Disney Gives Princesses The Boot

GeekMom TV and Movies

At the end of last year, just before the holidays, Disney announced that they would cease making princess movies. Women around the world took in a collective gasp, some of relief and others of horror. The era of the Disney princess was drawing to a close.

The actual statement made by Disney executives says fairy tale movies, but since the majority of Disney’s fairy tale movies have revolved around princesses, it means practically the same thing. Especially when you read further and learn the reason they are putting princesses aside: Boys won’t see movies with icky girls in them, and Disney does not want to risk alienating any boys.

I will pause long enough for you all to bang your heads against your desk. Feel better? Yeah, it didn’t work for me either.

Women often have a conflicted relationship with the princess, ranging from fond remembrance, outright loathing, and the old love/hate thing. GeekMoms are no exception. For the next few days, a number of us are going to be weighing in with thoughts as the princess makes her final appearance on the big screen.

While the adult part of me is somewhat happy to move beyond the frilly dresses, glitz, and helplessness of the princess, the child in me mourns her passing. When I was young, princesses were only an occasional indulgence. My exposure was limited to the rare outing to the kid-friendly movie and the even rarer trip to Disneyland itself. That actually worked out perfectly because, instead of being bombarded with an already assembled and prepackaged princess mythos, I got to make up a lot of it as I went along. My most vivid memory of playing princess has me dressed in the fanciest thing I owned, a red nylon nightgown with puffed sleeves and rows and rows of ruffles on the neckline. Alas, I had no glass slippers, but I did have a pair of white ankle-high go-go boots. Nor was I particularly pining for Prince Charming to come along; I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Spock (thus being way ahead of the curve on mash ups.)

As a parent, I only have sons so I honestly don’t know how I would have felt raising daughters with so much princess merchandise, DVDs, TV shows, and media tie-in books everywhere they looked. I imagine the 24/7 princess onslaught would have been a bit daunting. Perhaps the true villain in this tale is mass merchandising, rather than the innocent princess.

Although perhaps not. The princess in pop culture has taken on all sorts of unpleasant characteristics: She is vain, materialistic, shallow, and far too focused on catching the attention of Prince Charming, often at horrifying cost to herself. Not to mention the whole helpless-and-needs-to-be-saved thing.

Historically, real princesses were privileged but powerless, often nothing more than pawns in their fathers’ political aspirations and machinations, a way to cement new alliances and bridge old feuds. And let’s not forget–give birth to the next generation of the dynasty.

However, if you go back to the early folktales, the ones that Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm drew from, you will find that it was the heroine’s own quick wit, intelligence, and cleverness that allowed her to effect her own rescue. Long before Disney came on the scene, the princess’s role was being diminished in fairy tale retellings.

“Sleeping Princess” by Viktor Vasnetsov Wikimedia Commons

For all that there is not to like about princesses, princess stories also have a hugely important role in a child’s development. Fairy tales, like the myths that preceded them, codify and teach on a subconscious level. As Bruno Bettleheim explains in his book THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, kids need to see undesirable behaviors at work in order to understand how wrong they are, but in a way that is far removed from their own selves. It is too overwhelming to recognize one’s own narcissism, much easier to see it in an evil queen who is threatening an innocent figure the child identifies with: the princess.

Even the most passive of princesses, Sleeping Beauty, conveys an important truth to today’s kids: sometimes in order to grow and move forward, we must accept moments of quiet and inner focus. Usually not as dramatic as a hundred year nap, but still. Huge growth is often preceded by periods of inactivity, even lethargy. Beauty from Beauty and the Beast not only rejects rank materialism for a simple rose, but experiences the rewards of looking beyond the surface to the richer depths below.

Cinderella’s problem with her stepsisters captures an essential truth about the daunting experience of being overshadowed by one’s siblings. It is the perfect mirror of many children’s feelings of having their chores be the dirtiest, dullest, most thankless and least appreciated. And what child hasn’t felt as voiceless as the Little Mermaid?

Fairy tales are rife with these sorts of hidden messages, a subconscious telegraph to the psyche. And before feminists everywhere scream at me, that is the point, I would like to point out that what is developmentally appropriate at five or six may seem downright creepy at twenty-five. Look at the sheer number of adults who were seriously creeped out by SpongeBob SquarePants or the Teletubbies. That is the beauty of good literature and stories–we take what we need from them based on our developmental needs.

There seems to me to be two problems pop culture princess. The first is that a lot of the negativity associated with princess has nothing to do with the princess characters themselves, but rather the word has, like b!tch, become a catchall used for the vain, shallow, materialistic, passive, and narcissistic.

The second problem with princesses seems to me one of arrested development: today’s princess never moves far beyond the Orphan stage of her archetypal journey. The orphan stage is all about fear of abandonment, looking for safety, wishing for rescue, wanting a caretaker. It’s all about quick fixes, the easy life, little responsibility. Of course, it is not only girls who spend time in this stage of human development, but popular culture geared toward younger girls focuses so much on the princess that it overshadows everything else.

However, whether you love princesses or hate them, the biggest reason princess movies are important is that they convey that girls can be heroes of their own BIG story. That girls’ interests and concerns are just as deserving of big screen time as boys’ interests and concerns. My biggest worry with Disney’s farewell to princesses is, what will step in to fill that gap in popular culture? My fear is–nothing.

Where will girls see themselves in today’s films? Where will their unique issues and interests be addressed? Where are the movies that will show young girls as the hero? This taps into the phenomenon that girls are expected to be satisfied with a steady diet of ‘boy fare’ whereas boys cannot possibly be expected to endure a single girl movie.

What if, instead of deciding princess stories were too uninteresting to inflict upon boys, studios and directors and producers worked to create stories that captured the original mythic underpinnings of fairy tales and broadened their appeal. Let’s show the heroine journeying beyond the innocent and the orphan stage into maturity, experience, and–especially–the warrior. And while it’s true that now more than ever, there are a huge variety of strong, clever girls (including princesses) in books, none of them are making it to the big screen–and won’t if studios persist on believing that a movie staring a girl won’t be interesting to boys.

Clearly I have just touched the tip of this huge subject and we invite you to joint us in our week long conversation as we discuss the pros and cons of princesses, talk about why we love or loathe them, and how we see their role in today’s culture!

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49 thoughts on “Disney Gives Princesses The Boot

  1. Isn’t it sad that because it won’t play to “boys” that girl centered movies will be through. I remember not so long ago legos, most movies, electronic gadgets, and video games were all boy centered because “girls” didn’t buy those products. Yet as the years went on, suddenly there was a market for games that more girl centered as manufacturers realized that they were leaving half of the buying public with out merchandise they wanted.

    As Geekmoms, I think we have all struggled with being female in male dominated worlds. How do you keep your identity when confronted by everything male? The new Disney movie Tangled got it right. The Prince is a helper..a companion.. on the princesses road to discovery.

    Somehow, I don’t think that a large company like Disney will suddenly stop producing princess merchandise. And hopefully they will realize, girls like to be the heros too.

    1. Ysenda, I have heard that they got TANGLED right, which is one of the reasons I was so surprised they made the decision before the financial tally was in. And you’re absolutely right; while the movies may cease, the merchandising will go on forever!

      1. This is pretty interesting. I wonder whether this decision has anything to do with Disney’s acquisition of Marvel.

        The Disney princesses have come a long way since CINDERELLA. I’m surprised by this move since the princess movies like MULAN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED, really hit the mark with smart and strong girls. No sparkles required. These movies are absolute classics and should be available to all girls to watch.

        I wonder whether Marvel will influence the Disney movies towards more superheroes and superheroines.

  2. I understand your P.O.V. but from my perspective this is a good thing, I find the typical princess story to be nothing but pure sugar coated fantasy. Which leads to girls believing in perfection that never becomes true in reality. As a young free thinking man I constantly deal with the effects these images have had on society. All to often girls expect you to lavish them with money, fame, and power as if they were princesses (not that there aren’t men who expect the same from women). And what usually happens is the man who has the most is the most wanted man by women.

    1. Luther, I absolutely understand your point of some of these girls expecting to be lavished with attention and adoration. I have two older sons who have had to really struggle with that exact issue with a lot the girls they meet and know. It pretty much makes real, authentic relationships impossible. But as I was writing the post, I kept trying to decide how much of that behavior was attributable to the fairy tale princesses of Disney movies, and the more pop culture type princesses of television shows and pop music princesses.

      1. Very true, I agree with you that some of this behavior comes from other sources than movies. I hadn’t really thought much about that at the time I wrote my original comment. I must say though that I like movies that show that a girl doesn’t have to be a princess to be somebody. Some of my favorites are Alice in Wonderland, and Coraline.

  3. You make quite a few interesting points. I’m raising twin boys, and while I am thankful that we won’t have to worry about our child receiving mixed social messages through princess centered merchandise (being pretty/rich/thin will get you the guy, which in the end is all that matters), I also see the message behind the princess’ struggle; especially in some of the later (well, maybe not so late anymore…) movies (ie Belle-her kindness, intelligence, and ability to look past the obvious; Jasmine-her desire to change her social caste). However, I don’t think this signals an end to all things princess-look at the popularity of the Shrek series (Fiona is a princess too!) and Tangled from DreamWorks. Both are princess driven (or assisted) stories. The thing I love with Shrek, is the obvious-Fiona stayed an ogre, rather than a Cameron Diaz avatar.

    As an aside, I was looking through my boys’ recent deluge of Christmas presents. They got a set of “action friends” toys-a firefighter, soldier, and police officer. It came with a small book about the characters, but there was a 4th character, just in the book-a female cat who couldn’t be any of those things-she just wanted to be their neighbor! I was appalled. While the plastic toys will stay out, the book is going in the trash. Not teaching my boys that lesson.

    1. but there was a 4th character, just in the book-a female cat who couldn’t be any of those things-she just wanted to be their neighbor! I was appalled.

      It is kind of shocking how insidious that kind of stuff is. We had a female pediatrician, so for years the only kind of doctor my sons had was a woman. Even so, when one of them was about 9 yo, we were talking about careers and he said scornfully, “Women can’t be doctors!” Major headdesk moment. I pointed out that his own doctor was, in fact, a female, and it kind of cracked his world wide open.

      1. I intentionally sought out a female doctor to see my kids through their youth so that they would recognize that women can be doctors (harder to help them experience female pilots, truck drivers, etc. in the day to day). Funny about your 9 year old’s comment, but how great that you could point out his error with solid and familiar evidence.

  4. Believe it or not, after seeing many Disney movies as a kid AND working for Disney five years as an adult, I married a real Romanian prince. He was a violent and lazy man… and I had to leave him after 16 years. Prince Charming was certainly not very charming. Women shall not place too many hope in men, princes or not. Men are just human, with their shortcomings, just as we all women…

    1. Flam, wow, clearly someone neglected to five that Romanian prince the manual on how to be Prince Charming!

      My aunt worked at Disney, too, but a loooong time ago. Like, back in the dark ages.

  5. I’m really pleased that one of my daughter’s favorite princesses is Nausicäa from the Miyazaki film Kaze no Tani no Nausicäa… She’s brave, determined, kind, a bit of a scientest, does hard things because no one else will, self-sacrificing, protects her people. The best princesses are the ones that can take care of business themselves.

    1. Bingo! If anyone is looking for strong females, realistic relationships, and beautiful films (minus the merchandising) go find something by Miyazaki. I highly recommend Nausicca, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Ponyo (my son’s current favorite.)

  6. Nice article. I’m a mom of boys as well, and while we don’t deal with the princess phenomenon directly, I think it’s important to note that little boys are also receiving cultural messages from the princess craze, even if they don’t watch the princess movies or read the books. Look at animated films from the last decade or so: how many feature a female protagonist who is NOT a princess? Like the author, I worry that if Disney discontinues princess movies, there will be no girls (or too few) starring in their own stories on the big screen. That’s not a healthy perception for girls OR boys.

    I heard recently that next year Pixar is coming out with their first film to feature a female protagonist (still a princess, I think), so hopefully other studios will fill the hole that Disney is leaving.

    Oh! I can’t leave this comment without mentioning my favorite princess movies, “Princess Mononoke” and “Nausicaa”, both Japanese films from director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (incidentally, distributed by Disney in the US). Both films feature princesses who are smart, strong warriors — very different from your typical looking-for-Prince-Charming princess movie, and highly recommended (by my sons too!) to older children of any gender. I’d love to see American studios make films like these.

    1. Look at animated films from the last decade or so: how many feature a female protagonist who is NOT a princess? Like the author, I worry that if Disney discontinues princess movies, there will be no girls (or too few) starring in their own stories on the big screen. That’s not a healthy perception for girls OR boys.

      The thing I keep coming back to is that these girls are also boys mothers and sisters and cousins and friends, and will eventually be wives and daughters. Of course boys should be exposed to their interests and concerns and what makes them tick. That just seems so obvious to me.

  7. When my son was much younger, he watched the Princess movies with his younger and older sister for a while. Eventually he “grew out of it” and that’s understandable. The older one watches it for entertainment purposes and the younger one is still smack-dab in the middle of the whole Princess genre.

    There were some attempts, like Cinderella II showed her in a stronger light than “happily ever after” and actually gave her some personality.

    I think it is a shallow cop-out on Disney’s part. They have been losing their creativity for a while now and this seems like they are throwing in the towel instead of actually thinking and coming up with anything new.

    1. Drew, I think that some of their later movies have really gotten it right: Tangled, by all accounts, and Mulan also comes to mind. And both my sons went to see princess movies, too, and did not suffer any ill effect. 🙂

  8. I’m so upset by this I can’t even express it! Honestly, it’s hard not to assume they’re doing it due to a lack of anticipated profit from their last two attempts.

    Your analysis is beautiful. I fully agree that the princess stories/fairy tales are important to children. And if it isn’t working for them, they should strive to make it better, not give up altogether.

    1. Lisa, my understanding is that the lack of profits from The Princess and the Frog is part of what was behind this decision, which was made before TANGLED had one of the best openings of any animated films ever…

  9. The Disney princesses will live on. Disney didn’t produce any new animated “Princess” movies (except some straight-to-video sequels) between 1998’s “Mulan” and 2009’s “Princess and the Frog”, and it’s not like the princesses dropped off the face of the earth during that decade.

    As a boy, I never saw any of the princess movies growing up except for “Snow White”, until my own daughters started watching them last year. Now my youngest daughter is obsessed with “Cinderella” (which came out in 1950) and my older one is in love with “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) and “The Little Mermaid” (1989). Christmas at my house this year was filled with Disney princess dolls, costumes, coloring books, etc., and they hadn’t even seen the two new princess movies that came out during their lifetimes yet. As long as Disney keeps putting these movies out in DVD, Blu-ray, and whatever formats will come next, the princesses are not going away and little girls will keep discovering them.

  10. I read the “Disney announced” link you include and I get the impression that Lasseter and friends are doing away with “fairy tales” in general, not only princesses. And by fairy tales they seem to mean, precisely, those bland tales of eternal orphans that Disney extracted through decades of use and abuse of the same , once vivid, now stale, popular stories, fairy and otherwise. If the news were about catering only to boys, that would be bad news. If, as seems to be the case, the news is about doing away with these stale stories and giving way to new, more relevant fare, then there’s no need to bang our heads against the table.

  11. I have 2 boys, so I took myself to the movies to see “The Princess & The Frog.” When it was available for instant watching on netflix, I watched (again) with my sons. They liked it, but they aren’t “permited” to like it in public.

    We were visiting family for Thanksgiving, and we all–15 people–went to see Tangled. My elder son was reluctant in principle, but liked it.

    Good storytelling is good storytelling, and dressing it up in tiaras, sparkles and lipstick makes it almost impossible for boys to even TRY.

  12. Very well said. Although never a ‘princess fan’ as I identified more with the milkmaids that never got screentime, I never hated princesses. I definitely think they have a place in the world and I love your idea of having stories that focus on the next leg of their journey. I don’t think that it’s right to say girls have to suck it up and watch Boy stories, but Boys are not expected to do the reverse. Interesting thoughts indeed.

  13. @alfredo: yeah, but then the headline wouldn’t have caused you to click and read. Seems to be very typical of anyone connected to wired.com in any way.

  14. My five year old daughter loves some Princess movies and is meh on others, and there are a bunch she hasn’t even seen.

    She chooses favourite entertainment on other criteria, like music or the number of silly jokes. She loves Toy Story and Shrek because they appeal to her sense of humour. She does get the message from available clothing that Jessie and Fiona are for the girls, but we let her choose boy shirts and even boy underwear (*gasp!*). We talk to her about how silly it is to define only girl characters for girls and only boy characters for boys, and so far, she agrees.

    That being said, her favourite character from Beauty and the Beast was Gaston (again, because of the slapstick) and was very annoyed at me when I told her that nobody makes Gaston underwear. I thought, “WTF, my kid wants a sexual predator on her underwear?!” but I had to remember to see it from her innocent point of view: if funny characters like Buzz and the penguins from Madagascar can be on underwear, why not Gaston?

    Really, the negative messages she gets come from everywhere else, and innocuous-seeming places. She concluded that women can’t have jobs as scientists – they can BE scientists but not get PAID – after noticing that Daddy’s workplace has no female scientists. Which is sadly true…it’s a small company with a narrow niche and they have trouble enough finding *any* qualified employees let alone worrying about gender, race, or even home nation. And while she knows I experiment in my crafts, nobody pays me for that except for occasional show winnings. Ergo: women do not get paid for science. *sigh*

    But observation doesn’t always enter into it: when she was 3.5 she decided boys have short hair and girls have long, despite Daddy having hair to his waist and Grandma having short hair.

    Gender messages come through loud and clear independent of movies, sadly. We can counteract messages and erroneous conclusions all we like but it still sifts in. Princess movies are merely one message in a large sample, so removing them won’t help, and having them isn’t the core problem.

    PS She does have the Self Rescuing Princess shirt from ThinkGeek. 🙂

  15. Lovely! I actually wrote a reaction to this announcement (and a reaction to the reactions) a month or so back (http://rockinlibrarian.livejournal.com/207733.html), my main point being that it’s not Princesses that are the problem, it’s people taking the concept of “Princess” out of their STORIES– that it’s what the princesses DO that make them interesting, and when you take that away, you DO end up with bland. But you’ve said it so much more deeply and beautifully here, especially tying in all the Bettleheim concepts….

    I often wonder why people insist on coloring all Princesses as being helpless and needing to be rescued, when even in the Disney movies they DO do things (and, frankly, the Disney PRINCES are much more BORING). I think it IS when people pull princesses OUT of their story that the problems come along….

    1. Thanks for pointing us to your post, rockinlibrarian! Loved it a lot. And LOL at Prince Charming being the truly bland characters! So very, very true!

      I also really love your point about how it is the removing of princesses from their stories that makes them less dynamic.

  16. I can’t say that I’ll miss them, but this is coming from a guy. I have long thought that if the Disney Princesses really had the gatherings that they show in their logo, Mulan would cut Ariel into sushi and leave, perhaps with Belle (and maybe Jasmine), to go do something other than brush her hair and sing.

    My wife and I had more or less decided that the Disney princesses were terrible for our growing daughter. She doesn’t need Prince Charming to come rescue her. In fact, we really enjoy Robert Munch’s “Paper Bag Princess,” in which Prince Roland is the prisoner and Elizabeth comes and rescues him from the dragon … then dumps him for being a vain bum!

  17. This is very interesting. First of all, I managed to miss the announcement altogether. Not surprising, since my 2 1/2 year old daughter’s favorite Disney movies are Monsters Inc and Cars (I seriously did a little dance when I found girls Cars sneakers for her). She just has not latched onto the princesses, with the exception of Tinkerbell, who I’m not entirely sure qualifies as a Princess.

    I’m interested to see where they go with this. Obviously, there will still be female animated leads in their movies. Hopefully, now, they will be stronger personalities. We haven’t seen Tangled yet but I sense they headed in that direction with that.

    Funny enough, female characters in Disney films was actually a sociology project I and a few friends did as undergraduates. We developed a coding mechanism and watched Disney flicks from way back to early Disney to (what was then) current day. Despite a 50 year time span, there was actually very little difference in the perceptions of women even when there was a veiled attempt by Disney to make it seem otherwise. Strong, independent women were generally the evil queen/witch/etc. If they were not inherently evil, they were straight up b*tchy but they were always the protagonist. Female leads were stereotypically timid with weak personalities and, generally, were in need of saving. Not shocking research, I know, but it was fun and we actually were a little surprised just how very few female characters broke from the mold. Well, there was Peg from Lady and the Tramp, who was not evil, b*tchy, or timid….so what did Disney make her? Slutty. Princess Jasmine sort of approached that line as well. Ah, stereotypes.

    1. You touch on a point that I wanted to cover, but ran out of time and room! We need the princess to counteract the idea that strong, powerful woman = wicked villain.

      (And can I just say how much I adore your screen name! Totally made me laugh.)

  18. As a kid, I remember there being more variety to Disney movies like Robin Hood, the Jungle Book, and the like. I think the problem with all the princess movies is they are marketed like mad. Mulan, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and the Princess and the Frog featured princesses who were archetypal and wanted more than to be someone’s wife. However, all the items and trinkets that were turned out, didn’t focus on their independent features. For example, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was a voracious reader yet none of her accessories included a book. Mulan didn’t have a sword.

    I’m a raising two African American little girls who are smack dab in the middle of their princess/Barbie doll phase. The biggest problem I’m experiencing is trying to make sure they know their is a variety of ideas of beauty.

    1. Mulan, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and the Princess and the Frog featured princesses who were archetypal and wanted more than to be someone’s wife.

      However, all the items and trinkets that were turned out, didn’t focus on their independent features. For example, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was a voracious reader yet none of her accessories included a book. Mulan didn’t have a sword.

      This is such an excellent, excellent point and ties in to what rockinlibrarian said earlier: It’s when we remove the princesses from their quest and journeys and just make them pretty dolls to be purchased, that so much of the image damage is done.

      The biggest problem I’m experiencing is trying to make sure they know their is a variety of ideas of beauty.

      A big fat, resounding YES to this, too.

  19. I have minimal problem with the Disney princesses for one simple reason — my four-year-old daughter seems to be taking primarily positive lessons from them. Since latching on to them, she’s decided that she should be polite and gracious (the princesses always are, after all), helpful (a chunk of the princesses do chores), and that reading (Belle) and looking past appearance (Belle again — her obsession of the moment) are good things. Oh, she loves the dresses and the dramatic sobs and escapes, but that was present in her nature before she ever saw her first princess.

    There are less obvious lessons I try to point out to her as well — that those who dismiss or belittle smart/determined girls are generally not great people, and that dreaming big is worthwhile… and that you have to FOLLOW the dreams as well. (See Belle, Ariel, Rapunzel, Tiana, etc etc for examples.)

    The negative messages are probably somewhat balanced by her having me for a mother; I’m cynical enough to encourage her to rescue herself, and I spent most of a decade working for NASA on an observatory in both scientific and engineering capacities and therefore won’t tolerate anyone saying “…but you’re a GIRL!” I also won’t let her say “can’t”. The effects of pretty much anything are influenced mightily by parenting style.

  20. I have 2 boys with a 7th old girl in the middle. She went though the princess stage -hard- but I always told her she was not a princess but a princess warrior. My older son and daughter, who now is very anti pink princess, are huge fans of Tamora Pierces books, all of which have amazingly strong women warriors and very supportive, upstanding and heroic men. They love the stories… are addicted to them…. wear their iPods everywhere listening to the 16 books on them over and over and over. So while Disney princesses of the traditional variety are going wayside, I am looking forward to seeing what Disney can create in this genre like Pierces characters which clearly resonated with my 12 yr old son too. Disney has been a while in inspiring this…. their Cheetah Girls song “I don’t want to be like Cinderella” is one of our girl mantras “My knight in shining armor is me”……. PS. Look at Thinkgeek.com for your “self-rescuing princess” shirt and join the club!

  21. On a blog that writes about “gender-norming” and “quite possibly burying years of feminist struggle in two keystrokes” by typing an emoticon and playing the “cute card” — this is surprising? I’m amazed and confused.

  22. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Barbie movies by Mattel, that actually feature much stronger heroines and better role models than Disney. They also resonate much better with boys; my 7yo son refuses to watch romantic Disney movies but enjoys watching the Barbie movies together with his 5yo sister.

  23. As someone who grew up with during the Heyday of princess movies starting with The Little Mermaid, I am a little happy, a little sad, and VERY skeptical.

    Happy because yes, as a little girl, I bought into the sugary wonderland that Prince Charming would come along easy peasey lemon squeezey by the time I was 18 or so…and here I am closer to 30 than my teens and Prince Charming has clearly run off with Mr. Right because he still hasn’t shown up. Not that I’d know what to do with a boring old Prince now anyways, but the point remains, regardless of how strong some of their female leads were, Disney and esp. CLASSIC Disney, gives little girls a times VERY skewed point of view on the ease of love and relationships.

    However it saddens me because I DID grow up during the Heyday. I think the one that cinched it for me was Beauty and the Beast, and I didn’t realize until I was older that it was for 3 BIG reasons. One: I was very VERY much like Belle. Two: Belle was also the first character I could remember who seems to have more of her life together. and Three and most importantly: She was the first girl who SAVED the GUY, instead of the other way around. She was a true heroine in my eyes, though by the traditional stand point the Beast would be the hero as he goes thorugh the most significant character arc change.

    But mostly, I am HIGHLY skeptical of this supposed policy. Remember about 6 years ago when Disney announced that it wasn’t going to be making any for traditional hand-drawn animation…and then The Princess and the Frog showed up last year. Yeah, Disney you’ve got a GREAT track record for sticking to your word. Besides which if you look at the overall composite of the Disney oeuvre, only about half of them are traditional “Fairy Tales” per say. And I especially think when they figure out, oh hey Girls aren’t going to want to see movies with “icky boys” in them either, they’re going to have to rethink their strategy. I give Disney maybe 10 years tops before they back out of this declaration and go back to a balancing act of more girl, than more guy oriented stories *i.e. They madeHercules, than Mulan, than Tarzan back in the ’90s*

  24. Growing up in the 70’s, I always looked for interesting and “strong” female characters. Fortunately, you can be anything (or anyone) during dress up, separating gender roles from gender. And, you can modify action figures with paint and an x-acto knife.

  25. I have a 7yr-old son and a 5yr-old daughter, and we took both to see Tangled recently. Both enjoyed it a lot, showing, I think that it’s more what the movies do with “princesses” than the mere presence of a princess in the film.

    More insidious than the lessons of the passive princesses of the past (say that five times fast) are the teen romance/comedies and even adult rom-coms which perpetuate the idea of a happily ever after if only a woman will wait for the right guy to show up. I wrote about this a few years back – http://www.marturia.net/blog/?p=2668 – and the consequences of that kind of thinking.

    Fortunately, the animation houses have been doing a better job with strong female characters in recent years. I thought particularly the alternate portrayal of Fiona in Shrek 4 was great!

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