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 Is this Disney trying to appeal to an older generation or avoid seeming old fashioned and out of date?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?