The age of the domesticated damsel is truly over; the new Disney princesses are free and single

I have always been a Disney fan. When I think about my childhood, I believe it is fair to say that I grew up on Disney films. This love of Disney has not decreased through my teenage years and into the beginning of my twenties. In fact, if anything my appreciation of the films has elevated. However as I have grown, my awareness of the influence of Disney films and their importance has increased, especially in regard to Disney princesses.  These princesses for young girls and also some boys are their first touch with a very distinct sort of celebrity culture. They are one of their first mentors.  They are their first idols. They are the first figures they meet who they truly want to be.

For a long time, my love for these princesses was unconditional, until my youngest sister pointed out some distinct flaws in my childhood inspirations. All Disney princesses were important to me, but Belle, Ariel and Mulan held special places in my heart. Belle was bookish. Ariel was adventurous. Mulan was a badass.  Yet, there was one fatal flaw in my young idols. Their happiness, self-fulfilment and happy ending depended solely upon the men which surrounded them.  Ariel gave up her voice for the chance of ‘true love’. Mulan saves China to win the approval of her father. Belle gives up her dreams of adventure and ‘more than this provincial life’ to settle with her Prince Charming or rather, instigator of her Stockholm syndrome. Obviously, these princesses still offer more than the Cinderellas and Snow Whites of the world, but clearly there are some significant flaws in my younger self’s idols to tackle and to overcome.

Considering these past examples, I am incredibly encouraged by the recent independent Disney princesses. Frozen’s Anna and Elsa were great in how they showed messages of sisterly love and questioned the instantaneous marriages seen in previous films. Brave’s  Merida rejects marriage entirely for adventures. I am also enthusiastic and hopeful about the release of a new Disney princess. Moana will be the next Disney princess in 2016 from Walt Disney animation. The story will revolve around Moana’s journey to prove herself as a  master way-finder and fulfil her ancestor’s unfinished quest. Not only does Moana’s tale appear to follow on from Anna, Elsa and Merida in the celebration of independence, but Moana is also Disney’s first Polynesian princess.

It is undeniable that despite this growth, Disney does still have some battles to face in terms of race and non-heterosexual relationships being explored.  However, Disney’s progress over the years is reassuring that change can and will happen.  A vision of  female domestic bliss was shown in Snow White, released in 1937. The adventurous mermaid who gave up her voice for love was released in 1989. The woman who became a warrior to save her family’s honour was released in 1998. The phenomenon Frozen was released in 2013. In each film throughout the years Disney’s representations have developed more thoughtful role models for young children, and this should be credited, as well as the steps they are taking to continue these changes. Changes made all the more special because of the heartening message that ‘dreams really do come true’.


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