Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Biggest Lie About Disney Women

   There are some people out there that claim Disney princesses are not good role models for women because they are apparently all flat, boring pushovers that rely on men to save them. To which I have to say, they must never have watched a Disney movie before. Flat, boring pushovers? Waiting around for men to save them? Let me introduce you to the Disney princesses I know.

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  True, Rapunzel didn't physically leave her tower until Flynn Rider climbed up there. But he didn't exactly sweep her off her feet and carry her from her undesirable circumstances. He was simply fleeing pursuit by the authorities. Rapunzel hit him on the head with a frying pan, tied him to a chair, and forced him to escort her to see the one thing she'd always dreamed of. She simply seized opportunity when it came knocking at her, well, window. Would she have left if Flynn Rider hadn't ever climbed into her tower? Maybe not that year, but eventually, she probably would have gotten fed up and left to go fulfill her dream. Rapunzel is a very determined, though naive, woman who doesn't seem to take no for an answer. And let's examine what she did in the rest of the movie: she convinced an entire tavern of terrifying thugs to forgo money and not turn Flynn in to the authorities and not take advantage of a naive sweet girl, but instead help her on her way to her goals. Her winning ways change the heart of Flynn, and, ultimately, she's brave enough to make a huge show of trust in giving him his incentive to escort her safely there and back while waiting to see the lights. She convinces Javert in horse form to leave the desperate criminal he's been hunting alone. Once she sees through her "mother's" lies, she turns her back on her and tries to leave her abusive situation. She is willing to give up her freedom to save Flynn's life. Indeed, in the end, Flynn doesn't save Rapunzel from much at all. She saves his life and changes his heart. (This is not to negate the awesome sweetness of Flynn's sacrificing his life for Rapunzel's freedom. That's still one of the greatest moments in Disney history.) Flat boring pushover? Not here.

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   Tiana kind of got the short end of the stick when it came to movies, but that doesn't detract from what an awesome character she is. In fact, I think she may be my favorite of all Disney princesses. Unfortunately, the theme of her movie seemed to be, "You're not fulfilled unless you have a guy-any guy, but preferably a rich one that can fund your goals." Nevertheless, Tiana is a hardworking goal-driven woman who won't let anything hold her back from what she wants; not the Great Depression, not racism, not a lack of money. She held down several jobs and sacrificed to achieve her dream of opening a Cajun restaurant. She certainly didn't wait around for anyone else to do things for her. I think what Disney meant for her movie to say theme-wise was something like, "Don't let life pass you by," but that's certainly not what the movie portrayed. She didn't give up her morals for the man she married, but definitely deserved better than what she got. Naveen is certainly no role model extraordinaire, but Tiana is pretty great.

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   Although she's technically not a princess any way you cut it, somehow, Mulan wound up on the list of official Disney princesses. Which is nice, because she's pretty great. She doesn't fit in with the expectations of her country's culture for females, and even though she tries to fill them, she always fails. Then her father is called to war, but he's too old and too injured from the last war he fought in, so Mulan sacrifices her own life to save her father's. She masquerades as a man because women aren't allowed in the army, becomes a soldier, defeats the Hun army with her ingenuity, saves her commanding officer's life, then follows her unit after being thrown out for being a female and defeats the remaining Huns, saving the emperor of China and her entire country. She returns to civilian life bringing home honor to her family name and a pretty great guy to boot. Sign me up for the next war!

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   Setting aside the fact that the real Pocahontas was eleven and none of the events this movie is based on probably actually happened because John Smith was a serial liar, there's no getting around the fact that this whole story is based on the premise of Pocahontas standing up to her father and saving John Smith's life. This is another story about a young woman standing against what her culture demands of her to do what is right. Never mind the fact that the history is all wrong and the love story was created out of thin air and the animators clearly never set foot in Jamestown in their lives before. Seriously. There are no tall cliffs or waterfalls anywhere in the vicinity. It's a freaking swamp, for crying out loud!

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   "I am not just some prize to be won!" Jasmine, in the animated movie, is a feisty princess that refuses to marry a stuffed shirt and instead insists on marrying for love. Outrageous demands, right? Well, they seem to be too hard for her father at first, but Jasmine isn't budged. She just sends her tiger after any undesirable suitors. She even tries to send Aladdin packing when he's bungling his words so much he makes it seem like all he cares about with Jasmine is her money. She's brave enough to kiss (gross) Jafar to distract him from Aladdin stealing the lamp back, and is super understanding when Aladdin is revealed to be a street rat, not a prince. She's a brave woman who won't stand for injustice, and that's definitely something we should strive after in this world. Also, she's from one of my very favorite Disney movies, so...

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   She's sweet but spunky. She doesn't fit in in her town and longs for more than what her life consists of. She loves books, doesn't care for the handsome jerk, and craves adventure. When her father goes missing, she tracks him down, then trades her freedom for his. Her curiosity gets her in a bit of trouble, which causes the Beast to blow up at her. She storms off, unable to take it anymore, and fights valiantly against a pack of angry wolves. Unfortunately, she's almost unable to fight them off. Thankfully, the Beast comes to her rescue, then collapses. Ignoring the call to freedom, Belle drags him back to his home and her prison, takes care of his wounds, and yells at him for losing his temper. The Beast starts to change, and Belle starts to fall in love with him, but when she sees her father is sick, she leaves to go tend him. She defends her father and the Beast to an angry mob, then races across snowy, wolf-infested woods at night to try and save the Beast from her townspeople. She doesn't arrive in time to participate in the final fight, but she comforts the Beast as he dies. (Spoiler: it doesn't last.) Belle is strong and spunky and feisty. I have a formal Belle dress, and it's amazing. She's amazing. (And so is my sister, who made the dress.)

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   Heheheh...heheheh...yeah...I can't defend her. She sells herself into slavery to a sea witch for a chance to woo a man she met once. Eric is a great guy, but Ariel is a spoiled brat. Definitely not a great role model. Grow up, girl.

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   ...   She seems pretty nice. She can sing and dance and probably cook. But honestly, she spends most of the movie asleep. The fairies and Phillip are the heroes of this movie. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are pretty great. They save the entire kingdom, with the help of Phillip, because it was a bit hard for them to fight a dragon by themselves. Sorry, but this one's probably where all the accusations have their birth. There's really not much to her.

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   I don't care what anyone says, she's much prettier in this than in her ball gown. Cinderella is kind to everyone, even the animals most people consider vermin, and even the evil cat (I'm convinced Walt Disney hated cats). She doesn't complain about becoming a servant to her step family, and doesn't even consider leaving. All she wants is to go to a party, which, considering her depressing life, is quite understandable. When her stepsisters rip up the dress she and her mice friends worked very hard on, she's upset and storms out. After her fairy godmother salvages the evening, she goes to the party and meets a nice young man, whom she doesn't realize is the prince. She goes home after midnight, content to enjoy the memory of her nice evening at the ball. Prince Charming coming to propose to her is just a cherry on top for her, and a victory for her future father-in-law, who had set up the entire ball just so he could have grandchildren. I think she would have been pretty happy without a man coming to "rescue" her. I may be biased, though, since I grew up on this movie.

Snow White
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   Yes, she literally gets saved by the prince at the end of the movie. I don't care. She's just a kid. She does her best, despite being enslaved by her stepmother just because she's good looking. Then her stepmother sends an assassin after her. Naturally, when the hunter tells her to run, she runs. She always tries to be brave and always tries to be cheerful. After she stops running, she says, "I'm so ashamed of the fuss I made!" As if she should be ashamed of freaking out when someone tells her they were sent to kill her. Then she manages to take care of seven bachelors while in hiding for her life. So she's also a hopeless romantic and a little naive. So what? Girls could learn to be that cheerful.

Then of course there's Merida and Moana, but they don't even have romantic interests.

So what do you think? Are Disney princesses just flat characters only saved by men that would make terrible role models or much more? Who's your favorite Disney princess?

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