I’ve never much been a fan of Disney, I’ll admit it, even as a kid, I’d rather play sky-diving Barbies than sit down and watch a Disney movie. I never wanted to be a Disney princess, except maybe for Belle, and that was only because of the awesome library. It just wasn’t my thing. So it wasn’t until later, when I was much older, that I actually watched the Disney cannon and realized the movies had awful moral values until…..
Disney decided to create a female character that bucked the overwhelming trends of their franchise series, choosing to pursue her dreams rather than pursue a husband. Applauded for this incredibly late foray into the twenty-first century, quickly Disney had to shoot itself in the foot.
When Brave’s strong female lead, Merida, was introduced inMay as an official Disney princess, she was a starkly different character than then one appearing in the movie. Gone were the lose fitting clothes, replaced a with form-hugging dress hugging her newly spouted bountiful curves. Gone was her bow, an instrument of her power and independence leaving us with the quintessential over-feminized, helpless Princesses that Disney is so accustomed to producing.
The indignity in Disney’s decision to make Merida more marketable by striping her of any individuality perhaps shouldn’t be shocking considering the ranks she’s join.
We have Belle, a princess who started out a poor provincial girl with dreams of seeing the world and asserting her independence. Upon her imprisonment with her verbal abusive and borderline physically abusive captor, she quickly starts to fall for him when he shows a slight glint of humanity. Gone are her dreams and goals, replaced with the reward of a title and a husband who has changed overnight with no counseling.
Then there’s our little stalker Ariel. Our lovely aquarium-friend falls in love with a man she has never talked to. Taking her stalking and obsession to the extreme, she give up all of her talents, chucks her family and culture aside, and reinvents herself as a different person, who ironically enough lacks a voice. Her stalking is rewarded with his eventual love, solely based on a girl completely different from Ariel. And they live happily ever after.
There are other examples, other princesses with similar stories of weak-willed, love obsessed powerless women who flounder without a male presence or catalyst. Perhaps, retrospectively views through the cultural standards of the time, the older tales and stories could be dismissed as reflective of the time though this of course makes them no more innocuous than their modern counterparts. But the insistence of Disney to shun any of the inroads made in the last fifty years of feminism simply is unacceptable.
Disney caved over the pressure from parents’ outrage, pulling the design and branding it as a “one time make over.” But even the creators of the movies doubt that she won’t be re-branded eventually. Let’s face it, a non-glamorous, strong lead doesn’t really fit in with their cannon.
The problem is, as Kurt Vonnegut once said, “we are what we pretend to be so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” We need to reexamine the stories we are telling our children. The morals and lessons engrained in them, stated or not, seep into our minds, shaping us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
The world doesn’t need another curvy, innocuous perpetuation of feminine ideals. It doesn’t need another princess and all the class associations that title brings with it. We need a pimply, chunky punk, a blue hair, pierced, Marxist rebel who tells society to shove it in pursuit of her dream. Someone who inspires little girls to pursue their dreams no matter what they are.
And in the absence of Disney’s willingness to step outside its trite limited view of women, it’s time for us as artists to step into the void.