I tried for a really long time to keep Quinn away from the whole princess scene. But, it is pervasive. Even before we actually had cable, and thus, Disney and Disney Jr., they managed to creep their way in. First it was Elsa, naturally, but now the whole plethora of them have become a part of our lives.
Now, on the one hand, I hate them, because the whole “princess” thing really stands against every kind of feminist ideal you could ever have. The early princesses, especially, are basically docile vessels who don’t do anything except make stupid decisions (who accepts an apple from a strange person with that kind of creepy face?) who are rescued by equally bland princes. The newer versions are better, but still leave a bit to be desired. Like, you know, a career goal.
Not to mention the fact, that the image Disney presents of princesses is so historically inaccurate. Why doesn’t Disney make a movie called “Beheaded” about Anne Boleyn? She was a Queen (so, like a super princess, right?) …. didn’t turn out so well, eh? Or maybe “Disgust at First Sight” about poor, ugly Anne of Cleves? I think if girls understood that being royal had some major downsides, they’d be less likely to want to be Cinderella all the time and would maybe rather play Supreme Court Justice or First Female President.
On the other hand, I grew up playing princess and watching Disney movies, and I feel as though I have turned out all right. I also played with Barbies, but still seem to have a realistic expectation of what my body should look like. Of course, Barbie was balanced with Lego, and in our household, princesses are balanced with blocks and books and other forms of creative play.
I know it’s a phase and I know Quinn will grow out of it eventually, but in the meantime, it’s really me who has to suffer the most. Through endless viewings of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and Frozen. And, surprising no one, I have some opinions about them. So much in the same vein as my post on children’s television, I present the following definitive ranking of Disney princesses (from movies Quinn has seen, so there are a few missing).
The Pretty Good
Merida, from Brave: Look, Merida is bad-ass. She is an archery master, she wants to wait to get married until she meets someone she actually likes, she has awesome hair, and she has a great brogue. She’s able to admit when she is wrong (turning her mother into a bear, etc.) and atone for her mistakes. Also, I like her mother, not least because her name is Elinor, which is how we spell my daughter’s middle name.
Anna, from Frozen: Everyone loves Elsa, but Anna is the one who actually saves the day. There are a lot of plot holes in Frozen (I still like the movie) such as … why didn’t they send Anna to boarding school? Why does she have to be a shut in because her parents can’t properly cope with her sister’s special powers? but Anna is a pretty solid character. Sure, she falls in love for tricky Prince Hans (who reminds me of one of my jerkiest exes), but you can’t hardly blame her after her years in solitude. She talks about liking food (sandwiches and chocolate) and she knows that sisters are more important than dudes.
Elsa, from Frozen: Elsa isn’t bad either, of course. I mean, she does have magic powers, she can make a pretty mean ice sculpture, and she is clearly able to rule without a king. Sure, she stuffs her emotions a bit, but what would you expect? I mean, a troll completely freaked her out when she was little and her dad basically taught her not to feel.
Sofia, from Sofia the First: Sofia is a tv character and I’m actually rather fond of her. Sure, she’s a bit of a brown-nosing do-gooder, but her heart’s in the right place, and she works hard to create gender equality at Royal Prep. I also really like Ariel Winter, who voices her, so that might be biasing me a bit.
The Not So Bad
Rapunzel, from Tangled: Okay, she is a bit naive, and really, it’s still Eugene/Flynn who ultimately saves the day, but she does eventually stand up for herself and falls in love with someone after knowing them for at least a few days (which is like the equivalent of years).
Mulan, from Mulan: Mulan should get more play than she does, but she’s an older princess (in terms of when her movie was released, that is) and she isn’t white, which goes against the ideal princess schema. But, she goes off to war for her dad and basically saves China. She gets points taken away because her ultimate happiness continues to rest with finding a guy to marry. I guess, technically, she also isn’t a princess per se, but we’ll let that pass.
The Pretty Bad
Pocahontas, from Pocahontas: No disrespect to the actual Pocahontas, but the movie character is just … ugh. My criticism of her is more of the movie generally, and it’s nothing new. I mean, first of all, there weren’t “Indian princesses”. Second, since the actual Pocahontas was basically a child when John Smith landed, it’s pretty gross that they sexed her up. And, of course, she’s just one stereotype wrapped into another (loves nature, very spiritual, etc). The movie is really rather problematic and I’d rather that Quinn hadn’t seen it in the first place, but she has. Regardless of what happened in history, it’s main message is basically, cast aside your family and culture for a dude. NO. Wrong message, particularly when that dude is COMING TO DISPLACE YOUR PEOPLE.
Belle, from Beauty and the Beast: To be fair, I appreciate that Belle can read and likes books. She also spurns Gaston for being a dick, which he is. But, come on. She is a classic example of staying with a bad man just because you think you can change him. Sure, being a Beast is like his thing, but he is also a verbally abusive jerk. And I know, I know, he changes in the movie but that is just not realistic, and I feel like it’s a bad example to set for little girls. Most guys who are jerks are going to stay jerks (see above re: my ex-boyfriend who looked like Hans) no matter how nice and smart and pretty the women they date are. Also, Belle claims to have dreams, but her dream seems to be becoming a princess and that’s about it. A better story would of been if Belle told the Beast to shove it and moved to Paris and became the Parisian equivalent of Jane Austen. ALSO, a few other comments about Beauty and The Beast I would like to get off my chest.
- In the song, “Be Our Guest,” Lumier sings that “10 years we’ve been rusting,” suggesting that they have been cursed for 10 years. In the beginning, during the curse scene, The Beast is told he has until his 21st year to get his shit together. So basically the bitchy fairy cursed an 11 year old? WTF, fairy.
- Also, he is a prince, right. So why is he answering the door? Don’t they have like a STAFF?
- Where are his parents?
- Why does a French prince have an English housekeeper and butler? Pretty sure the French and the English did not get along for like most of history.
- Why is Belle’s father so damn old? Quinn calls him Belle’s grandfather, which seems more accurate.
- Why can’t the Beast read? Belle seems to teach him to read and dance, etc. I’m sorry, but princes learn that stuff.
- Where/when exactly in France does this take place? I mean, clearly with the Bonjours and Monsieurs, it’s Frenchy, but the Bourbon line circa 1700s was pretty stable until the whole head-chopping thing and it’s not earlier, based on the “technology” in the movie
- HOW DID NO ONE NOTICE THAT A BEAST WAS LIVING IN A CASTLE? Weren’t people like, “Huh, where did our prince go? Oh shit, he’s a beast now!!” Or, like, were the villagers near the Beast’s castle turned into the forks and stuff? (Which, if so, even MORE DOUCHEY, FAIRY!)
Okay, I could go on, but I won’t. I’ve seen that movie WAY too many times, clearly.
The Really Bad
Ariel, from the Little Mermaid: Oh my God, this movie is so AWFUL. If you haven’t watched it as an adult and have fond memories from childhood, just go with it. Because, it’s actually horrible. Ariel is a half-naked, impossibly waisted child who has a father with anger management issues AND basically … no, really, just go watch The Honest Trailer for this movie. They say it better than I do.
When we talk about Ariel, I continually tell Quinn that it’s just silly she would leave her family for some dude because he is cute. I’m hoping it sinks in a bit.
Cinderella, from Cinderella: Talk about a wet blanket. Cinderella doesn’t do one damn thing to better herself except accept some help from a fairy godmother and some mice. She could stand up for herself, she could tell Wicked Stepmother to stuff it, but no. She just does the laundry and the cooking and the scrubbing and goes with it. Because she has dreams. Not dreams like Rapunzel, but dreams like everyone has when they are asleep. THOSE ARE NOT THE SAME THING. I mean, she can’t even rescue herself. A MOUSE does it. And then, her true love is a prince who she doesn’t even talk to. He doesn’t even know her name. You cannot marry someone who you haven’t had a conversation with and call it true love.
Basically, Cinderella teaches girls that if you just wait around and are pretty, good things will happen. Also, that if you are ugly, you are probably also stupid and spoiled, judging from the step-sisters.
Which princess do you hate? Like? What is the equivalent for boys? I don’t think there is one, but maybe superheroes? Except, of course, superheroes are tough and awesome, so it’s obviously not an equal comparison. (To be honest, this is one of my biggest concerns about raising a boy. I don’t want Quinn growing up to think that girls are just princesses waiting to be rescued by some man, but I really don’t want Joe thinking that).
All right, off to watch Tangled for the 13th time this week.