Who is your favorite Disney Princess? And who is her Prince Charming? Better yet, what does she stand for?
Disney Princesses are notorious for portraying women as weak and innocent or stereotypical housewives, and their life goals are to meet their princes and fall in love. Still, we love Disney and we keep watching and buying and even going so far as to dressing up like them for Halloween.
But while it is true that gender stereotypes exist and seriously enforce those eternal ideas that beautiful, naive women are those who will get attractive men they will fall in love with forever, but do these stereotypes really apply to everyone? What about Mulan, Pocahontas, Esmeralda, or even the newest Disney Princess Tiana? Do they teach young girls who watch Disney movies something different?
I created a series of pictures that show some of the differences between the Princesses of the Disney films.
Ariel lives somewhere under the sea. At 16 years old she falls in love with a man she sees on a ship and then goes to a sea witch to have her mermaid tail turned into legs in order to be with him, leaving her friends and family behind.
Pocahontas lives in the Northeast of North America in an area where the first few groups of settlers lived. She appreciates nature and teaches a man that she meets about the wonders of nature and why he shouldn’t cut down trees and destroy land and brings peace to her people as well as the incoming Europeans during a time of war.
Snow White lives in an area somewhere with a forest. Her stepmother has her killed because Snow White is more beautiful than she is but the hunter cannot kill her because she is, you guessed it, too beautiful. She then lives with seven dwarfs and ends up falling for the stepmother’s tricks anyways and is woken by a prince who kisses her dead body and they get married.
Mulan lives in China, she breaks the law by posing as a man in order to keep her father from going to war as he is past adequate age and health to be able to fight. She uses her creativity and training to prove she is as skilled as any man and saves China from the Hun army.
By now you may have seen the trend that I noticed when looking through these Disney Princesses. While we can name off where each Princess of varied ethnicity is from, only the Caucasian Princesses (with the only exception being Belle) all seem to come from”fairytale land.”
And not only are those Princesses of different ethnicity from specific places, they are also the ones who do something more substantial. Mulan saved China, Pocahontas brought two opposing sides of a war together and taught a group of people about the wonders of nature, Esmeralda was willing to risk her life and give up her freedom to help those who are less fortunate than herself. What exactly happened to the “classic” Disney Princesses? Snow White was persecuted for her beauty, Ariel fell in love with a man she had never spoken to, and Aurora was married when she was still in diapers.
What exactly are we teaching young girls about women and ethnicity? Does it make sense to continue to perpetuate not only gender stereotypes but also encourage more stereotypes based on ethnicity? Can a Caucasian woman not be as strong or as determined as one that is a different ethnicity?
Because when it comes down to it, those women who are continually being projected as weak and innocent aren’t just all princesses… they’re all white.