Apparently, the “normal” aspiration of little girls all over the world is to some day become a princess. However, me being the weirdo I am, never had any ounce of a desire to become a princess, especially thanks to Disney’s misogynistic portrayal of princesshood. The classic tale of a troubled but sweet girl clothed in innocence, dangling from the lowest hanging branch of the family tree, trying to find her place in a world in which, 9 times out of 10, she doesn’t fit. I can appreciate the story of the odd female out’s empowerment and a rise from gutter to gold, and even the occasional I finally found the man of my dreams love story. BUT, why I don’t eff with Disney princess stories is because they make it a point to reduce the story of new found self awareness and appreciation to a man fixed me (and usually it’s a man at the center of the problem). They have consistently, and in my opinion very intentionally, opted to eliminate the powerful influence of a strong woman or mother. Each conflict is paternal and the mother is either deceased or so quiet/passive she’s invisible to the plot. Let’s take a look so you know I’m not crazy and just another Disney hater.
1. One of our latest crazes: Frozen. Let me just say, I love the message of the power of sisterly love. BUT did you hear their mother say a word? Wasn’t it Elsa’s father who locked her away and convinced her that her powers were something to fear? Separating her from her sister and the world? Imagine if he (or better yet her mom) had empowered her to learn to control her power rather than try to hide from it? It was daddy’s fault things got jacked up. Yeah…next
2. Sleeping Beauty….did you hear her mother speak? Her father was dumb enough to beef with Maleficent which ultimately caused his daughter to be in her slumbersome situation. And even with the help of 3 fairy godmothers, only a kiss from some random dude on a horse in the forest who she met years ago could wake her up. I call BS. According to the actual folklore, the boy’s kiss wasn’t what woke her, it was one from Maleficent herself. Of course disney changed the story to suit their own need to prove that if a woman is powerful, she must be evil.
3. Snow White…where was her mama? Her daddy married some crazy evil woman with a bad case of two deadly sins, vanity and jealousy which she poured all over this poor unsuspecting child. All she wanted to do was sing to the animals and skip through the forest freely. She shacked up with 7 strange lil men and immediately committed herself to servitude while she waited for a prince (some dude she’d barely just met at the well with a serious bravado) to come for her. In the end, he was the only one who could save her (again a kiss from a stranger) and he whisked her away to what appeared to be his castle just beyond the pearly gates of heaven.
4. Cinderella….who names their daughter “cinder”-ella? Like she was born to remain among the cinders, cleaning. No mama, instead an evil step mother and 3 nasty sisters. The prince had to swoop in and give her a better life. See how that happened. Abused by women, saved by a man. Ok, granted, the fairy godmother stepped in. But did she empower her to fight back or stand up for herself? No, she made her pretty for the ball and provided tranportation to get her man. Thanks.
5. Belle….of course as an avid reader, she was my fave for a while. But where was Mama Belle? She had a great relationship with her father, “crazy ‘ol Maurice” and that’s how she ended up with the beast. She sacrificed herself for her father. A friend of mine argued that had she not done so, she wouldn’t have found love. To that, I would like to point out how dysfunctional and stockholmish that sounds. She fell in love with her captor. The same one who had her father locked away. Aint nobody that thirsty.
6. Except maybe Ariel. Aside from the fact she married prince Eric at 16 (not sure how old he was), there were several things wrong with this story. Where was her mama? Like Aurora, the strong female presence in the movie was vilified. Accoding to the tale, sleeping beauty’s dad took Maleficents wings but we dont know exactly why King Triton and Ursula were beefin so hard. And what about all her sisters??? Her closest friends were a seagull, a flounder, and a crab, all male. You got like 20 sisters and you don’t rock with any of them???
7. Mulan. Wasnt a princess but still, sacrificed herself for her father. A father who’d initially expressed disappointment for her inability to act normal and obtain a husband. Her mother and grandmother were both present but in the usual context, not empowerment, but educating her on how to make herself desireable wifey material. Granted, her actions did bring honor to her family and eventually a fine man to her, but look what she had to do. She had to be a man. Smh
Two movies I will give Disney props on are Brave and Moana. Aside from the fact they both made me cry, they made sense and for me, were relatable. Merida, in all her Scottish badazz glory, donn-
ing a mess of untamed red curly hair, was a fighter and a gal who sought to control her own destiny. The scene where she decided to compete for her own hand in marriage was awesome. Not just the fact that she beat all of her would be suitors, but her arrow ripped through that of the finalist, the message of feminine independence resonating for generations to come. Same as Moana when she took off on that boat. Fueled by the wisdom and spirit of her grandmother, she fulfilled her destiny and restored her people to their true selves. These are the messages I desire for my girls. The damsel in distress narrative is so played. We live in a time where women are proving themselves as forces to be reckoned with yet are still having to fight for equality. Those among us who are too strong, are called manly (Serena). Too smart, cunning, or powerful are vilified (Hillary). Too sexy, talented, and proud are slut-shamed (Beyonce). Too vocal and right, are silenced (Elizabeth Warren). When we exhibit our independence, the world hones in on that which liberates us and uses it to strike us down. Our words, our bodies, our minds, our deeds. Disney should utilize its global platform to combat this and stop minimizing our contributions and the power of our presence. Our very loud, feminine, strong, presence.