By Bridget Guan:
Dear Five-year-olds-who-want-to-to be-Disney-Princesses-and-if-you’re-not-five-I-apologize-butperhaps-
Recently, I attended a production of Disney On Ice at the Scotiabank Place with my younger brother. It was there, amongst a sea of five-year-olds and their doting parents, with a mind fresh out of AP Literature and feminist literary criticism, that I realized something: the way that Disney portrays its princesses is actually horribly, horribly sexist.
First of all, the original Disney princesses, and the ones that I will be focusing on, are Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine (Mulan and Pocahontas were not included in this list because, admit it, they were pretty badass).
As some of you may know, the first Disney princess to frolic across a movie screen was Snow White. Unfortunately, she set the precedent for the princesses to come. Why do I say unfortunately? She’s kind and pretty, isn’t she? However, the movie seems to be telling us that she is a little too pretty for her own good, thus turning the Queen against her and forcing her to live in the woods with seven strange, coal-mining dwarfs. And while the dwarfs go off to work, she spends her time cooking and cleaning and—wait, what? Hmm, reinforcing gender stereotypes, much?
Then, she gets her prince by eating a poisoned apple offered by a creepy lady who apparently makes a living by venturing into dark forests and handing out apples. Actually, Snow White doesn’t play that large of a role
in determining her fate, after all. She just lies there, looking pretty, until a handsome guy rides by on a horse. What is with people randomly entering forests? Obviously, Snow White is not a wonderful role model, but it isn’t her fault. Really. After all, she’s only 14.
Next, we have the iconic Cinderella, in her blue ball gown and glass slippers. Again, she is far too pretty for her own good, resulting in her being forced to work as a maid for her stepmother. I was especially annoyed at the vindictiveness of Cinderella’s stepsisters. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that women can stand to be in the same house as someone prettier than they are without degenerating into catfights and hair-pulling. But of course, her beauty is what gets her the man—that, and the fact that she runs away at midnight. To some, that could
be construed as playing hard to get. I am, however, aghast at how quickly she married Prince Charming. Honey, you only spent half of an evening with the guy. And was anyone else even mildly disturbed that the meddling cat was called Lucifer? Oh well, at least Cinderella was punctual.
To be fair, Sleeping Beauty’s problems are not really her fault. Her life is ruined by the fact that her parents
neglected to invite a rather sketchy fairy to a party. Of course, you would think that when a magical entity
lures you up to an abandoned tower, in the middle of which is an object that you have never seen before, you
would at least exercise a little caution. But apparently Disney princesses are not supposed to think so
deeply…Or think at all. Or maybe it’s Sleeping Beauty’s revenge at getting less than 18 minutes of screen time.
She is, after all, the main character. Furthermore, she takes a page out of Snow White’s book: lying down until
her rescuer comes. And alas, as is usual in these movies, Prince Phillip must run in and fix everything.
I can empathize a little with Ariel. She goes through a typical phase of teenage angst and rebellion, something I’m sure we’re all familiar with. I would probably empathize with her more, though, if she bothered to wear more than two sea shells on her upper half. Well, she does cover up—after she gives up her body, her voice, and her family, that is, all for a cute guy that she’s ogled once or twice. And if that wasn’t enough, check out how Ursula tries to convince Ariel to give up her voice: “You’ll have your looks! Your pretty face! And don’t underestimate the importance of body language!” So basically, you shouldn’t worry about winning over someone with your personality, because looks are all that matter. Interesting message to convey to children.
Belle is probably my favourite of this set of princesses. After all, she loves to read, is loyal to her father, and does not put up with the advances of the misogynistic Gaston. However, the townspeople see her as “odd”, since… Well, apparently since being intellectual and not wanting to date the hottest jerk in town makes one strange. The one flaw in her judgment, though, is falling in love with the Beast who is holding her hostage (perhaps hostage is a little
strong. It’s more like he’s forcibly confining her to his castle… Nope, just as bad). Now I’m no expert, but it
seems like Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. True, he does let her browse his library. While I too am
a sucker for a good library, I’m sure I’d be rather wary if said library belonged to my kidnapper.
The teenage rebellion factor appears once again in Jasmine, who also rejects all of her wealthy, male suitors. So far so good. But then you notice what she’s wearing. Is that… lingerie? No, of course not, not in a Disney film. It’s just a bikini top and harem pants. Um, ok then. Somehow I don’t think that type of attire is suitable in public. And then you realize that Jasmine is 15. Going past superficial things like appearance and age, though, I was
also slightly confused when Aladdin sings “I can show you the world” and “I can open your eyes”. The girl can see fine, thanks.
For once, I would like to see these girls raise more hell and fewer roses.