Disney, Princess Movies, Love and Female Empowerment

Tangled Movie PosterRecently, I had the chance to watch the movies Tangled and The Princess and the Frog, two of Disney’s most recent princess movies, a genre that has included films such as Cinderella, The Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Snow White.  Disney has subsequently announced that it will no longer be making princess movies, as little girls now appear to want to be pop stars and celebrities rather than princesses.  While I will not be sorry to see this genre go the way of the dodo bird and the pterodactyl, I have no doubt that future Disney films intended to replace the princess genre will include equally misleading portrayals of women.

In the princess genre, the princess is usually the passive character while the man who eventually becomes her suitor is given the active role.  There are some variations on this theme, of course—not every princess is locked in a tower and throws down her hair to a handsome princess who then whisks her away to safety.  (Actually, in this respect I thought that Tangled was an improvement upon the original story of Rapunzel, with the movie character being far more energetic and engaged in the process of deciding her own fate than the original story character.)  Almost every little girl seems to have an obsession with being saved and then whisked away by their prince charming; a seemingly harmless obsession which thenThe Princess and the Frog Movie Poster contributes to girls internalizing the stereotype that women are—and should be—passive recipients of other people’s actions, a supporting character in someone else’s story, if you will.  Even in those princess movies in which the main female lead has dreams or ambitions of her own, she always needs her prince in order to succeed.

Such movies also further unrealistic notions of romantic love.  Love may be a wonderful and beautiful thing, but it is not worth throwing the rest of your life away in order to secure.  A life without a romantic partner is not necessarily devoid of all happiness and meaning, just as a life with a romantic partner is not necessarily joyous and fulfilled.  Your happiness depends upon you as an individual, not, except for extreme cases of want, the things that you have in life.  If you’re unhappy being single, you’re probably also going to be unhappy once you find a man.

So, ladies, put aside the princess books and movies of your youth—put on your combat boots, and break down the door to that ivory tower yourself rather than wait for some romantic and fictitious ideal that cannot exist.

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