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.

 

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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.

Princess and the Frog References

For  Disney copy this week we looked at Princess and the Frog’s apparent love for other Disney animated films. We’re sure others have meticulously gone through the movie to find all of the Disney Easter eggs but we decided to challenge ourselves and see how many we could come up with without doing research. You know, for fun!

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Let’s start with the obvious: the evening star that Tiana wishes on as a little girl and later, in cynical desperation at the La Bouff masquerade ball. We know When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinnocchio, and The Second Star to the Right from Peter Pan.

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Well now we know the star is actually Evangeline. And the whole “second star to the right” thing gets a new meaning after the funeral at the end.

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Probably everyone saw this one. Looks like the magic carpet from Aladdin, or more likely, a replica, ended up in New Orleans.

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Maybe this is a stretch but they do look like a weird version of Jasmine and Aladdin. “Jasmine” here even had those huge gold earrings.

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This one was probably not intentional:

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But it made us think of Dumbo. Damn it Disney don’t make us think about Dumbo.

*cries forever*

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But oh look, King Triton must be in a friendly-type mood.

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And Mama Odie reminds us of the Evil Queen here, with her “Gumbo, gumbo, in the pot, we need a Princess. Whatcha got?” rhyme. But she’s more like Ursula, if Ursula had been a good squid person and had used her magic to counsel people rather than manipulate them.

Here we have two upbeat songs that’re mostly our characters getting way ahead of themselves and not really thinking things through. The animation and colour scheme change too to compliment the upbeatness.

Also, this reminds us of something.

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Louis is apparently a Madame Mim fan, and we can’t blame him.

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And then there’s this:

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And just as a sidenote – ALL of Lotte’s toys are royalty? She needs to get a different hobby. And that’s coming from us, who never shut up about Disney movies.

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Cinderella VS Cinderella: A Comparison

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Maybe it’s just us, or maybe it’s not, but when we think about fairy tales we think about Cinderella. The story is simple, it’s romantic, and it meets all the criteria for a classic tale that begs to be retold over and over again.

Consider, for a moment, Romeo and Juliet (bear with us). Romeo and Juliet is a story everyone knows. Even if you’ve never studied the play (though most of us with a high school education have), it’s become a cliche of pop culture to refer to all love stories as Romeo and Juliet, even though it’s arguably the worst love story ever, given the ending (and the beginning, and the middle…) Yet the star-cross’d lovers will live on in an eternity of retellings. Something about those two young lovers has gripped our collective psyche in the English-speaking world.

Cinderella is the Romeo and Juliet of fairy tales. “Cinderella story” is a synonym for “rags to riches story” that everyone knows. The 1950’s Disney Cinderella, in particular, is the iconic telling that everyone seems to default to, although there are plenty of retellings which are also well-loved by the public. In fact, this post is currently our most-viewed post ever, at the time of editing.

So when Disney chose to create a live-action version of this tale, surely no one was surprised – nor were we surprised when they decided not to change the basic narrative like they did with Sleeping Beauty. There’s still room for comparison, though, and we’ll begin with our protagonist.

Continue reading “Cinderella VS Cinderella: A Comparison”