Not that a corporation as big as Disney needs much defending, but it’s more for my own peace of mind as someone who has often turned to Disney for comfort. As soon as people started losing the romantic idea of a happily ever after - meaning starting with high school - people have become obsessed with destroying Disney’s perfection: looking for sexism and racism wherever they can muster up any argument whatsoever for it.
The claim that Disney princesses are sexist representations of women is sexist itself, by only looking at the women and by only looking at Disney. I actually find them to be quite progressive, if not feminist. In terms of sexualizing women, it’s Hollywood… more than that it’s the whole society that’s at fault. How many movies portray the romantic lead (male or female) as anything other than skinny? One: Hairspray. Disney is far from the worst in terms of sexualizing women. As for just examining the princesses, how are they more sexist representations than the male characters?
Disney has supported the new emerging idea of women being stronger characters. Even ignoring non-animated classics (such as Enchanted in which Amy Adams’ Giselle rescues Patrick Dempsey’s Robert from a dragon) and Broadway adaptations (such as The Little Mermaid which changed its ending for Broadway so that Ariel rescues Erik from Ursula instead of the other way around), we see many examples of strong heroines.
1. Mulan, who goes to war to save her father, breaking many laws, and saves China.
2. Pocahontas, who brings peace to the Native Americans and English settlers, and does not abandon her life to follow John Smith to England.
3. Jasmine, who refuses to be handed away in marriage like a trophy.
Interestingly enough, all of these examples are also examples of non-white princesses. People are so determined to find flaws in things that bring simple joys, that they will look for racism and sexism everywhere. I have even heard arguments that The Lion King is racist. Something about whoever does the voices… How there aren’t any black voice talents, even though it takes place in Africa. (I guess they’ve never seen a picture of James Earl Jones.)
There has been quite a deal of upset over the fact that there hasn’t been a black Disney princess yet. But I think people are conveniently ignoring that not all princesses have been white, either. “Black” has replaced “non-white”, and people have forgotten other races. There haven’t been any Mexican princesses either, or Russian (no, Anastasia was not Disney). But there have been Asian, Arab and Native American princesses.
Aladdin and Jasmine. I just added this for colour, and in hopes that more people would want to read the article.
Of course, Disney is now coming up with The Princess and the Frog, their newest remedy to the lack of black princesses. But this is still causing a lot of controversy … I guess people are worried about the accurate portrayal of a black princess?
But what about the princes? I find it more sexist that people aren’t as worried about the lack of black princes. Even the prince in The Princess and the Frog is white. Is it possible that the princesses draw more attention since girls dress up for Hallowe’en as Disney characters more than boys do, and want more options?
What people are also forgetting is that most classic Disney movies were based off of already famous faerie tales. Pocahontas is not something they made up - it was an actual story. Of course, they used a lot of creative license to make it a happier story… Hercules is a real legend, The Little Mermaid was a faerie tale before, as was Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella. In fact, the one that I can think of that was not based off an already written story is Mulan, and she is the strongest Disney character - and she’s not white.