With Disney princesses breaking archetypes in their recent adaptations, they are shedding their damsel-in-distress image for independent and complex characters. In forgetting the traditional values of classic Disney princesses, is Disney making progress or is it getting carried away?
Movies Frozen, Brave, and The Princess and the Frog all have one thing in common: they showcase independent heroines who don’t seem concerned with romance. Though most Disney movies involve a girl wanting to become a princess, Disney’s more recent princesses don’t really care for their crowns (or tiaras, for that matter).
Recent Disney movies have evolved into becoming more meaningful. For example, Frozen focuses more on relationships like sisterhood and family than romance.
Another good example of movies of girls defying their stereotypes is Brave. Main character Merida is a princess, sure, but a reluctant one. Brave also focuses more on a complicated mother-daughter relationship, rather than an oversimplified love-at-first-sight romance. In Princess in the Frog, Tiana acts hostile toward her prince when they first meet. Tiana’s childhood playmate Lottie proves to be a true friend, despite her spoiled, ditzy and sometimes vain personality. Neither Tiana and Lottie lets an archetype define her, which showcases the complexity of their characters.
“Disney movies are starting to get more gender equal, but there’s still a long way to go,” freshman Amelia Barberis, who supports the modern twists in the recent adaptations, said. “I’m waiting in to see a prince in distress sometime.”
In past years, Disney movies have shown us that what truly defines a princess is not the prince she marries, but her ability to overcome or accept very normal and complex emotions within herself. A girl is a princess by what she says and what she does, not the crown she touts on her head. By redefining princesses, Disney is redefining what it means to be a girl.
Disney deserves applause for its movement toward modernizing princesses. But are we are forgetting that the princesses most of us grew up with still have something to offer? If you look past the princesses’ portrayal as “damsels in distress,'” they still have values that most of us inherently admire.
Classic Disney princesses were “strong and bold, yet loving and kind, and all put the needs of their family first,” blogger Nanette Gomez said in an interview for Neon Tommy, a digital magazine for University of Southern California.
Cinderella and Snow White were kind to everyone around them even those who treated them badly; they never lost hope in a better future and worked hard to make life easier for others. Belle from Beauty and the Beast was willing to take the place of her father, accepted her personality (even though others thought she was a little strange) and was willing to reconsider her initial impressions of the Beast. Ariel and Jasmine spoke their minds, and did something to change the conditions they were in (even though that got them into a little bit of trouble).
The individual qualities highlighted in each of these princesses reflect our own qualities or lack thereof. After all, these princesses “are moral role models”, according to Mark Tapson, writer of an online magazine.
Ultimately, Disney princesses have remained timeless and iconic, and will continue to do so. It is up to you to choose whether you stand with their traditional or modern values.