“The Evil Empire”

When we were growing up, Cinderella taught us how important faith can be, Snow White taught us how important friends are, and Sleeping Beauty taught us how important following our dreams can be. However, the upcoming generation is growing up with extremely different Disney princesses than we knew. What began as the princess trifecta of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, has turned into nine princess movies all representing different images and values to the next generation of children. There is a question raised by many of whether or not the Disney princesses are teaching children the right lessons. Some have even ventured to ask: Is Disney really the evil empire?

As a brand, Disney has faced harsh criticism from the feminist movement due to the way they have portrayed women in the past. A recent meme surfacing all over the internet that de-glorifies the Disney movies from fairy tales to poor life lessons. For example, Belle is described as just a pretty face and the meme insinuates that the Beast only fell for her because of her looks. This is an oversimplification of Belle’s character as the Beast falls for her not for her looks but her intelligence, caring nature, and personality. However, the meme is not entirely wrong as not all of the early princesses are portrayed in such a dynamic manner as Belle. Cinderella and the prince barely shared a dance before they fell madly in love and Ariel ditched her entire family to marry her prince.

In order to help manage their image, or perhaps in attempt to keep up with the times, Disney took on the challenge of making their newer princesses more dynamic and stronger female leads. Disney also released an African-American princess after receiving criticism for not having enough diversity in their fairy tale stars. An idea they really try to communicate with their new princesses is that princesses do not have to be damsels in distress. In Tangled, Rapunzel takes charge of her own life by disobeying her “mother’s” wishes. In the process, she discovers her real family and her true love. This could be seen as Disney’s ode to following your heart with more action than Cinderella took. However, the movie openly references alcohol blackouts, violence, and criminal behavior. Is this Disney trying to appeal to an older generation or avoid seeming old fashioned and out of date? Either way it wasn’t entirely in line with the identity of their prior princesses. Is this a new kind of Disney Princess we are seeing? Or a fluke straying from what Disney really represents?

– Alexandra Huss, Caroline Merrill, Alyssa Morrello, Lauren Van Trigt, Dann Williams

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3 thoughts on ““The Evil Empire”

  1. As a girl who grew up watching the Disney princess movies I think it is honestly sad the direction it is moving in. I might be biased because I have loved them since I was little but I think Hollywood is changing these movies and making them something completely different then they were meant to be. I do agree that the Disney movies do portray the princesses to be damsels in distress but they are also cartoons and geared towards a younger audience. I feel the route Hollywood is taking is very dark and scary and although I think it is appropriate and interesting for someone my age and older I do not think it should replace the movies that were originally created. As a child the image of a princess is exactly how I think Disney portrayed it and maybe it is because that is what I grew up knowing but at that age isn’t that what you want children to view princesses as? Although I do think the idea of strong women leads is really important I think these movies should not be linked to Disney’s versions of the stories.

  2. I understand how Disney wants to appeal to it’s fans and present a brand that grabs the attention of children as well as adults. Being an African American woman, I do share the concern of growing up not seeing a Disney princess that looked like me. It took time, but Disney did make efforts to create diversity in its movies.

    When Disney began making movies, in the 1930s, women were conservative and treated as the dependent gender. The movies depicted the culture of that time; now women portrayed in Disney are more dominant and independent. These princesses, such as Repunzel and Merida from Brave, represent the ideas of women in 2012.

  3. The movies and Princesses described are from old, old fairy tales. They are just an animated adaptation. The stories were written in a time when women were not given the same opportunity, rights or respect as the noble men of that time. (Keep in mind most men did not get much more then women unless they were from nobility, land owners or successful business men. Women did not get to have this opportunity since they were not allowed to own land, commerce, etc. unless it was left to them with no males left in the family.)
    I do not think it would be fair to blame Disney for retelling these stories. Now, in the latest version of the Princess and the Frog, you can see a definitive change in how the female heroin in the story is working to have her own restaurant, by her terms and her hard work. She was given nothing and still forged forward to that dream. Of course you have the traditional fairy tail intertwined within it. Brave and Rapunzel are also reworked adaptations of the older fairy tails changed to fit more in line to today’s mindset.
    I would really like to see new fairy tales written, ones that are not regurgitation of old ones, but new ideas that speak to the current political, and human stance on life, rights and meanings.

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