Disney Princesses are much maligned in modern pseudo – feminist clickbait. Here on 0wlmachine, we spend a disproportionate amount of time defending these young ladies based on a guiding principle of our lives, which, simply, is to not police the minds and bodies of women. As far as we’re concerned, the wants and feelings of any girl are exactly as legitimate as they need to be and no, these princesses are not bad role models (and in fact, the very concept of role model characters is damaging and deeply flawed and simply a buzzword used when trying to judge girls for their own supposed best interests).
On that note, today we’re going to have an I Want party! Let’s celebrate the girls of Disney and how their dreams came true.
The “I Want” song is a traditional part of any musical in which the leading lady sings about what she wants out of life. Most Disney princesses have one, and that’s what we’ll be celebrating today.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: I’m Wishing
Snow wants a prince. She’s the kind of girl who knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to
say it sing it.
Some may tell you that having a prince isn’t an ambition worthy of a girl such as Snow, but those same people are probably turning around and judging women who never marry or have children. You’re supposed to want a prince, but you’re not supposed to say it.
Okay, sorry, this was supposed to be a positive post. Snow dreams of a prince and the one she gets is as good a prince as any, saving her from eternal slumber and also looking freakishly childlike just like she does. Congrats on your prince, Snow!
Cinderella: A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes
Cinders doesn’t even bother telling us WHAT she wants – just that she wants something. If she tells you, that will spoil it. Awfully convenient, Disney.
Actually, this is probably reinforcing the point of Cinderella, which is that if you wait patiently you’ll get what you deserve. Cinders never complains, and that is her virtue. Boo. Cinders could learn something from her predecessor.
But as we know from actually watching the movie, Cinders has a crappy life and it seems pretty obvious that the dream/wish her heart makes is about leaving her abusive stepfamily. And since these are olden times, she probably intends to do that by landing a dude, because it’s not like she can just go out and get a job, is it?
She married the richest man in town and got away from the Tremaines. Get yours, Cinderella.
Sleeping Beauty: Once Upon a Dream
This one’s less of a Want and more of a “I had a dream about a guy oh look a guy.” But let’s remember for a moment that Aurora is a young woman growing up in a forest being only vaguely aware that other people exist probably. Of course she will dream of romance. Just because the man she meets isn’t Joffrey Baratheon, we condemn Aurora for wanting to fall in love. This is harsh. Most of us planned to fall in love when we were 16, and some of us even sang about it in a forest. Probably the wildlife was less co-operative, but we tried. And we are happy that Aurora met her literal dream man! Sort of. He’s kind of sleazy. But hey, they can’t all be winners.
The Little Mermaid: Part of Your World
This is the I Want song to end all I Want songs. We tentatively believe that Disney will never animate a Princess Want more powerful than this one right here. It’s the Let it Go of I Wants.
Ariel wants something, all right. And it’s not Eric, although truly, Eric is a great guy and we wouldn’t blame her. But she hasn’t met him yet, so this isn’t about a guy.
Ariel wants, desperately, to be part of the human world. And just as importantly, she wants her father to love her and respect her wishes instead of just dismissing everything she says. The reason this song is so powerful is because it’s something that rings true for all young people – we want to gain control of our own identity.
Ariel had a rough time of it, but we’re sure as hell happy that she made this happen for herself.
Beauty and the Beast: Belle (reprise)
Belle wants adventure in the “great wide somewhere.” Good luck with that, Belle – you’re just going to spend your life in a local castle.
Credit where credit is due though: we love Belle (the song) as much as any red-blooded millenial and we of course know all the words. We also find this animation to be gorgeous, and we obviously relate to Belle not wanting to marry Gaston because… yeah.
The true power of this want is the fact that Belle voluntarily gives it up in an extreme way, condemning herself to be a prisoner for life. Just like Triton destroying Ariel’s cavern of human things, the following events are all the more powerful from the context of Belle’s true want.
Pocahontas: Just Around the Riverbend
Like Belle, Pocahontas doesn’t want to marry the guy she’s currently been offered, and also, wants some sort of adventure.
A pattern emerges here, and we don’t think it’s a bad thing. So many of these girls are wishing for their lives not to be predetermined, and to be able to have exciting experiences and to forge their own path and identity. In a way, these wants are the princesses’ way of weighing in on the problem everyone else knows they have, and that’s a really interesting step towards liberating the female character.
So with that in mind, Pocahontas (and Belle, and Ariel) wants to break free of her cultural narrative and do her own thing. We are 110% behind you, even if your movie IS a total train wreck.
Wrapping up the Renaissance, Mulan is yet another woman whose want is to break a cultural mold. And even more so than the other three ladies before her, this girl gets it DONE. And she becomes a national hero, because she’s Mulan.
But for now, she’s a sad youth who feels the pressures of being forced into a cookie cutter of a society that only wants one thing from you.
Let’s all congratulate Mulan on being the most bad ass person ever and also for finally feeling comfortable in her own skin!
The Princess and the Frog: Almost There
Tiana knows how to dream. Even Dr. Facilier thinks so. Her want is the most specific, and the most ambitious, and the most respectable by cultural norms, which is probably why everyone conveniently forgets she exists when they bang on about Princess movies.
What’s truly interesting about Tiana and her want is that the movie is about wants VS needs and how wants aren’t exactly what you should strive for. This may be the best example we know of a story taking a hardworking woman and reminding her to live and enjoy her life, without going too far and suggesting that women should only care about love and family. Tiana does indeed get her want, but she learns that above all else, she needs a loving support system in her life. Blue skies and sunshine guaranteed.
Tangled: When Will My Life Begin
This is a serious contrast to Tiana. Rapunzel brings back the pattern of wanting autonomy and adventure, but most importantly, she wants to see the floating lights.
Let’s not write this off. Leaving the tower for the first time in her life, to realize an 18-year-long dream, is a real want, especially for children’s fiction. On top of that, the lanterns represent discovering who she is and returning home, and although Rapunzel doesn’t know that yet, she feels like they’re meant for her.
This is a song about wanting to discover yourself, and this is exactly the kind of thing we believe children’s characters should be all about. Rapunzel, by way of being kind and positive and optimistic, finds her happy ending, and this movie is a really fun watch because of it.
Frozen: For the First Time in Forever
This isn’t Elsa’s want (unless Elsa’s want is just for nothing to go wrong that day), but it is Anna’s. Anna is very excited about seeing other humans, dancing, and – this is key – meeting a guy.
Like Aurora, Anna is an isolated young person who’d like to have a social life. She dreams of romance, and why shouldn’t she?
Oh right, because of Hans.
Special shout out to the men who have “I Want” songs:
Aladdin: One Jump Ahead (reprise)
Aladdin wants to be seen as more than a street rat, we assume. We have to assume because he doesn’t exactly say it, he just begrudges the way he is treated. Fair enough, though.
The Lion King: Just Can’t Wait to be King
Simba wants to be king. He is the poster child of specific ambition, and also of “be careful what you wish for.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Out There
Quasimodo wants to go outside.
Hercules: Go the Distance
Hercules wants to find a place where he belongs. This is similar to Rapunzel’s – she knows what small step she wants to take, and deep down she understands that this means she will unlock her identity.
***Next time! We’ll talk about some of the more recent “I Want” songs and how they’re kind of a cruel irony, like Yzma’s dependence on Kronk.