gypsy kin against the vicious Lord Frollo. You go girl!

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

Please tell me you know this one, because these are getting very repetitive. Because like all the other movies, there needs to be a romantic subplot, and she needs to be saved by a man in the end.

 

Meg

Hercules (1997)

 

Why The Movie Seems Feminist

 

Meg is the first sassy Disney princess. She’s even quite overtly sexual. In fact, I’m not quite sure this movie was made with kids in mind. She is intelligently witty and fights to stand up for herself even while she is owned by Hades.

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

Surprise surprise, she gets saved by a man.

 

Mulan

Mulan (1998)

Why She Seems Feminist

 

Mulan is very close to the real deal. Like Pocahontas, rather than being saved, she saves herself. More importantly, she dresses as a man, works as a soldier, and becomes the type of hero that the prince figure usually is in Disney movies.

 

Why She Really Isn’t

 

They were so close! But of course, in the end, Mulan is a love story, as if Disney is saying, no matter how strong you are, every woman must have love in her life with a strong man you can rely on.

 

Tiana

Princess and the Frog (2009)

 

Why the Movie Seems Feminist

 

Tiana is close to a modern aspiring business woman who wants to better herself.

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

But of course, she just has to find love. It is impossible for her to be happy without it.

 

Rapunzel

Tangled (2010)

Why the Movie Seems Feminist

 

As a girl who has been locked up and cloistered all her life, Rapunzel dreams of freedom and independence. God, who he hell wouldn’t?

 

Why It Really Isn’t

Despite Rapunzel’s spirit of independence, she is willing to give that up for a man.

 

Elsa and Anna

Frozen (2013)

Why the Movie Seems Feminist

 

When Frozen was released there was huge hype in the media of it being the real first feminist Disney movie. First off, Elsa is queen in her own right, and has magical powers. She is very easily the most powerful Disney princess to date. Even more so, Frozen sets up the true-love’s-kiss trope to save Anna, but makes an unexpected twist. Anna is saved by her sister’s love rather than the love interest.

 

Why It Really Isn’t

 

Okay, I will admit that with Frozen Disney really tried their best to make a more feminist film. And the twist on the true-love’s-kiss was definitely a step in the right direction. However, there are other issues. The song Fixer Upper almost explicitly sends the message that everyone’s problems are perfected with love. Go on girls! Lower your inhibitions! Get married right now despite any reservations so you can procrate! And, once again, despite everything, in the end, this movie still has a love interest.

 

What it all Means

 

I’m sure my readers have noticed that these summaries became very repetitive. The fact that all Disney princess movies have a romantic subplot sends the message that women cannot be happy without love. Disney is perfectly capable of making movies around male protagonists without a romantic subplot (Brother Bear, a good portion of the Pixar films),  and yet they have never done this with women protagonists or princesses. At least not in their animated films. It really begs the question, is Disney convinced that romance sells movie tickets, or are the writers just plain misogynists?

 

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Star Wars Strikes Back!

Who was prepared for this? I just found out today that a new Star Wars trilogy is in the making, and this time it is headed by, wait for it, Disney. I never envisioned Mickey Mouse using light sabers, but you have to admit the visual is an interesting one.

 

I am a longtime Star Wars fan. When I say fan of Star Wars, I mean I love the original trilogy, and not the crap that Lucas gave birth to most recently. Nor do I approve the modern CG changes he has made to the original trilogy. As far as I am concerned, Hayden Christianson is not David Prowse. So when I first discovered new Star Wars movies were being made, I instantly felt an uncomfortable weight in my stomach. Until I found out that George Lucas will neither be writing nor directing it. I guess he’s either too old or has gotten tired of Star Wars fans sending him hate mail. Possibly both.

 

As of now, no one knows who the writer/ director will be. All that is known is that the people being considered are experienced with big budget action movies. Names that have been speculatively thrown around include Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon. Whoever it will be, such a job will be a tall order after the critical bashing the most recent Star Wars trilogy received.

 

Since there is very little information available at this point, I do not know how this new trilogy will turn out. I only hope that whoever makes these movies understands that they will live up to fans if they remember to actually write a story rather than just putting in action and special effects, as Lucas seemed to do.

 

It seems strange that the original Star Wars trilogy was so wildly successful and the last one… wasn’t. Well, I guess that depends on what you call successful. True, they made a lot of money, but so did Twilight. As far as quality, the newest trilogy does not cut it.

 

 

The disparity between the two exists for one reason, and that reason’s name is George Lucas. When Lucas was making the first trilogy, he was still kind of a nobody in Hollywood, so he wasn’t calling the shots. Thus he was reigned in. Then he became famous and made it to the top of the totem pole. Then he could make all the decisions. No one could tell him “You know George, this character Jar Jar Binks is really annoying. Don’t you think we should cut him?” Or, “George, don’t you think having Darth Vader scream “No!” like that is a little over the top?” And we all know where that got us.

 

But if this next trilogy still sucks, the original trilogy still remains. Well, actually, you have to pay quite a lot of money for the very original untouched ones because Lucas is a greedy prick. 

One Man Disney Movie

My regular readers know that every now and then I like to put up very random, humorous things about movies. In a previous post, after finding pictures of Star Wars characters doing yoga poses, I came up with yoga poses inspired by Star Wars. Here’s a link to that post: https://hereslookinatyousquid.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/star-wars-yoga-7-2/

In a more recent post I read about all the Avengers not featured in the Avengers movie and made fun of the most random names. One was named The Whizzer. Marvel was asking for it. Here is a link to that one: https://hereslookinatyousquid.wordpress.com/?s=The+Unkown+Avengers&submit=Search

So for my third random post, I am featuring a you tube video created by Nick Pitera. Pitera is a Pixar employee who has filmed himself lip-syncing to Disney movies and putting them online for years. Do whatever you need to to make you feel special.  However, this particular video is not merely that. Pitera created his own medley of Disney songs and filmed himself lip-synching 6 parts: the heroine, the side kick, the hero, the villain, and two chorus members. It’s very entertaining while actually very well done so check it out. And all I have to judge about Mr. Pitera is that he seems to have way too much time on his hands. Then again, I have a blog, so…

Dreamworks Vs. Disney

Dear Squids,

I have been thinking of this topic sort of in the back of my mind for the last few months. Ever since the beginning of the Disney Renaissance which started with The Little Mermaid in the early 90’s, as far as children movies go, Disney has pretty much been unbeatable.

Not lately though. At least, not according to me. I feel like ever since Pixar and Disney paired together, the true Disney movies (aka without Pixar) have been going down in quality. Does anyone even remember Brother Bear or Home on the Range? The Princess and the Frog was okay, I guess, but nowhere near the quality of a movie like Beauty and the Beast. Of course, everyone was so excited when it came out. “It’s the first black Disney Princess! It’s so progressive!” Yeah, until you consider that Disney’s shot at racial empowerment is destitute, lives in a poor part of New Orleans, and is being chased by a voodoo villain. What part of that is not racial profiling? Tangled was a yawn. A few humorous jabs plus one very cheesy song and very predictable events… enough said.

While I know many people will disagree with me, I think even many of the Pixar movies don’t live up to the glory of what Disney use to be. With some exceptions. Toy Story is pretty awesome. And Finding Nemo was great. Other than that, I just don’t find the Pixar movies that memorable.

Compare all this to Dreamwork’s increasing power with funny movies like Shrek (don’t count the sequels), Madagascar (don’t count the sequels) Ice Age (don’t count the sequels) and How to Train Your Dragon. Competing against movies like these, I’ve just started getting the feeling that maybe the once impervious movie titian was losing its touch, and maybe even on the wane, leaving Dreamworks available to become the new champ to rule for a century.

I had that feeling for all of two weeks, until I saw a couple of previews. The first was for an upcoming Dreamworks movie called The Rise of the Guardians. In this film coming out in November, children of the world are threatened by an evil force that wants to rule over them through fear. Holiday figures that we know and love such as Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sand Man, all come together to answer the threat and protect the hope of children. This movie looks incredible. Of course, when it comes to previews, I always take it with a grain of salt, because the people who make previews are paid to make these movies look like hits, even if they are not. Despite that, I am eagerly awaiting this film.

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So, at first, I saw this movie preview and thought, “Okay, Disney has just possibly been blown out of the water.” Then, when I saw The Avengers, I caught a preview for a new Disney movie. Brave, a Celtic, feminist adventure, comes out in June. Brave seems to be about a Princess who looks to actually be like a true feminist princess, not the supposed to be feminist because she’s educated and thinks for herself but really not because the prince still save her at the end kind of princess. Although, this we will not know for sure until the movie actually comes out. But I’m really interested in this movie. Reason 1: my own family comes from Celtic roots. Reason 2: I am a woman and really want to see if this is Disney’s first true feminist princess. Reason 3: Based on the preview, it looks all around really good. The humor, the breath taking setting, the music. I really hope it will be as good as the trailer makes it seem.

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Now that it seems that both Dreamworks and Disney have two very potentially awesome movies coming out, now it seems like it’s anyone’s game. We will have no idea until both movies come out in theaters. Until then, I would love to know some of your opinions on the whole Dreamworks vs. Disney score.

And check my Squid clips for the trailers to both The Rise of the Guardians and Brave. Top right hand corner of my blog.