If you thought Miss Congeniality was an unlikely candidate for this blog, your jaw must be hitting the floor now, LOL.
In this unlikely blogpost I am going to argue that the Disney Princess has come a long way from her first incarnation: Snow White ("If you let me stay, I'll keep house for you. I'll wash and sew and sweep and cook.") Disney Princesses are one of the earliest means by which children come to an understanding of romance and adult relationships. It might be helpful to think back and consider if your attitudes to sex and love today were influenced by those entrancing films.
Plus, the films are beautiful. One of the bonuses of having a piglet is that I get to buy all the classic Disney films on BluRay. (Although I want to add that piglet maintenance is unfortunately not all about slobbing on the sofa with some jelly and icecream and Beauty and the Beast, so you should wear a condom until you are really sure you want to spend your life kneedeep in shitty nappies).
Disney's Princesses went from the childish high voice and domesticated Snow White (1937) to Cinderella (1950) and Aurora (1959). Another long break was followed by more feisty coming of age stories, in which Ariel (1989), Belle (1991), Jasmine (1992) and Pocohontas (1995) find love and demonstrate that they are grown up partly through defying their fathers. Classic Freudian stuff, gals! with an underlying message that it's through sexuality and an adult romantic relationship that you come of age, rather than through getting to go out socialising with your girlfriends or going away to college or getting a job, etc etc. With Esmerelda and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) it was all starting to be a bit different. (TBH, I have never managed to see that one, in spite of efforts to persuade Piglet to stop watching educational nature programmes and give it a go.) I suspect that was the last Princess film in which cultural values came through the medium of the script without the writers being conscious of the way the story sells us certain ways for girls (in particular) to be. After that one, writers began to think consciously about representing role models for future generations of women.
|Article from MIT|
Mulan was a break with tradition in a number of ways, utilising culturally appropriate drawing techniques unlike the orientalist (although still delightful) Aladdin, and combining comedy with exquisite painting. Mulan not only found love, she had a set of battle comrades including her dragon, cricket and horse, and three unlikely fellow warriors willing to drag up in a good cause.
|Send kick-ass Princesses as an e-card!|
What this fable says to us, is that we are not airbrushed corsetted Disney Princesses; to be human can sometimes mean being a little ogre-ish rather than perfect. We should accept that and have fun, not tortured hairdos. For feminists, Shrek was a joy, with the ass-kicking Princess and the Dragon who has feelings too.
|Favourite Disney kiss for this blogger|
Most recently, we had Frozen. You might consider that a classic Disney Princess film, with Princess Anna having to realise that one bloke is not as good as he looks, and that a more humble lad is her chosen beau. But whose little outfit and little Disney Princess doll and jewellery set plus wig is most popular? Queen Elsa, who never has a sniff of a love interest. The story revolves around Elsa's extraordinary powers. Her ability to cause all around her to freeze is at first seen as a curse. Rather than the curse being lifted through true love, however, her powers comes to be seen as a benefit. Elsa empowers herself through her gift, stepping up to rule the kingdom as the sole monarch.
Recently I popped into the Disney shop (ugh ugh! ours even has a glittering floor, ugh!) for something horrid as a gift for my niece. The song from Frozen (you know the one) came up on the screens. I saw another mum standing in the middle of the shop, looking up at the screen and softly singing along:"Let it go, let it go, ... the cold never bothered me anyway." I don't know if or what troubles she might have had in her life. That song spoke to women of all ages who have felt we are struggling through life instead of skating figures on its surface, who have amazing powers which are viewed as a curse, who want to make a difference.
The Disney shop is driven by demand. The films are written by a few people who might bend the story in order to influence young minds, in the way that AussieScribbler and I agree in his guest blogpost is an acceptable way to bend writing. However what is available in the shop, is there only because the larger mass of people are buying it for our children. Until our daughters start insisting on having the Merida DIY build your own target kit instead of a make-up kit, until we bring them up to expect something like that, beautifying herself will continue to be the main way a young woman demonstrates that she is a competent adult.
Fighting bears? Arguing with mummy? Oooh, I don't know. I won't risk ripping my lovely long Merida frock, will I?