Let’s Have Another Disney Discussion

Personally, I liked The Princess and the Frog. However, my research indicates others didn’t. Wikipedia agrees, and I quote “While the film did outgross Disney’s more recent hand-drawn films like Brother Bear, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Home on the Range, it was less auspicious than the animated movies from Walt Disney Pictures’ 1990s traditional animation heyday.[47]

Sure, Wiki isn’t the most concrete of resources, but it’s still fairly reliable on something like this.

So I have a question. What is it about the previous princesses that draws girls in that Tiana didn’t?

What do Snow White, Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, and Jasmine have that Tiana doesn’t? Why is it that all my favorite Disney Ladies (Mulan, Pocahontas, etc) are always forgotten?

I feel like the earlier ladies are a bad influence.

Snow White pretty much had no personality. She was just pretty, innocent, and liked cleaning. Did Prince Charming know how much she liked apples (one must like apples quite a bit, to accept one from a super creepy old lady who just happens across the cabin you’re staying in, although the cabin is pretty much in the middle of nowhere). It seems to me he just thought she was super pretty, and obvs she was, or her story wouldn’t exist, and decided to kiss a seemingly dead woman. Kinda weird. Notice she didn’t marry a dwarf, and they were MUCH nicer to her. They didn’t MAKE her clean but they sure did appreciate it (I might be wrong here lol but I kinda thought they did). And let me just say one thing, DIAMONDS. (just kidding on that last part)

Belle: Sure, she loved books. Sure, she didn’t want to marry the douchebaggy hunk every other girl wanted. But let me just say this: Stockholm Syndrome. –cringe–

Cinderella: Sure your life sucks, but don’t do anything about it! She might be “Cinder”ella, but the girl cleans up good — good enough to warrant the prince’s attention! If your life sucks and you don’t want to do anything about it, maybe a prince will come save you! If you’re pretty enough. And by pretty, I mean if he has a foot fetish and you have teeny feet.

**** A 15th or 16th century gal might’ve not felt she had many options (or whatever century Cinderella was supposedly from), but this isn’t the 1660′s. This was the 20th century. And it’s story. A fictional story. There’s nothing wrong with adding a touch of feminism here and there. Look at the Drew Barrymore movie. I didn’t like it much, but I loved that she picked him up. And attacked the dude she was sold too. Kinda awesome. Disney could’ve at least gave Cinderella a backbone. Or a really good reason to stay under her stepmommys control. *****

Ariel: ‘Nuff said.

Jasmine: All bark and no bite. Sure, she whines about her station in the kingdom and marrying a prince and whatnot, then rebels and scales the wall to check out the city, but she only gets herself in trouble and needs to be saved. She can’t walk the walk, only gives lip service about what she wants. The one time she succeeds, she lowers her voice all sultry and breathes ‘Oh Jafaarrrrr”. He lights up like a Christmas Tree. Blech.

Mulan is simply a goddess, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone dress up as her for Halloween. Was there a Barbie-like Mulan doll? Was there a Pocahontas doll? I certainly had the Sing-Alongs as a kid. I always looked up to those two — they were so… BAMF. They didn’t let much stand in their way, especially Mulan. I also like how Pocahontas didn’t go with Smith even though he was injured. By the usual Disney standards she should’ve donned an English dress, changed her name to Rebecca, and traveled to meet the Queen…..

So what do you hate about the Disney princesses? And for that matter, what do you love? Because there are aspects to love, and I haven’t considered those. I’m simply being a negative nelly, I guess.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted December 23, 2010 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    You do realize Cinderella came out in 1950?

    If you watch the sequels, she actually has a bit more personality.

    • Posted December 23, 2010 at 12:39 am | Permalink

      And, yes, there were/are Mulan and Pocahontas dolls. I have them both, each gotten around the time their respective films came out :) . My Mulan doll has re-attachable hair (that you could “cut off” with her little plastic sword, like in the movie), two outfits, and a bamboo pole with a suction cup that she can swing on.

      My Pocahontas doll is really cool, too. She came with her little buckskin dress and if you put it in sunlight, colorful leaves show up. She also has the best hair out of all my dolls: soft, resilient, and long. I have her friend, Nakoma, too. On a sidenote, if you watch the sequel to that movie, she does go to England and eventually marries John Rolfe…like the original, TONS of poetic license. For example, in the movie John Rolfe is something like an ambassador/diplomat to the King of England instead of a colonial tobacco farmer.

      As you can probably tell, I love Disney and Disney princesses. I grew up with/on them, and I had the pleasure of being a child during the so-called 90s Renaissance. I know a lot of feminists have many hang-ups about them, and I do agree that there are problematic aspects as well as legitimate criticisms (especially when it comes to marketing), but I typically stay out of these discussions because I just don’t fully agree with the dislike or even all the interpretations. That said, I totally agree that Tiana is wildly underrated and deserves more love and recognition.

  2. Posted December 23, 2010 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    I do remember there being a Mulan doll, but before you get excited, she was based on the “dressed-up” Mulan from the matchmaker scene early on in the film. I don’t specifically remember a Pocahontas doll, but since Disney is not a corporation that shies away from a merchandise tie-in, I’m sure there was one.

    Though there’s been much critique of The Little Mermaid, and the lyrics of “Kiss The Girl” certainly are problematic, there are some things I view differently about the film. It’s not often mentioned that before Ariel ever knows of the Prince’s existence, it is established that her character is obsessed with the surface world and longs to live there. She has a secret room full of human artifacts she’s collected over time. I cynically wonder if her crush on the Prince is almost fetishistic in a way – if he’s just one more thing from the surface world that she longs to acquire.
    Her willing sacrifice of her voice? Yes it is jarring, and feminists should find it so. However, it should be noted that she is convinced to do it by the Sea Witch who tells her half-truths and outright lies about the way to a man’s heart on the surface (“They dote and swoon and fawn/on a lady who’s withdrawn/And she who holds her tongue gets a man.”) She deliberately hides the fact that the Prince is in fact intrigued by her voice, and tells her to use her body instead. While it’s tragic that Ariel still deems her voice a worthy sacrifice with this misinformation, I view the Witch’s role in this scene as analogous to so-called “women’s media” –Cosmopolitan, The Rules, etc. One cannot deny that there is a large industry based around a)telling women that their key to fulfillment is in getting a man, and b)that this is frequently achieved by denying their true selves or doing things that make them miserable, starving themselves, wearing uncomfortable outfits and shoes. Of course as we find out, this is not the way to the Prince’s heart, and the result of these actions is that Ariel herself, as well as her people, are placed into danger. It is also telling that when Ariel buys into the Witch’s story, though she is made human, no regard is given to her well-being–she is left naked and she nearly drowns when she suddenly can’t breathe underwater. I see this aspect of the story as being a metaphor for the fact that as women we have to NOT compromise who we truly are, and NOT buy into societal lies about how we are supposed to behave, or hold back and silence ourselves in order to please men (or anyone really). A truly worthwhile partner will care about what we have to say as much as how we look. And if we believe compromising ourselves will lead to happiness, we have been deluded.

    As for “The Princess and The Frog” doing not as well as the 90′s films, I’d first have to ask, how is “Tangled” doing? Movies cost a lot more than they did in the early 90′s, and we live in a world of foreclosures and double-digit unemployment rates. Is it possible that people find it more economic to wait for the DVD? Or that maybe people are a little bored of the Disney fairy tale formula and have come to expect the same movie with a different girl and different animal sidekicks? I dunno, I’ll admit that money was tight when “The Princess and The Frog” was in theaters, but I’ll make a point to Netflix it.

    My favorite Disney female characters tend not to make it into the Princess line – Mulan, Esmerelda (though I have issues with some of the liberties taken with “Hunchback of Notre Dame”), and Lilo and her sister Nanni.

  3. Posted December 23, 2010 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    I agree with previous commenters: I think Tiana’s limited success has more to do with the current market for movies (everyone now wants 3D, CGI, etc) than any comparisons with earlier princesses. Besides, it’s only the recent “Princess” line of Disney merchandise that has put the 50s princesses like Cinderella and Snow White in the same category as 90s princesses Ariel & Jasmine. I think if I had bones to pick with the princesses, it would be that merchandising rather than the stories themselves.

    I’d say Belle and Mulan are my faves. Yeah, you could call Stockholm Syndrome on Belle, I guess. But what I like about her relationship with the Beast is that you see it progressing. You see them falling for each other, little by little, as they get to know one another– unlike the unrealistic love at first sight/love at a distance than most of the stories have. Mulan & Shang have that slowly developing relationship too, and we don’t even see them “get together” i.e. kiss, get married, etc.

    When I think of how to approach the Disney Princesses as a feminist– especially when younger girls are concerned– I think of watching Pocahontas with my mom when I was a little girl. You know that scene near the beginning where Pocahontas dives off the rock into the pool, and comes out with her hair looking perfectly straight & combed without a hair out of place? Every time we watched that scene, my mom would shriek, “Real hair would never look like that! It’s unrealistic!” So I watched it ever after with a grain of salt. I feel like we can appreciate these stories as both flawed and worthwhile, as long as we don’t try and swallow them whole.

  4. Posted December 23, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Belle is absolutely my favourite of the princesses (though Mulan and Pochahontas are close behind). I think her love of books is the main reason, since I love reading as well. And while you may say Stockholm Syndrome, of all the princes the Beast has to EARN her love the most. The turning point for their relationship is when he shares one of his most treasured possessions with her–his library, which is something they have in common. Aside from Aladdin (which takes the unusual approach of focusing on the male lead), it’s the only Disney movie I’ve seen where the male has to do anything other that realize what a great girl she is.

    • Posted December 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      And on a side note about Snow White, there’s a French film (Alice’s Odyssey) in which she left the prince and moved back in with the dwarves. As she puts it, “one for each day of the week.” She’s also, if I recall rightly, the most well-adjusted of the fairy-tale people they meet (although leaving the prince does mean that she’s no longer eternally young–she appears middle-aged in the film)

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