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Disney Princesses

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Jessica Harnack

on 26 April 2011

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Transcript of Disney Princesses

Disney Princess is a Walt Disney franchise based on fictional characters who have been featured as part of the Disney character line-up. The original and more prominent members of the franchise are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle and Jasmine, who were later joined by Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana and Rapunzel. To call princesses a "trend" among little girls is like calling Harry Potter just a "book." Sales at Disney Consumer Products rose from $300 million in 2001 to $3 billion in 2006. Today there are over 25,000 products based on the franchise. The princesses all have a few characteristics in common: they show good will towards all creatures, evidenced by the common ability to commune with animals. The princesses are known for their inner and outer beauty as well as having beautiful singing voices. Each princess has a romance that is resolved by the end of her film. This presentation analyzes the princesses and how they have-- and haven't-- changed over time. Snow White (1937) Snow White was the first full length animated feature in movie history, as well as the first animated film produced in America, the first produced in full color, the first to be produced by Walt Disney, and the first in the Disney’s Animated Classics canon. It was also the first in the long list of Disney movies featuring princesses. Snow White was therefore the first official Disney princess. Snow White features some of the most recognizable and common aspects of princess fairy-tales: wicked stepmothers, eating “forbidden fruits”, comedic sidekicks, and falling into deep slumbers, only to be awoken by a prince. Snow White reflects the female ideal of her time. A beautiful, innocent girl who cleans house, cooks, sings, and whose ultimate fate lies in the hands of another man. Even the title of the movie Snow White reflects on only a physical characteristic of the princess that is what makes her beautiful. We never get to know what her real name even is-- why should it matter? The Queen’s anger and obsession with her beauty also may send the idea to girls that beauty is the highest aim and the most valuable asset a girl can have. After all, the Queen was willing to kill Snow White over it. Cinderella (1950) Cinderella is a classic to many young, love-struck girls because it seems to be the perfect rag-to-riches love story. Cinderella is forced to live under her stepmother and her two “ugly” stepsisters. The beautiful Cinderella is put to work daily and her only friends are the animals around the house. As she attends the ball, magic from the fairy godmother gets her ready and she falls in love with the Prince at first sight. This thread is common for many Disney Princess films, as it seems that looks are able to tell the character of the person. This idea given to the viewers, children predominantly, reinforces an artificial idea of society. The movie does seem to give the viewers a strong idea that hard work and kindness pays off in the end. It demonstrates that deceit and ugliness will lead nowhere. However, it was not hard work that got her to the ball, it was magic; it was not hard work that led Cinderella to riches, it was marrying into royalty. Snow White sings to herself, wishing to find someone to love. A prince hears her voice, sees her, and is smitten. Snow White is modest and runs away. Later, she tells the dwarfs that she is in love, and can tell that he is "charming." This is after she has seen him ONCE....
and not talked to him at all! Sleeping Beauty (1959) Aurora was magically gifted with beauty and song.
She was also cursed to die on her 16th birthday, but Merryweather
saved her from that fate by instead spelling her to fall into an ageless sleep instead. To avoid her fate (pricking her finger on a spinning wheel) she is hidden away with the fairies until her 16th birthday. On that day, she meets a stranger in the woods, and they fall in love. This is another example of the early-on "love at first sight." The later princesses all seem to know their prince for a while longer than this before they actually marry them. Sleeping Beauty is more of a concept than a complex character. She is made to embody the “ideal woman”. She is pure, innocent, passive and meant to be admired from afar. When she is told that she
was bethrothed to a Prince (who was the same guy she met in the woods and she didn’t know it), she thought she had to sacrifice true love to the “right and royal duty” of marrying the Prince. She is the docile body of Susan Bordo (quite literally when she is in her sleep). The Little Mermaid (1989) And now, many years pass before another official princess appears. Beauty and the Beast (1991) Aladdin (1992) Pocahontas (1995) Mulan (1998) The Princess and
the Frog (2009) Tangled (2010) Ariel is noted for her flowing red hair, blue eyes, her green tail, and her purple seashell bikini from the beginning of the movie. She is considered to be the most beautiful of King Triton’s daughters, and has a stunning singing voice. Her personality is characterized as adventurous and curious about the world of humans. She essentially falls in love with Prince Eric after saving him from his burning ship, and gives up her voice to receive legs to see him again. This loss of voice is a significant signal to the audience. It gives the viewers the feeling that it is acceptable to make huge sacrifices (she can no longer communicate well) in the name of love. She differs from the Disney Princesses before her in that she does have some sense of independence and defies her father because she wants to pursue her desire to discover the human culture. However, it all boils down to giving up everything she has for a man. She is willing to leave her entire life behind her in order to pursue love. Although, Ariel at first seems individualistic and courageous, which are important traits to get across to the viewers; Ariel becomes a girl who relies on her perfect man to pick her up whenever she falls. The traits of the first Ariel seem to grab the attention of the viewer and make the viewer fall in love with Ariel, and then not think twice about the rest of her idiotic actions. Jasmine is the first Princess who not only doesn't marry a prince, but also is not Caucasian and is not the protagonist. This story was more about Aladdin, and Jasmine was his prize. Pocahontas is not like the other princesses who are born into royal families or marries a prince. Pocahontas’ father is a Native American Chief, making her the first Native American Disney “princess”. Pocahontas is displayed as a noble, free-spirited and spiritual young woman. She follows her heart and it leads her to John Smith. Both John and Pocahontas risk their lives for love, but in the end decide it is better to part ways. Pocahontas’ story shows that loving someone is the ability to accept who they are whole-heartedly. Unlike previous princesses, there are no songs or fantasies about an ideal male finding her and completing her fantasy. The song, “Just Around the Riverbend” shows her adventurous and brave nature. Pocahontas knows that marriage would lead to the end of her dreams and independence, despite the fact that it is the easier and expected path. Pocahontas seems to have her own agency, and to look for guidance within herself. She saves John Smith instead of needing to be saved herself, and retains her independence by the end of the movie (it is not a fairytale "happy ending"). Pocahontas and Mulan are not always included in the typical Disney merchandise. Their outfits are not as glamorous as the other princess' gowns. Even when Mulan is included, she is in her kimono-like dress, which made her miserable (representing her repressed role) in the film. Her liberated warrior armor, however, would have been much less marketable. Hercules (1997) Peter Pan (1953) vs. There are a few Disney women who fit the criteria of princess, but are not included in the franchise because they don't fit the "mythology." Megara meets most of the princess criteria: she has a lovely singing voice, is beautiful, she has her damsel in distress moments, and she finds love at the end with her Prince Charming (who just happens to be a Greek god). So what’s the problem, here? For one, she has sold her soul to the devil. She has willingly become the devil’s
accomplice, although it was in the name of love. Meg is a good girl trapped in a bad situation; she is not truly evil. But the mere fact that she is siding with Hades is a huge strike against her classification as princess. When Hercules first encounters Meg, she is in the hands of a monster, about to become his dinner. Stubbornly, she is fighting back. She refuses Hercules’ help! She shoots down every heroic gesture he tries to make, even looking bored watching his efforts. Meg is not at all acting how a damsel in distress should be, desperately begging to be rescued. No thank you, Meg can handle it herself. She does say, after all, “I’ll be alright, I’m a big tough girl.” Meg shows us that we can’t reach our happily ever after quite so easily. At least in her case, she is completely dead before Hercules rescues her from the river of death in the underworld. Although Hercules does have to save her, again, she is not the typical damsel in distress; Meg has spunk, and she will sassily fight to the end. This is the distinctive quality that separates Meg from princess territory. In the movie, Hercules is the protagonist, and Meg is along for the ride. Romance is not the main plot, just a perk along the way. While Meg is spunky, sassy, and sarcastic, she originally had a ballad song-- "I Can't Believe My Heart"-- that would have shown off her softer side and made her more princessy; however, it was replaced with the more Meg-like song "I Won't Say I'm in Love." First of all, one clarification must be made: Tinkerbell should not be looked down on as a victim, as someone who oh so dearly wishes she could fit in with the iconic Disney princesses. She is proud to be who she is. One of her branded hats even proudly declares, “So NOT a princess.” Tinkerbell was originally a Disney Princess, but she was removed from the franchise. Now she has her own merchandise. Tinkerbell is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with an
exaggerated hourglass figure, her green mini dress short enough to show off her tiny legs. Her look resembles that of a 1940s pinup girl, not surprising considering the movie was made in 1953. The fact that she is sexier than the other princesses may have contributed to her exclusion-- princesses wear flowing gowns that cover them from head to toe. Attitude is another factor. Tinkerbell is stubborn, defiant, and sassy. She is quick to grow frustrated and jealous, immediately wanting to take revenge on Wendy for taking some of Peter’s attention away from her. A princess would be gracious, understanding, and bound to capture her Prince Charming’s attention at all times. Tinkerbell is a pixie and her size prevents her from inhabiting more than one emotion at a time, which explains why each emotion comes off as so strong. One criterion of being a princess is to have the “damsel in distress” factor, which for the most part, Tinkerbell does not have. She wants to give off the appearance of being strong and powerful, despite not having a voice. Even when she is captured and trapped by Captain Hook, she manages to escape without the aid of a Prince Charming. Her communication through gestures and facial expressions is unique to her character, giving her a certain level of strength that nobody else has. Although she is Peter’s accomplice and not the main role, she stands her ground and asserts her strong personality. The whole Disney Fairies franchise is built around the central character of Tinkerbell. It has published many books, movies, dolls, toys, games, apparel, video games, and many more attractions. Tinkerbell has always ranked among the five best-selling character brands. During some seasons, her products outsell everyone but Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. She was the original symbol of Disneyland The Princess and the Frog finds the lives of arrogant, carefree Prince Naveen and hardworking waitress Tiana crossing paths. Prince Naveen is transformed into a frog by a conniving voodoo magician and Tiana, following suit, upon kissing the amphibian royalty. With the help of a trumpet-playing alligator, a Cajun firefly, and an old blind lady who lives in a boat in a tree, Naveen and Tiana must race to break the spell and fulfill their dreams. Tiana is the first black princess. This in itself created a lot of controversy when the film was developing. This princess is not like most of the other ones. Tiana is actually the heroine of the story and saves the rather dim prince. She is a progressive model of the female gender. She is working very hard to build “Tiana’s Place”, which she gets in the end by working hard and not “marrying into it”. Also-- the prince gives up is life for HER! That has never happened in a movie like this before. The girl is always changing either herself or her life for the guy. Tiana is most definitely not Bordo’s docile body. She “rebels” against her social class and the fact that she is a black young woman in the south. This has a great message for little girls it teaches them to work hard for what they want and not to change for a man. Tiana has dreams that do not include a man. She wants to build herself a life, and then think about commitment, shown in her song, "Almost There." Fa Mulan is a brave Chinese heroine who dresses up like a male soldier and goes to war in place of her crippled father, risking death and dishonor. She is the only Disney princess who is not royal by blood or marriage, and is the only princess of Asian descent. She does not fit in with the expectations of a young Chinese girl of the time; despite her beauty, she is clumsy, outspoken, and independent rather than graceful and demure. Although her hair was cut short in the movie, her Princess pictures show her with her previous long hair. Mulan not only saves her prince, but she
also saves all of China from the Huns. She,
along with Pocahontas, represent the new
Disney princess, who has courage and
the ability to take care of herself. Mulan knows that she does not fit the "porcelain doll" mentality for women. She wishes that she could make her family proud, but she doesn't want to compromise herself and her beliefs. She is a modern woman in ancient times.
She tries to conform, and find a husband through the
matchmaker, but fails. Her true success in love comes when she follows her heart and fights for her family, going against convention and what was the norm for women. Belle is a beautiful young woman living in a small town in France. She promotes the stereotypical relationship myth: that a "good" woman can change even the most "beastly" man. Belle is represented as a modern feminist: she is worldly, has high ideals for men and romantic partners, and is happier with a book than flirting and preening. Although Belle does not seem to care about her appearance in the least, she is said to be the most beautiful girl in town. However, she quickly is forced into a submissive position by the Beast. She trades her freedom for her father, and has to live with the savagery of the Beast. She clashes with him at first, but soon come to like each other; she breaks the curse on him, her love saves and redeems him, and she becomes a princess. This seems to be reinforcing the belief that women should stick out a dysfunctional relationship out of the hopes that the beastly guy will turn into their Prince Charming due to their diligent work and love. This film also highlights the feminism wave of the 90's in the portrayal of Belle-- Belle reads a lot and dreams of getting out of her small provincial town. She repeatedly rejects Gaston, the selfish, handsome hunk of the town; she does not fall for the outward appearance of beauty. She is the strongest character in the film-- all the men (her father, Gaston, the Beast, etc.) are either saved by her or outwitted by her. This dominance set the formula for future Disney films. This represents American culture-- especially that of young females, in that we watched these movies as children and dreamt of being princesses. We rooted for the girls to come through, even if we didn't completely understand what was happening in the film (when watching them as I got older I found they were much more adult). The adult references are supposed to go over children's heads, and is effective in that degree, I think. These movies were designed to appeal to both young and old, parents and children, and they were successful. Many of these stories are interpretations of the American Dream; rags to riches, working hard and reaping the benefits... this interpretation is slightly twisted, as most of the women married into their happiness, it basically was handed to them when they became subservient to a man. This could show that we are escapists at heart: even as children we are idealistic and not satisfied with our lives. We look at fairytales, convenient and entertaining, as guides to the elusive "happily ever after" and strive to be like them. Our culture argues us into a "princess mentality" where girls strive to be intelligent, kind, and pretty all at once. There is an increasing double standard where women are expected to have a job AND have a family; the supposed liberation is a farce-- women now need to work all day and then come home and cook dinner/take care of children as well. This socialization begins at a young age, where girls are told they are equal to boys, but have to work harder to reap the same benefits. They are still raised with the idea that a man and marriage is the ideal. The way that culture works on us is shown through Disney movies and the structure of feeling: if you wish and dream hard enough, you can be a princess and make all your dreams come true. This is an official Disney franchise video advertising for that: Although the image of a princess has progressed over time, from Snow White to Tiana and Rapunzel, there is now the issue of Susan Bordo and her double bind. Women are expected to be independent and powerful but should still have that damsel in distress quality, allowing them to find true love. Tiana, for example, works for everything she has and has dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. BUT she can also be a princess and be swept off her feet by her prince! Conforming to the inculturated princess mentality is easy-- if you wish hard and work hard, happiness will come in the form of Prince Charming. This makes little girls want to be the same as what they see the princess doing-- which raises the question, why does there always have to be a guy in order to secure their happiness? Is that what our happiness depends on too? Why can't a woman be beautiful, strong, and INDEPENDENT and be happy?
As Leppert argues, children want to connect what they see on the screen with their own life. They get wrapped up in fantasy, think that princesses are real and attainable, and may set their goals similarly. However, this ideology is only to a point. The structures people use to access, organize, and construct their reality, even if it is through film and fantasy, gets a wake-up call eventually. Little girls who buy into the princess merchandise, etc., soon realise that the difference between their princess image and their self-image is too great a gap. They can only play make-believe for so long. The princess is unattainable-- so the girl moves on to Tinkerbell, who is more of the tween/teen mentality, who doesn't want to be a princess. The merchandise is a discourse that argues us into a way of being, but only to a point. Girls do have their own agency; even though the movies argue a right/left (good or evil) position on life, children do not have to follow it. Power structures manifest in social discourses (movies) and get internalized. Girls are seen as helpless, but can fight against that perception, even if they do dream of finding fairytale happiness... it can be on their own terms. When it was just six Princesses, Ariel and Jasmine were often left off of merchandise and didn’t get statues in Disneyland because they were the only two who didn’t wear dresses.
Now that there are ten, Mulan and Pocahontas are often left out, and Ariel and Jasmine are dressed more appealingly. Every image is an argument; leaving out certain princesses leaves the audience with the remainder, who are more "suitable." This is all for economic gain, of course-- Disney markets the princesses to children for profit, selling the glamor and glitz. The newest picture of the Disney princesses, complete with all ten girls, features all the princesses in big ball gowns or flowing dresses. They are all facing away from each other, not acknowledging the other, because they are all the star of their own worlds-- they cannot see anything else. They must continue to support the image portrayed by their own mythologies. A princess is always the most important, the star. She is a princess who had a rather strange responsibility; she had to choose a husband by her 16th birthday. She is a spirited young girl who, like most young girls, yearns for freedom. She is stubborn, clever, and adventurous. She resists marrying because she doesn't want to be cooped up in her palace all her life-- she wants to see the world. She is beautiful with an exaggerated hourglass figure. She is shown to be a bit of a feminist herself. Jasmine doesn't want to marry a snob; even though she wants to follow her father's wishes, she wants to marry for love, so runs away from home to avoid compromising her beliefs. She is saved by Aladdin, who is caught by the guards. Jasmine is led to believe that Aladdin was executed, and is crushed. She later falls for Prince Ali Ababwa, who she finds out is Aladdin. He decieves her, though, and tells her he disguises himself as a commoner to escape the drudgery of palace life, much like herself. After Aladdin defeats Jafar, the Sultan tells Jasmine that she can marry whoever she wants, prince or not, and she naturally chooses Aladdin. Jasmine could be seen as a sort of tomboy; she doesn't wear a skirt/dress, she wears PANTS. She is the first princess who did not wear a fancy gown. Jasmine doesn't want to live the life of a typical princess, but she does end up marrying charming Aladdin and living "happily ever after" despite that. When we are first introduced to her character in Peter Pan, there is a brief scene where she catches a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror, scowling in disapproval as she measures the width of her hips. Now, we might say that a Disney princess would never send the message to her young followers to be insecure about their bodies. But for older women, they find that Tinkerbell’s vanity is a quality that makes her relatable. No woman is completely comfortable with her body. Maybe the fact that Tinkerbell is not a princess is what makes her more likeable to her audience. However, Jasmine also has this seductive power that the other princesses didn't; she isn't all sunshine and pureness. The newest princess, Rapunzel, seems full of spunk and sass as well. She is a kidnapped princess whose hair has healing powers. She lives in a tower, longing for adventure. Each year on her birthday, the kingdom raises floating lanterns to try and call their lost princess back to them. Flynn, a thief, hides in her tower, and she kicks his butt and ties him up with her hair. He had stolen the princess's tiara from the kingdom, and she cleverly negotiates to get him to take her to see the lanterns (what she had always wanted) instead of turning him in. Rapunzel is not a damsel in distress. This movie is a bit different than all previous; it has been advertised as "A princess movie for boys," with slapstick humor, action, adventure, and bad-boy Flynn. In this movie Flynn narrates, bringing the "Prince Charming" far more into the film and ceating an equal sharing between Rapunzel and Flynn. Rapunzel is funny, and rambunctious, and she can fight for herself. This movie is for both guys and girls, and shows a realistic, healthy guy-girl relationship to top it off. The movie may focus on a male protagonist, much like Aladdin, but unlike Aladdin, the princess can hold her own and take care of herself. In fact, she saves him much more than he saves her.
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