“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C.S. Lewis
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a massive Disney fan. Most everyone in my family is, actually. Both of my sisters have completed the Disney College Program and one has moved onto a Management Internship in Disney World and plans to make a career down there. The other is following as soon as she graduates college.
We grew up watching Disney movies. Each of us had our favorite and would watch it until the VHS wore out. There are Disney movies I can quote from memory – probably from beginning to end (ahem, Little Mermaid, ahem).
As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t lost my appreciation for Disney movies. When I’m having a bad day all I have to do is pop in one of those dvds and it’s like instant comfort. That’s what a good story is supposed to do – be an escape, a comfort. To be like an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile welcoming you back.
So, needless to say, I will always jump to the defense of my favorite Disney movies/characters. Because let’s be real – a lot of people see Disney as children’s movies that can only be enjoyed by children. But, as C.S. Lewis so eloquently pointed out – if a children’s story can only be enjoyed by children than it isn’t a very good story. I have no problem telling people that I enjoy Disney movies.
Then I see this floating around the internet – on Facebook and Pinterest. At first glance it looks like a great meme. Promoting familial bonds over flitting attraction. Save yourself – don’t wait on a man. Good meme, right?
Nope. Because it’s wrong. Because this is NOT the first Disney movie to promote inner strength and relying on one’s own abilities – not even by a long shot.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the princesses, shall we?
Snow White – The very first Disney princess is out and about, minding her own business on her day off from scrubbing floors, when a henchman of the Evil Queen tries to kill her. Now, there isn’t a lot of opportunity here for saving on either side – the prince or the princess. Snow White tries to stay out of the way of the crazy bitch trying to kill her by continuing a life of servitude to the dwarfs. Because of her kind nature, she brings the old hag into the house and then falls under her spell. Sure, Snow White needs the prince to come and kiss her awake but how many times have we fallen victim to a predator because of naiveté? It happens and you need someone to come in and snap you out of it. It’s life – it makes the movie relatable. It has nothing to do with the roles of man or woman. The prince isn’t looking to save her – he’s just looking for her. But Snow White did sing that song about waiting for the prince to find her so – I’ll go halfsies with you on this one.
Cinderella – So here we’ve got a chick who has become a servant in her father’s house so that she’s not thrown out into the streets. She continues to dream that one day something will happen to change her circumstances and one day that something happens. A fairy godmother shows up and presents Cinderella with an opportunity to experience something different and homegirl jumps on the chance. Sure, her fear of being discovered for what she really is causes her to almost lose out on a really hot prince, but in no way did the prince have to come save her. All Cinderella was in danger of was living out her life the way she had always known it. All she had to do was allow the prince to see her for what she really was – to not be afraid to stand up for herself. And really, how could the prince have saved her from that? Aren’t we all guilty of it?
Aurora – Otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty. Through absolutely no fault of her own, she’s placed under a curse at birth. A curse that says she’s going to poke her finger and die. Sure, she ends up fulfilling the curse and needs Prince Phillip to come kiss her awake – but how on earth was she supposed to save herself? She’d done everything she was supposed to do by order of the fairies and her parents – and actually it was THEIR fault for bringing her back to the castle before her birthday was over! And before all this nonsense started with her birthday, she was ready to take charge of her own life and follow an opportunity she thought was best for her even if it went against the wishes of her guardians.
Ariel – Ah, this is my girl. I’ve been an obsessive Little Mermaid fan since before I can remember. So you’ve got this girl who’s obsessed with learning. She wants to know everything there is to know about the world around her and the world beyond the murky depths. Sure, she gets all rebellious and makes a stupid decision to trust a witch when her father refuses to understand – but again, which of us hasn’t done something like that? Rebelled because we were misunderstood? She needed help to get out of the mess but again she didn’t sit on her fin and wait for someone to come rescue her. But if you insist, I’ll go halfsies with you on this one too. But seriously, teenagers – they think they know everything.
Belle – You’ve got this bookish French girl who is smart, independent, and loyal to a fault. Not once does she need saving and in fact is the one saving the men in her life. She runs after her father when she realizes he’s been captured and trades herself for his freedom. Is that waiting on a man to save her? Nope, didn’t think so. The Beast needs HER to fall in love with him (no easy feat) so that the spell on him can be broken. Is that her needing a man to come to her rescue? Nope again. She brushes off unwanted advances, refuses to conform to society’s idea of what a woman should be, and saves both her father and her future husband. Total bad ass.
Jasmine – This girl hates the idea of being forced to marry like she’s a piece of property to be handed over. Knowing that the luxury in which she lives comes with a cost, she decides to leave the life behind. Granted, she could have tried to get a better understanding of the outside world before running off – but I’m not really sure where she would get such knowledge. She’s captured and dragged back. Thinking the boy she liked is dead, she settles in for more fighting against her father in the issue of marriage. But again, due to magic beyond her control – and not even magic placed over her – she finds herself in a bind. Aladdin comes to the rescue, sure, but this chica certainly knows who she is and what she wants and will not settle for less.
Pocahontas – All right, let’s set aside the glaring historical inaccuracies in this movie and just focus on the plot at hand. Pocahontas is confronted with a group of people she has never interacted with before: the white men. Instead of cowering in fear at the unknown like most of her people, she reaches out and tries to learn about their motives and their ways. She sees them as fellow men, not monsters just because their skin is a different color. And again we have an instance of girl saving guy when John Smith is captured and Pocahontas literally throws herself in front of the killing blow.
And just for another thing – in the second movie (which was a straight-to-video release) she’s known as a peacemaker and is respected by both the native Americans and the English for her wisdom.
Mulan – Ugh, it pains me to bring this girl into the discussion – not because she’s not cool. She is totally bad ass, but Mulan isn’t a princess. She wasn’t born a princess and she didn’t marry a prince but according to Disney, she is in the official princess lineup.
See? There she is – sneaking in between Rapunzel and Aurora. /sigh
Mulan tries to do what’s right. She tries to be graceful and beautiful and quiet – just like a good Chinese girl should be. But despite her best attempts, she’s just clumsy and awkward. When her father is called to fight in a war he has no business being in, Mulan sees a chance to redeem herself. Sure, she has to pretend to be a guy – but this girl pretending to be a guy saved a LOT of guys’ asses during the course of this movie. Not once does she sit around and wait for someone to come get her. In fact, even after she’s been kicked out she jumps up to save her friends when she sees they’re in danger.
Tiana – I’m less familiar with Tiana’s story because I’ve only seen this movie once and I don’t own it on dvd yet. What I do know is you’ve got this girl who staunchly refuses to wait around for some man to help her out. She’s working hard every day to get towards her dream – opening her own restaurant. Sure she gets caught up in some boy drama – but once she’s in, she’s determined to work with the prince to find a way to break the spell placed upon them both. I like this movie because of the partnership it promotes instead of one side saving the other.
Merida – I don’t even know how you could BEGIN to say that this girl was saved by a man. In fact, one of the driving forces of the movie is the fact that Merida is not a girly-girl and does not want to get married at such a young age. SPOILERS: She doesn’t even end up with a guy! There’s not even a budding romance between her and any of the boys presented for marriage. She is strong, independent, a damn good archer, and totally willing to do anything for the sake of her family. And come on, guys, when she stood up and said, “I’ll be shooting for my own hand!” I got chills. How could you not? How could you EVEN PRETEND SHE WAS SAVED BY A MAN?
Rapunzel – I like this girl a lot. In fact, this is quickly becoming my second favorite Disney movie (after Little Mermaid, of course – nothing will ever top that one). So girl’s stuck in a tower and wants desperately to go outside. She’s tried every reasonable approach with her mother to convince her to go outside, but Mom’s not giving in. Again we see a princess taking advantage of an opportunity to ask for help so she can follow a lifelong dream. Yeah she needs help from Flynn, but when things get sticky it’s Rapunzel who is saving his ass more than once. Sure, at the end Flynn comes running after to her to save her from being dragged off into oblivion but to be fair Rapunzel was trying her damn hardest to get away from Crazy Bitch Who Calls Herself Mom . And when he sacrificed himself for her, she got the chance to turn around and repay the favor. Again with the mutual partnership – I think Disney could use more of these.
Anna & Elsa – And we come full circle from the original meme that set this post off. We’ve got these sisters – torn apart by a deep secret. When the secret is revealed and Queen Elsa runs off, Anna immediately runs after her to bring her back so she can help. Yeah, we see Anna asking for a ride from Kristoff and him trying to save her from seeming stupid decisions but never once is Anna waiting for him to come save her.
[THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR DISNEY’S FROZEN BEYOND THIS POINT DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT ME RUINING IT FOR YOU!]
That is, until the end of the movie. So Anna and Kristoff realize they need an act of true love to break the spell of the Frozen Heart. So what does Anna do? She runs off to the man she thinks is her one true love. She may not be waiting around for Hans to come save her, but she automatically thinks that she needs his kiss to save her. And even when he reveals his true nature, her first instinct is for Kristoff and for him to save her.
I mean, just because her willingness to sacrifice herself for her sister is what indeed saved her in the end, doesn’t change the fact that she was looking for a man to save her.
So actually – Frozen is the ONLY movie with a princess actively looking for a man to get her out of a bind.
Not that I would ever bash the movie – because dude, Anna and Elsa are great and I love how Disney is showing you that trying to hide and refusing to accept who you are is only going to hurt you and those you love.
But there you have it, people. Disney is not some old fashioned, anti-women company trying to force girls into thinking they need men in their lives. They are not slow-coming to the modern ways of thinking that women are just as capable as men. In fact, Disney has been promoting strong female role models for decades. They’ve chosen to spotlight inner strength, kindness and compassion, family loyalty, and friendship as things children should value. Yeah, Disney movies often have a love story attached but never has that been only important thing.
And really, who doesn’t want to be swept of their feet and fall in love?
So to all the Disney princess haters, I have one message: Fuck you, I’m a Disney princess and I’m damn proud of it.
Health, Peace, & Happiness,