I already had prepared an article about an animated heroine. But then I suddenly, it didn’t feel right. It is Advent after all, so shouldn’t I write about something more fitting? And naturally my mind immediately wandered to Frozen. But, the fact aside that I didn’t knew when I would come around seeing it, I would prefer to review it after I have seen at a couple of times, and not in the excitement or disappointment of the first watch. If there even is a female character worth talking about (well, I am pretty sure there is, but you never know). Or if they will be added to the line-up (again, considering that it is a fairy tale based movie I have next to no doubt, but they are not “official” yet).
But to me, Disney movies and Christmas are two things which belong together. When I was a child, it was tradition to watch the Disney release of the year. My mother, who was pretty much against me owning a Barbie and made sure that I had just as many toys which were traditionally for boys (especially a lot of LEGO – and just the thought that there is nowadays “LEGO for girls” is enough that I start ranting for hours, but let’s move forward) than those which were considered girly, certainly never saw a problem with it. Nowadays there are books about how those characters supposedly ruin children.
Nevertheless I intent to praise most of the Disney Princess movies sooner or later. And I guess, before I do this, I should address the criticism geared towards them at least briefly. The main accusations towards them are that they are anti-feminist, about females fixated on romance, and encourage an unrealistic body image. I say that they are pro-feminist, about young adults finding their place in the word and encourage good morals.
The pro-feminist stance is fast explained. While I never made a statistic, I dare to claim that the percentage of female protagonists in animated movies is way higher than in live-action movies. The female heroine has been a stable of animation since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (btw NOT the first feature length animated movie). And that is certainly not thanks to Pixar, DreamWorks or the occasional Warner Brothers production, since all those studios have an abysmal ratio of female to male protagonists. It is mainly thanks to the Disney Animation Studios and to a lesser degree Studio Ghibli.
Speaking of Snow White: It is more than questionable to take her or any other of the classic Princesses as example for antiquated gender roles because, well, those are very old movies, it was a different time back then. Disney has evolved since then, to the proactive Princesses of the renaissance era and finally to the modern princesses, who are certainly not motivated by love or romance.
Also, you can’t accuse Disney of not treating the genders equal. It is after all not just the females who put great importance in love and romance, the same is true for the male characters. Eric pines after “the girl with the voice” just as much as Ariel pines after Eric. Bernard doesn’t go on a mission to rescue Penny because he likes adventures, he does it because he is in love with Bianca. Tramp changes his whole live-style in order to be with Lady. Aladdin is in all sense and purpose a male Disney Princess, complete with I want song and romance.
Concering body images – they are cartoons. Drawn figures. I would be more worried about young pop-stars, models, beauty queens and all the other real woman in media. While Disney Princesses are usually beautiful (though they are all very different types of beauty), the movies tend to emphasis the inner beauty. Snow White is more beautiful than the Evil Queen because she is innocent while the face of the queen is marred with a constant frown. Belle is considered more beautiful than the Bimbettes because she has character. Ursula might tell Ariel of the worth of “body language”, but the reason why she wins over Eric is not because she is mute, but because she can show him her energy and passion despite of it. Mulan tries to be what the society considers desirable in woman, but not only does she fail the test, even beforehand she gets criticized for not having the perfect body to bear sons. Mother Gothel does her very best to convince Rapunzel how ugly she is. Lottie might be a beauty, but that doesn’t mean that she will actually get her prince.
Disney Princess movies are not perfect. But I for my part am glad that they exist. I think that most people who complain about them confuse the franchise with the movies. I have nothing against a little bit glitter, but those characters are about way more than beautiful dresses, singing, teatime and good manners. There is where the problem is, not in the movies in itself, not even in the glitter, but in showing them just as pretty faces instead of everything else they are. In fact, instead of harping on and on about the characters, one should praise them and condemn what Disney does to them for the sake of making a few additional bucks.