Written by Robin Hitchcock
A piece of fan art and the particularities of French to English translation may have solved our Disney Princess problem:
|Disney Heroines Simple Lines, by David Gilson|
Feminist parents (and grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings) often worry about their young girls getting sucked into Disney Princess culture, and not just because of the intimidating price tags at the Disney store. We don’t want our kids growing up with female role models solely labelled with the coveted status of “princess,” and therefore defined by their relationships with men (be they fathers or husbands), and admired largely for their status over others. It’s pretty much the last thing a feminist would want for their kids.
|A more typical (but still very clever) piece of fan art depicting
Disney Princesses as cover models on women’s magazines. Artist unknown.
However, criticism of Disney Princess culture often overlooks that Disney has created a battalion of strong female characters who are in fact fantastic role models for children, particularly since the dawn of the Disney Renaissance.
There’s a recurring theme of headstrong rebellion against societal expectations (Ariel, Jasmine, Mulan, Merida), which might sound a little scary from a parenting point of view but is certainly a vital part of a developing feminist consciousness. Disney Heroines are accepting of people their peers reject and other because of their differences (Belle, Pocahontas, Esmerelda, Jane). And Disney Heroines are self-assured even though they themselves can be awkward and not really fit in (Ariel, Belle, Mulan, Lilo, Rapunzel), even when they are actively scorned by society (Esmerelda, Vanellope Von Schweets).
Particularly in the most recent films, Disney Heroines expressly have their own interests, skills, and goals completely unrelated to romance and social status (Tiana, Sgt. Calhoun). And they’re smart and sassy and lovable (pretty much all of them, but I just want to give a special shout-out to my homegirl Megara).
These are characters we should want our kids to be obsessed with. Shifting from “Disney Princesses” to “Disney Heroines” widens the field on a semantic level to include a lot more fantastic characters, but more importantly highlights what really makes these women special. It’s not their status as princesses; it is who they are.
Robin Hitchcock is an American writer living in Cape Town, South Africa. Disney movies are her favorite cold medicine, hangover cure, and anti-depressant.