Murder Princesses

A long, long, long time ago, I started writing a thing about how Andrew Stanton was annoyed that predator and prey species coexist in The Lion King and so he went on to infuse his movie, Finding Nemo, with such examples of natural realism as a pelican scooping up two fish and some sea water and flying them away from a flock of seagulls to rescue the son of one of the fish, who is acquainted with the pelican because the pelican frequently visits the fish tank where the fish son currently lives to watch a human dentist practice dentistry the way the rest of us watch the olympics or whatever.

And I keep getting distracted and writing paragraphs about humpback whales and fictional telepathic gorillas and human civilizations living in South American rainforests, and now,

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and I think it’s time for just a quick post about something I only fully began to appreciate recently.

Nala and Kiara are murder princesses.

Nala, best friend and love interest of The Lion King‘s protagonist, tries to kill and eat Puumba, one of the protagonist’s surrogate fathers.

It’s mostly played for comedic effect. The scene is tense and quite scary, but probably no one except the very young in the audience actually think SHE’S GONNA EAT [PUUMBA]. Also Timon tells Simba to GO FOR THE JUGULAR.

They can pull it off precisely because the entire audience sees a scary lionness preparing to pounce in the long grass and thinks, “Oh, it’s Nala,” so we know what we’re in for is one of those hijinks-infused sequences in which everyone misunderstands everything until finally each of the love interests realize who the other is.

It’s just that this hijinks-infused sequence is a very dramatic chase scene in which the female love interest and basically Disney princess is trying to kill and eat one of the comedy animals.

This is what happens when your movie is about lions.

In the very not good though still admittedly technically competent sequel, teenage angst ensues because KIARA JUST WANTS SOME FREAKING INDEPENDENCE, DAD.

INDEPENDENCE WHILE HUNTING. KILLING ANTELOPE THINGS.

I’m even willing to admit that Kiara’s murder princess scene is a little bolder than Nala’s, since, in The Lion King, we know Puumba, and we know that it’s Nala, and we’re assuming that everything will be set right as soon as Simba shows up.

In this sequence, Kiara is just hunting a random herd of animals who don’t have any lines or names. I’m not even sure what species they are. They’re probably purposefully not one of the more recognizable prey species of lions. Could anyone root for Kiara after watching her hunt a herd of zebra, for example?

Personally I don’t root for her at all, but that isn’t the point and I’m just jaded. The actual point is that theoretically, Kiara could be successful on her hunt because she isn’t hunting a main character or even a character with a small speaking role. She isn’t hunting anyone off-limits.

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But Nala’s the one with all the teeth and claws, and also she’s in the better movie. But it doesn’t matter. Disney’s lioness princesses/queens are violent predators and the movies are kind of shockingly honest about that.

Neat.

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Three’s Abandoned Princess Appreciation Post

This post is a thing Three wrote months ago and then abandoned. Apparently she abandoned it because she was under the impression that she had already posted it. It doesn’t have a conclusion but I’m posting it anyway because it’s pro-Princess and why not, we could use more of that always.


For most of my life, I have been confused and fascinated by “Baby On Board” bumper stickers. My primary concern is this: If you do not, in fact, have a baby on board, is it then okay to crash into you? No? Then isn’t the sticker a little redundant?

I suppose I can forgive the existence of these stickers since they are well-intentioned – they mean to remind people to drive safely. I’m okay with that. However, every day when I get to work, I park next to a car which has two crown-shaped bumper stickers.

The blue: “King on Route.”

The pink: “Princess on Route.”

I’m sorry, I have to ask. Assuming that these do not refer to legitimate royalty, why does your son get to be King and your daughter is a mere Princess? That was obviously a deliberate marketing decision made by someone, somewhere. Do we not like the word ‘prince’? Or, worse, do we mistrust the word ‘queen’?

Or… are we using the traditional patriarchal monarchy in which your son is the Crown Prince (still not King, but anyway) and therefore your daughter will be Princess for life because she’s not entitled to rule unless your son dies with no heirs?

Gotta say, since this isn’s a real monarchy (again I’m making an assumption, but if these people really are royalty, why do they work in the same building as me?) why can’t you stretch reality just a tad further and make your daughter a Queen?

Thus, every morning, I am reminded about Princesses and all the rules and regulations that come with being one. And this is where I’ll begin.

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“SHE DOES NOT DOODLE”

A Princess Is a Role Model

I’m the princess. I’m the example. I’ve got duties, responsibilities, expectations. My whole life is planned out, until the day I become, well, my mother. She’s in charge of every single day of my life.

The requirement for Princesses to be Role Models goes beyond the lessons Merida gets from her mother in Brave. Indeed, when Brave was released, we were inundated with criticism about Merida and her suitability as a role model for girls. Clearly, these people either didn’t watch the movie or just completely, embarrassingly, missed the point. But I digress: Today is about Disney.

While Disney certainly relies on traditional female narratives more than it should, it is also not afraid to unpack those narratives. As the Disney Renaissance rolled around, we saw princesses begin to participate more actively in their stories, and Disney began to provide some gentle commentary on the patterns we tend to see in our female characters.

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G:”And you know who that little wife will be?”/B: “Let me think.”

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Gaston is the best thing about this movie. He, and the way Belle reacts to him, hit way too close to home.

While Ariel pursues a dream of her own, and Jasmine plays a side-role in someone else’s adventure, Belle’s story has the most poignant animate metaphor ever for all Patriarchy who marches into her house and tells her that she’ll be marrying him. And as we all have at some point or another, Belle rolls her eyes and then tricks him into leaving her house so she can get on with her life.

Four years later, this happened:

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“Is all my dreaming at an end?”

Pocahontas, like Belle, is faced with a traditional narrative: Marry the man who we’ve deemed good enough for you. In fact, Pocahontas’ narrative is a little less on-the-nose than Belle’s, because her father is in on it – and because Kocoum seems to be perfectly nice, if serious. Despite this movie’s (many) flaws, it opened the Disney Door to the idea that even if a man is decent and good looking and  your dad likes him, a woman might not want to bone him and shouldn’t have to. HMMMMMM IMAGINE THAT. And it isn’t even because she’s after John Smith instead, because she hasn’t met him yet. She just doesn’t want the future she envisions when she imagines herself married to stoic warrior dude.

Now, this isn’t groundbreaking stuff. These are tropes in themselves that belong to many female characters outside of the Disney and Fairy Tale realm, where they don’t go for the one guy and instead go for the other guy (see: every Romantic Comedy ever). So let’s get into the real deep-fried tofu of the discussion with my three personal favourites.

Mulan and the Female Narrative

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“Can I just-“

There she is. You knew it was coming.

Mulan depicts an extremely strict cultural narrative for women, referenced again and again in song, dialogue, and imagery like this:

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Literally painting her face to look like “a perfect porcelain doll.” There’s a reason why many complaints about the tendencies of women in Disney end in: “Well, except Mulan.” Also, I could watch this GIF all day. I wish I had those liquid eyeliner skills.

Self-image, or “reflection,” is one symbol the movie uses to not-so-subtly talk about the female narrative and how it doesn’t quite suit all of us. While Belle and Pocahontas lamented being expected to marry men they weren’t really into, Mulan didn’t even mention the that they were attempting to marry her off – she sings about the fact that her personality is at odds with the role she is expected to play as a woman, wife, and daughter.

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“Can it be, I’m not meant to play this part?”

The crux of this issue, of course, is that being who she is would “break [her] family’s heart.” While it’s clear that she feels conflicted about who and what to be at this stage in her life, the choice is taken away from her when her father is summoned back to the army – now that she has to save her father’s life, she grasps the opportunity to escape as an added bonus.

That reflection imagery comes back when Mulan goes to chop her hair off, in this genius sequence which is only more genius with soundtrack:

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Thus, Mulan solidifies her commitment to rejecting her narrative that society is trying to impose on her because she is female, while taking one last look at her own face in the reflection of her father’s sword. Symbolism.

Tiana and the Female Narrative

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“Look out boys, I’m coming through!”

We discussed this one recently (erm’s note: haha, recently), touching on how Tiana rejects the idea of fairy tales and wants to gain everything through hard work. We can try reading this through a feminist lens as well. Shall we?

The traditional female narrative we like to criticize Disney for involves a lady like Cinderella sitting pretty while the plot happens around her. Some ladies, like Belle and Mulan, get dragged into adventure because they have to save their fathers, and in doing so manage to become self-actualized. But they didn’t do it on their own – they were compelled by circumstance.

Tiana is also technically compelled by circumstance once the frog stuff happens, but the difference between her and her fellow princesses is that unlike Cinderella, Belle, and even Mulan, she isn’t waiting around at home passively dreaming about how nice it would be if things were different, which is what Cinderella does before starting her day and in between her chores, and it’s what Belle does after Gaston proposes to her, and it’s what Mulan does before the conscription notice happens. Not that this sort of passivity is inherently bad, because it’s not. It’s relatable, for one thing. A lot of life is being a little patient and dreamy. But it is nice, for a change, to have a female character out there taking charge and actively trying to make her dream happen as soon as we first see her as an adult working two jobs. Ambition. It’s a scary thing for women to have, apparently, but Tiana has it in spades. (erm’s note: we should really talk about how the movie is a little really weird about Tiana and her ambitions at some point but for now just take it for what it is.)

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“Prince? But I didn’t wish for any -“

Fairy tale circumstance only slows her down, if we’re pretending that the main narrative is Tiana getting her restaurant (which… it kind of is). Between froggy princes and racist realtors, it seems like everything is working against Tiana’s Palace.

But even though she has to temporarily stop chasing her restaurateur dreams and fall in love real quick, the role that Tiana plays in her fairy tale is a role often held by a man.

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“Yep, I’m used to it. Guys, I want a castle.”

Like this man, for example.

Tangled is a traditional story of optimism VS cynicism, in which optimism wins out because Disney and also because Children’s Lit. We have our beautiful, virtuous, wide-eyed optimist Princess, and then we have Flynn Rider, who is just too good for all of this fairy tale stuff. Or so he thinks.

The new renaissance princess of The Princess and the Frog is probably this lady:

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Tiana is held in stark contrast to Lotte throughout the film:

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“I’d really like to help you, but I just do not kiss frogs.”

Tiana is no thief, and she’s not a “heartless” “cynic,” but as far as she’s concerned at the beginning, she is definitely too good for this fairy tale nonsense. The movie sets out to prove her wrong about love and magic and fairy tales, and in doing so, it completely turns Disney stereotypes on their heads by letting the princess change her own mind rather than her dude’s.

Elsa, Anna, and the Female Narrative

Here’s another movie that deliberately set out to deconstruct female narratives.

Let’s talk about Anna first.

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“We would like your blessing of our marriage.”

So Anna is supposed to be the traditional princess in this movie. She checks all the boxes – cooped up with no social life to speak of, gets compelled to go on an adventure to save someone else, falls in love immediately and decides to get married right away… Every part of her story mimics the Renaissance princesses.

Until:

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“If only somebody loved you.”

*Glass shatters* This isn’t a Renaissance movie, folks.

Now, I think we all saw the Anna/Kristoff thing coming, so I doubt many of us were completely shocked by this reveal. However, it was the first time in any Disney film that a Princess has it wrong about her Prince. Until now, we’ve been very reverent toward the idea of true love, but Frozen argues that it’s a little more complicated than that.

But this isn’t about romantic, prince/princess love, it’s about women. So what does Anna tell us about women in Disney?

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“Some people are worth melting for.”

From the beginning, this was a movie about sisters in particular, but Olaf’s love for Anna makes an important point: Love isn’t all princes and princesses. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s animals. Sometimes it’s snowmen. And all of it has power. In other words – the romantic story arc for women is not all we’re good for. Women have plenty of other stories to tell:

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Like when we throw ourselves in front of a sword to save our sisters.

Elsa is a whole other thing. First of all, is she the first Disney Queen? She is, right? I mean, the first Disney Queen who isn’t a villain. (erm’s note: she’s forgotten Nala and Nala counts OK I don’t care that she isn’t human.)

So she’s got that going for her. She’s also got a bit of a Mulan thing going on, except where Mulan is bad at being ladylike, Elsa is bad at not killing everyone around her with her ice powers. She knows that if she were honest about who and what she is, she would be letting an entire kingdom down. She puts a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to keep everything as it should be.

And then:

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While Mulan had to take drastic steps to save her father, Elsa reveals her magic in front of the whole kingdom, so she flees. It’s simply time to face the storm inside of her.

She has already broken the mold at this point, but I also want to take a quick second to discuss the following:

Let it Go as a Source of Female Empowerment

As evidence, I present all the little girls who sang this song for like a year straight. It wasn’t annoying at all. Okay, it was annoying.

Only because I hate kids.

But anyway, let’s break this thing down, shall we?


That’s where it ends.

Because she wrote a whole separate post about “Let it Go” which is here.

 

Powerful Women in Disney

In thinking of examples of powerful women being demonized, one need look no further than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Alt-POTUS for life

I don’t need to remind you. 2016 was a difficult year for all of us for a lot of reasons, and just one of those was the constant negative rhetoric surrounding HRC’s run for President, which seemed to be coming from everywhere – even the left-leaning. Trump was among the worst of them.

Of course, using sexism is also the laziest way to demean a woman. If you can’t debate her ideas, just slam her appearance, her personality, her relationships and her likeability. Trump crossed the line all the time. Flustered during the debate because he couldn’t out debate Clinton on policy, he just leaned into the mic and dismissed her entirely: “nasty woman.” – Mel Robbins for CNN (emphasis mine)

As I write this, HRC’s book sits at my feet, currently unopened. What Happened, indeed. I think we all know what happened – but I’ll read it, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

Like any deep-rooted societal assumptions, the idea that powerful women are inherently evil can be found all over our favourite media. Golden Age Disney is no different. We love our Villainesses – The Evil Queen, Maleficent, and Lady Tremaine, the big three of powerful women whose actions make no sense. Later, Disney gave us such Villainesses as Cruella DeVil, Ursula, Madam Mim, the Queen of Hearts, Ysma, and Mother Gothel. As for protagonists, we had an overabundance of sweet-tempered Princesses, and a couple of ambitious ones – but none who could honestly be defined as powerful.

Frozen Breaks the Cycle

Not only was Elsa the first Disney Princess to be crowned Queen; she was also the first one to wield actual, dangerous power.

It wasn’t originally going to be like that:

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Yikes. Elsa originally looked like a young Yzma.

We all know about how Elsa was supposed to be the villain of Frozen. Thankfully that changed, because the movie we end up with was a much-needed change of pace.

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Rather than immediately vilify a woman with power, Frozen unpacked this a little bit – what it meant for Elsa to have to hide her power, knowing that the kingdom would fear her because of it. Given the current political climate, I almost begin to think she was right all along.

Frozen tells a story that rings true for many women – knowing you have power, but being afraid to use it in a world that sees powerful women as threatening.

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It’s a fear that consumes Elsa’s every waking moment; her very identity. This fear is what causes her to actually harm Anna – although the movie does not allow her  to make too many mistakes, it does cause her to live out her worst fear – that she will freeze Anna’s heart, losing the only person who sees more than just her abilities.

Not long after Frozen came another story of a woman struggling with power:

Maleficent Atones for Sleeping Beauty’s Sins

As we’ve discussed at length, Maleficent takes a powerful woman who we have virtually no reason to sympathize with – except perhaps envy at her ability to spontaneously morph into a dragon – and gives us a reason to forgive something as severe as sentencing a newborn to death.

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Couldn’t she have just killed Stefan and saved everyone the trouble?

Sorry. But the truth is that Stefan (and the King before him) targeting Maleficent is just the same as the other examples I’ve noted in which people target, abuse, and attempt to destroy women who they see as a threat.

In doing so, Stefan creates the villain they feared she was – and unlike Elsa, Maleficent actually goes through with being a full-blown Disney Villain.

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And looks fabulous while doing it.

This done, Maleficent takes us along on a redemption arc in which our anti-villain (?) learns that women should protect each other, not sentence each other to an untimely death.

Powerful Women Don’t Necessarily Have To Destroy Each Other: A Disney Story

One thing that Frozen and Maleficent have in common is that each one takes True Love and un-hetero-normalizes it (there may have been a clearer way to say that, but I stand by it). In Frozen, Anna believes she needs to be saved by an “act of true love”, and this act turns out being sacrificing her life to save her sister.

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The moral of the story is that non-sexual relationships, familial relationships, sisterhood, and even relationships that don’t happen to involve men, have incredible power.

On the same vein, we replace Aurora’s “true love’s kiss” with a kiss from her surrogate mother figure, Maleficent.

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These resolutions, with Anna and Aurora (the traditional Disney Princesses) as catalysts, allow the stories to show powerful women in a softer light. And even though these women maintain close relationships with the other women in their lives, they remain powerful, ruling over their respective lands and using their incredible powers.

That Brings us to Moana

Please just assume that when I (three) talk Disney or Women or Movies from now on, I will always use Moana as the ultimate example because I am not over it yet.

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Moana is the daughter of the chief, and her political power can’t be understated. Although she is only learning to rule in the duration of the film, she shows aptitude for critical thinking, a passionate dedication to her people, and most importantly, a unique ability to bring them back to their roots as voyagers. Unlike Elsa and Maleficent, Moana is never targeted for her power – it is framed as a burden, and a challenge, but she is never vilified for it.

That’s where Te Ka comes in.

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In the prior two examples, Elsa and Maleficent have a kind-hearted traditional princess – Anna and Aurora – to lend softness to their character. In Moana, things aren’t so simple. Te Ka does not show Moana any kindness, or give her any reason to give her the benefit of the doubt – it’s Moana who sees past Te Ka’s terrifying exterior and realizes that someone has done this to her.

This creates an interesting comparison to Maleficent, who spends the entire movie redeeming herself for one mistake, which honestly, we kind of already forgave her for. In comparison, no one expects Te Fiti to apologize for ruining everything after she has her heart stolen.

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They have stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you

This comparison isn’t completely parallel: Elsa and Maleficent are unfairly feared and targeted for their power, whereas Te Fiti, a literal god, is not vilified in the slightest; at least not until she becomes a giant lava monster. I’ll go ahead and argue that it is fair to see Te Ka as a villain, given that she’s utterly terrifying and is trying to kill everyone.

The main message I want to distill from that comparison, however, is that we are still very careful about how we portray forgivable powerful women. Elsa barely even does anything wrong. Maleficent does one thing wrong one time, and does so as a rash but understandable act of revenge after she was attacked by Stefan-the-terrible. Despite the fact that it should actually be pretty easy to forgive Maleficent, and there is literally nothing to forgive Elsa for, both of their characters were not allowed to get away with it – Elsa suffers years of anxiety after hurting Anna by accident one time, and Maleficent spends sixteen years learning to love the child she rashly sentenced to death. Te Fiti, on the other hand, destroys like half the ocean, and when Moana figures this out it’s as simple as:

They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you

This is not who you are
You know who you are

This embodies what I find so refreshing about women in Moana: It’s a given that they are powerful, and it’s okay. No one has to suffer the guilt that Elsa and Maleficent feel for their effects on others – they can just focus on the plot, the character development, and the journey.

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Step One: Rock Some Rags

Step one of what, erm? Step one of becoming a Disney Princess, obviously.

A long time ago while we were featuring guest posts a lot we said we would start writing posts specifically about princess appreciation, and so far we’ve not really kept that promise. But here’s a start!

So today I could talk about how recent princesses are supporting other women and changing them from monsters (literal monsters, sometimes!) into who they truly were way back from before some (horrible) (or just egotistic) guy and/or ice powers of mysterious origins showed up, or I could talk about how princesses fare against being exploited for their labour or magical healing powers, or how despite the fact that I really want a Disney princess version of Kuzco (Merida doesn’t quite count), I still do love that they’re such decent people and that they stay decent people in the face of some pretty awful circumstances – but instead I’m going to talk about their non-princess outfits – some of which are straight work rags, while others are just everyday wear.

Here’s Snow White, running for her life. One day, perhaps I’ll get over the hilariously botched meet-cute that is Snow White meeting her Prince, but it is not this day.

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The narration even says that her evil stepmother Queen lady forces her to wear rags but they don’t hide her beauty. But come on, if she’s doing menial labour she needs sensible clothing. Anyway, that dress looks nice, I think. I want one.

I want whatever Cinderella is wearing below, too. This time the movie doesn’t bother to directly tell us that she’s too good-looking to be ruined by casual clothing, but it does sort of imply it – especially in this scene where Tremaine’s “two awkward daughters” might be dressed nice (they’re not, let’s be real) but they can’t even hope to aspire to Cinderella’s grace while doing something as mundane as scrubbing a floor.

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On a different day I could get mad on the stepsisters’ behalf – because any feminist reading worth its salt of this story will tell you that each and every one of these women are caught in a patriarchal society in which marrying well is the only way to secure a future that isn’t ruin and therefore a little bit of sympathy thrown the Tremaine girls’ way would certainly not be misplaced, but it’s princess appreciation so whatever. She knows she looks good and she can take a minute to herself.

These of Aurora’s are not rags.

Aurora

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This is the outfit I want most of all. Look at that high neckline – it’s definitely Scar-being-extremely-sinister to die for. And that headband! I want that headband.

More merch of Aurora should feature her Briar Rose look because I think we can all firmly agree that it’s better than that magic dress she gets later.

Belle’s peasant dress isn’t quite as nice as Aurora’s but the farm animals all seem to vaguely approve. OK, the chickens look alarmed, but chickens always look alarmed. So whatever.

(but Belle, don’t put that on your head, that’s unhygienic)

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By the way, all of these ladies’ flats are great. Flats are the best. Snow White’s clogs are pretty cool too but flats really are where it’s at, comfort-wise, until we get a princess who’s allowed to wear running shoes.

Would you believe while I was writing this post that I almost forgot to include this, actually the best example of the princess-in-rags phenomenon that has ever existed?

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Bless Scuttle, who doesn’t get enough credit I think. He says, “You look sensational!” and he’s right! Sebastian is too judgmental.

No joke if I could pull off red hair I would go as Ariel in this outfit for Halloween, it’s amazing.

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Also bless Carlotta and her steadfast attempts at tact.

Now moving out of the realm of the established Princess line: Elizabeth isn’t a Disney Princess. In fact, I think she was written specifically as a bit of an answer to them, which is both fair and also, kind of, not. Especially these days, what with Moana, and even if you want to talk strictly defined princesses, Tiana, Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna are all perfectly fine without the lesson Elizabeth teaches.

(OK Anna could have used it a bit I guess)

I include her because I can’t not. She’s THE PAPER BAG princess! A post about princesses in rags would be incomplete without her.

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The story is very simple, for the uninitiated. Elizabeth is a princess with a lot of nice clothes and plans on marrying Ronald, the prince-next-door, until a dragon shows up, burns all her things, and kidnaps Ronald for a midnight snack. So she puts on a paper bag and goes to rescue him.

The best part is when she’s done it, she’s outsmarted the dragon, and then Ronald’s like, “Ew, you’re wearing garbage, go home and change and then you can rescue me!”

She calls him a bum.

Good times.

Here is the slightly horrifying animated version:

I make no apologies for this.

Anyway, Elizabeth really ties this together because she teaches us that if your prince is a jerk, yell at him and dump him, and also it doesn’t matter what you wear. This is a thing our older Disney ladies already know, but the fact that they enjoy dressing up for the formalest of occasions doesn’t take away from their awesomeness.

More on that much more substantial point later, I promise.

Moana (Make way, make way!)

Hands up if the title of this post made you break out into song!

Hi there, it’s three again. As erm suggested, I haven’t been around much thanks to a ridiculously busy life which I 100% brought upon myself. *sigh*

Anyway, a couple of months ago something highly disturbing happened to me: Someone close to me, someone I considered to be a friend, said something unforgivable.

“I didn’t really like Moana,” she said, probably sneering (it was in a groupchat). “I didn’t like any of the songs and I just found it boring.”

My response was something along the lines of “well, then I guess we can’t be friends anymore.” She adorably thought I was joking. NOPE.

I was surprised, in that moment, chatting on facebook during a Stats lecture, how much it upset me that someone in my life dared to not like Moana. I haven’t cared that much about people liking the stuff I like since I was a teenager. And even now, months later, I still get angry when I think about it. “I didn’t like any of the songs” and “It was boring” is not a legitimate opinion and she should be ashamed.

So in an effort to vent my frustration about that complete lack of a review, I am here today to argue a point which I believe wholeheartedly: Moana is the greatest Disney princess of all time. Okay, that may be an overstatement. Instead I’ll say that she embodies all of the best characteristics of my favourite Disney princesses, combined into one superpower princess. Let’s go!

An Innocent Warrior

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LOOK HOW EFFING CUTE SHE IS.

Anyway, from this scene onwards this movie is pure magic. A part of that comes from the fact that this scene occurs when she’s a small child. It warms my heart to think that the Ocean saw the goodness in someone who can’t even speak yet. The Ocean chose her. And that’s something that she struggles to reconcile throughout the rest of the movie.

When else have we been given a quick glimpse of a princess’s true inner power from when they were a child?

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Hey, look, it’s my second favourite Princess, Tiana!

When I say inner power, by the way, I’m not talking about an ability to make gumbo. Tiana’s power (in my opinion) is that she uses food as a way to bring people together. Anyone can cook (according to Gusteau), but not anyone can bring people from far and wide to get a taste of their food. It’s about people, not recipes, for Tiana and her dad.

Moana’s inner power, the one identified by the Ocean so early on, is that she’s a warrior. She is willing to fight for what she knows to be right, even if fighting involves saving a turtle and missing the pretty pink shell. Later, she fights to restore the heart, and her warrior’s resolve is what gets her through.

Both Moana and Tiana are marked by these traits, identifiable from early childhood, and stop at nothing to live out the path that they are destined for, even at the expense of their enjoyment of life and their relationships. That’s kind of a badass thing for a woman to get to do, IMHO.

We Know the Way

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Moana knows her whole life that she is destined to be chief. This, of course, is different from the path given to her by the Ocean, and the one she feels in her gut that she needs to follow. What really impresses me about Moana’s journey is that she manages to take two seemingly incompatible destinies and make them one. Moana is the Chief who brought the village back to the ocean.

Now, there’s a comparison to be made here with Moana and Simba. That could be an article of its own, so I’m just going to ignore that for now.

Instead, I want to talk about a more recent example: Elsa. Elsa also had two incompatible destinies: she was born with terrifying power, and also destined to be queen. With much, much more inner struggle, Elsa manages to combine the two and become Queen without sacrificing her powers.

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The reason I love this is because it shows true leadership ability. These women didn’t just come of age – they proved leadership ability by bringing something of themselves to the role of Chief/Queen.

Sails to Te Fiti

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Moana is a badass. She ties up her hair and barrels forward into challenges. I don’t think we’ve seen a Disney Princess come so naturally into her own as an action hero. Bravery, adventurousness, and physical prowess are all things Moana has from the start, which is new and wonderful.

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Mulan holds a place in my heart as the first Disney Princess to run into battle. Both Moana and Mulan do something that is uncommon for female characters anywhere – they make bold, self-sacrificing, even violent decisions to save Motonui/China.

Know Who You Are

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Moana sees Te Ka, not as a massive fiery monster, but as someone who has had her heart stolen. It’s that same compassion that the Ocean saw in her at the beginning – the “innocent” in “innocent warrior” – which allowed Moana to see this. Maui certainly never would have. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Maui. I’m just saying, there’s a reason why the Ocean chose her.)

Just as Moana was entrusted with the Heart of Te Fiti, Rapunzel was entrusted with the Sun’s Gift.

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I’m just choosing to interpret it this way, by the way. We’ve talked about it before. I like to think that this All-Knowing Flower (or the Sun to Moana’s Ocean) knew that Rapunzel was a good egg, and that’s why it let her house its gifts, because she got to decide how to dish them out.

Both Rapunzel and Moana create a lot of good by being innocent and seeing the best in others. Now, this is nothing groundbreaking – female characters always get stuck being virginal and pure – but it still shouldn’t be underestimated. Goodness is a real superpower, especially when it comes with healing abilities/an artifact which will save the world. These movies are acknowledging the power of goodness, which I am all for.

Moana Paints with All the Colours of the Wind

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Heh.

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All images are from DisneyScreenCaps.com, as always.

The Power of the Princesses

In the spirit of Princess Appreciation, here is another great piece on what we can learn from the Disney Princesses. Enjoy!
– erm & three

Kids Riding Bicycles

If you read Buzzfeed you may have already heard of the story of Brooke Lowery, a woman who ended her engagement and had a photoshoot at Disneyland to help pick herself up again. It’s a lovely story and can be read in full here.

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There are many more pictures like that at the link I’ve posted, and they’re all equally as nice. Miss Lowery is a vision of loveliness and Disneyland looks astonishing, as it always does. The whole thing has a hint of the old Date Nite At Disneyland events they used to hold in the 50s, and which I kinda wish they’d bring back because, well, just look at it. Those swingin’ cats look gosh-darned adorable, and it’s all so lovely and…

Well, we’re not here to talk about Date Nite at Disneyland. Back to Brooke Lowery, who had this to say about her photoshoot.

“London is my absolute…

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Guest Blogger: 5 Life Lessons I Learned from Disney Princesses

Happy Disney Day, cats and kittens! Today we have a wonderful guest post brought to you by B, and we can’t recommend her enough to our fellow wordpressers.

As you surely know by now, we are fans of Disney Princesses. We believe that they have much more to offer than people think they do and in fact, the immediate dismissal of every female character ever is kind of the problem, in our not-so-humble opinions. So we love when people like B talk about the impact of the Princesses in a positive light. Enjoy!

“You remind me of someone,” my new co-worker insisted. It was day two at my new retail job and I was pretty sure it was the first time we had ever met. Other than the case of mistaken identity, things were going well. Sure, I wasn’t exactly the most helpful of employees, but I figured for the time being I could make up for it with my friendly demeanor and positive attitude.

Later, when I was waving good-bye to a customer, my co-worker had a flash of inspiration. “It’s Rapunzel! You know, like from the movie.” Pointing out the fact that she’s a fictional character didn’t stop her from drawing the comparison. “You’ve got long blonde hair, you’re cheerful…I bet you even sing all day!”

As someone who has studied the Disney princess way for most of her life I was secretly flattered. (I used to climb up on the arms of my sofa and practice being Ariel on the rocks.) The Disney princess archetype is often used symbolically to illustrate society’s gender stereotyping in early childhood (see Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter) but I think as women’s lives continue to be affected by the subversive forms oppression that still exist in society (i.e., the wage gap, overrepresentation in service industry and health care jobs, etc.) there may be a way of turning the stereotype on its head.

After all, aren’t the Disney princesses oppressed as well? Sure, the majority of them are privileged (and white) but many of them are ruled by patriarchy, or at least require a man to save them from their fates. Those types of fairytales might not always exist in real life, but in the meantime there’s still something to be learned from their stories, even when we’re feeling sad and beaten down by the man.

  1.  Make music. It’s kind of a Disney princess law that you have to sing. Don’t mistake this for a coincidence-obviously they all went to the same finishing school or something. Luckily, we can all relate to them a lot more because they’re not going around and throwing it all in our faces about how they were classically trained. Instead, true Disney princesses use this talent as a coping mechanism- Elsa and Ariel get to process their teenage angst, Anna and Aurora work out their romantic feelings in song instead of stalking their princes on Facebook, and Cinderella creates an alternate reality for herself because she’s having trouble coping with the whole “indentured servitude” thing.
  2. Cultivate hobbies, not just because you’re locked away in a tower, or because you’re waiting for your prince to save you. Pursue your own interests because it makes you interesting, because it’s something to talk about, and because it gives you something to care about in this mad, sad world of ours. Lots of Disney princesses resort to music (see #1) but Snow White bakes, Rapunzel paints, and Ariel is to humans like Jane Goodall is to gorillas.
  3. Find your tribe, because these poor girls are often lacking in caring, responsible parental figures, or sometimes have none at all. Being isolated from family and friends is unfortunately a pattern that exists as often in Disney princess movies as it does in real life. Even the nuclear families depicted in movies such as Frozen, Sleeping Beauty, or Rapunzel are often estranged, or their structures are disrupted, so it’s natural that the princesses become driven to seek out new connections in order to recreate a family dynamic. (This often involves #4)
  4. Befriend animals. It’s the Disney princess way. Woodland critters, deep sea creatures and even magical snowmen all seem to find their way into the princesses (and audiences’) hearts. These cute, loveable characters always make an appearance in Disney movies. It’s not just because anthropomorphism is a good literary device for kids. Having contact with the animal kingdom can not only be good for your health, it’s good for your soul. Just don’t take it too far and invite a squirrel to your next brunch or something.
  5. “Always be kind” is the advice that Cinderella’s mother gives her daughter as she lays dying, and while some may protest that’s it’s a corny line (and vintage Disney animation purists are screaming blasphemy at my reference to a live-action princess film), putting it into practice can sometimes be a challenge. If the Disney princess world is similar to the one we grew up in, then they too were taught from an early age to suck it up and find kind words for even the villains that would do them harm. (Ok, so maybe Rapunzel suffered from Stockholm Syndrome but give the girl a break; she spent most of her life locked up in a tower.)

Looking back on my time working in retail, I realize how often I came back to these lessons when dealing with a difficult situation, like an unhappy customer or a temperamental colleague. Losing your cool and lashing out is an easy choice because it feels pretty good to let out all of that anger and frustration. The decision to remain calm requires a lot more strength. Brownie points if you can do the whole thing with a smile on your face.

So I’m not apologizing for channeling my inner Disney princess at my job, or anywhere else in my life. Yes, as women we are conditioned to act passively and acquiesce. But I see the ways that the Disney princesses find meaning and joy in their lives despite their oppression as a quiet and sometimes necessary strength, even if it is considered stereotypical of my gender.  It doesn’t matter if you’re confined to a castle, underneath a spell or simply working a bad retail job to make ends meet- if you can make like a Disney princess and find compassion and acceptance in your heart, then you’ve found your greatest strength of all.

PS: We’ve created a new category in the spirit of Princess Appreciation. It’s called… Princess Appreciation. Now watch as we fill it up with post upon post about princesses.

PPS: Please share your positive experiences with the Princesses on WordPress/Twitter/whatever and let us know so we can share them too!

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