The amount of disparaging remarks olden Disney Princesses get on a daily basis is unbelievable. In a time of edgy women and feminism, they do seem dated and out of place.
The common reasons Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty get hate are often blamed on their dependency to a man and the desire to find love—both of which are deemed weak, in character and in aspiration respectively—and therefore contrary to the ideals of the feminism movement. But that’s just ignorance and a blatant disregard to all the other things that make them wonderful heroines. I would even go out on a limb and say that calling their characters “anti-feminist” is in fact anti-feminist itself.
Who said being strong requires one to don an armor and literally fight a battle? Who dictated being “feminine” is a weakness? Who decided wanting true love is not a noble aspiration? If anything, these notions perpetuate harmful ideals to the feminist movement because they are discriminating.
Feminism is many things but first and foremost it should be about women supporting women. Correcting the wrong conclusions about Disney Princesses is a good start. They have been the favorite punching bag of “femi-nazis” and it’s high time we change that by celebrating the very traits they are being criticized for.
Snow White (1937)
Snow White is a victim of a vain and jealous narcissist who made her work as a scullery maid thinking that this would diminish Snow White’s beauty and when that didn’t work, had her killed and when that still didn’t work, planned to kill her herself.
It was only through Snow White’s kindness and innocence that she was spared of a death the first time an attempt on her life took place. The guard couldn’t kill her because of overwhelming guilt and because he knew Snow White was an innocent.
Rather than murder her, the guard told Snow White to run and hide, never come back. Snow White did.
On the heels of a traumatic murder attempt, Snow White ran through the dark, unfamiliar forest and suffered scary delusions of monsters and phantoms out to eat her alive.
Finally, she stumbled upon a clearing, collapsed into huge sobs and when she calmed down, she found a solution to her problem. Right then and there Snow White showed resilience and in my opinion proved herself a strong woman. She almost died and she was alone in the forest but she persevered.
Even her stay at the dwarfs’ cottage didn’t come free. She cleaned and she cooked. Best of all, she wasn’t just kind to the dwarfs, she befriended them including the less welcoming Grumpy.
Imagine thriving after almost getting murdered? Your faves could never!
Kidding aside, Snow White is a great moral example to young viewers. She works hard (always earning her keep), she’s courageous (survived murder and braved the forest), and she’s kind (always helpful to everyone in spite of the hardships that she’s suffered which could have easily hardened her).
But the movie also consciously warns viewers of what blind trust and goodness can do to a person.
Because of her kindness, Snow White was under the mercy of her vain step-mother, the queen, disguised as an helpless old lady. This part teaches viewers that not all people have your best interest at heart and that not all people are being true.
Ironically enough, the ‘old lady’ convinced Snow White that the apple is “a wishing apple” and in the end, Snow White’s wish did come true.
Cinderella is often the favorite example of haters when talking about damsels in distress they don’t approve of. At this point, she’s practically their poster girl. What they most hate about her is her “helplessness” that she had to “wait for a prince” to rescue her and again, equating that to weakness.
However and not surprisingly, they fail to take into consideration Cinderella’s circumstances. Cinderella is yet another victim of abuse from her Step-mother and step-sisters much like how Snow White is sans step-sisters.
Living in an abusive household is sure to take a toll on your mind and disposition but the haters don’t even see Cinderella as a victim—she’s merely a damsel in distress to them. Empathy is loss on these type of people.
Cinderella endured various psychological abuse from her step family for years.
When her father died, Cinderella was left to live with her step-mother and step-sisters. Taking advantage of her grief and kindness, step-mother gradually relegated Cinderella to a servant.
Everyday she would clean the house, care for the animals, cook meals for her step-family and basically cater to their whims while Cinderella herself is deprived of everything else.
When Cinderella wanted to go with her step-sisters and step-mother to the ball (she just wanted one night of relief from her horrid situation—she never even mentioned the prince!), the evil step-mother devised ways to occupy her time so she wouldn’t have a dress to wear.
But when that scheme didn’t work (the mice helped Cinderella make a dress), they mocked her and even went as far as tearing her clothes. What’s even more heartbreaking is that the pink dress was probably her mother’s and the only memento she has of her. That’s not only physical abuse but an emotional one as well.
When step-mother realized that it was Cinderella who danced with the prince, she locked her in the attic.
The verbal abuse Cinderella gets from her step-family is just as constant. One examples is her step-sisters mocking her desire to attend the ball and joked about her being a servant.
All this depravity done to her could have embittered Cinderella but no, she remained kindhearted and hopeful which in itself took courage. It’s so easy to succumb to vengeance but Cinderella stuck to her values and satisfied herself with little moments of joy to tide her through hard times.
Also contrary to popular opinion, Cinderella is not a push over. She just knows how to pick her battles; knows when to fight back that could lead to an actual victory. Here she is below leaving a dignified response to her mother’s taunts:
And if the question of why Cinderella “let” her step-family abuse her is still around, then let me repeat that step-mother took advantage of Cinderella’s grief and kindness. And remember, Cinderella was only around 10-12 years old when her father died.
Cinderella’s dream is simple. She just wants to be happy. And she made it happen whether in both small or large doses, through her friendship with the animals or through ultimate freedom.
If it wasn’t for her hopeful spirit, she wouldn’t have met fairy god mother and gone to the ball. If it wasn’t for her pure heart, the prince wouldn’t have liked her. If it wasn’t for her courage, she wouldn’t have escaped that attic.
Cinderella has suffered for long and she deserves her happiness and if that means falling in love with a prince, who are we to question her?
If we belittle her dreams just because she ended up with a man, aren’t we any different than her evil step-mother who thought her not worthy of anything? Think about that.
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Here goes another Disney heroine deemed useless just because “a prince saved her” from ultimate demise. Granted, Aurora was indeed helpless but that was because she was struck with a powerful curse unbeknownst to her. On a fundamental level, Aurora is also a victim of a vindictive witch.
But just to make it clear, Aurora wasn’t saved by Prince Philip. She was saved by the fairies. Not only did the fairies devised a way to break Maleficent’s powerful curse, they also cared for her until she was 16 and even helped Philip fight Maleficent every step of the way.. literally.
The fairies are there the whole time Prince Philip was attempting to rescue Aurora. If it wasn’t for them, Prince Philip would have remained locked in a cell.
For reference, here is an enumeration of what the fairies did to help Prince Philip:
1. Freed him from the dungeon
2. Gave him magic armor of sword and shield
3. Saved him from being squashed by giant rocks by turning them into bubbles
4. Once again saved him from being pierced by a hundred arrows.
5. For the third time spared him from being scorched by scalding water.
6. Made him and his horse fly so they could cross a broken bridge
7. Freed his cape that got caught in those prickly branches
8. And just basically directed him how to defeat Maleficent
Yes, Prince Philip technically slew the dragon but he wouldn’t have made it that far without the help of the fairies and he wouldn’t have defeated Maleficent without the magic sword and shield from the fairies and in fact, flora had to put another spell on the sword of truth to ensure maleficent’s demise.
So you see, Prince Philip is just as helpless. But this post isn’t about him. We are celebrating Aurora and the values she imparted.
It’s hard to think of Aurora’s virtues because she had such a small part in the movie. The fact is, the fairy godmothers are the real protagonists of the movie.
Regardless, Aurora has values one can emulate. She is a picture of grace and elegance, an obedient and loving daughter to her three “mothers”. She may not have shown such daring acts but her kindness is something this world needs more of.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
I wouldn’t go into the details of the movie but I feel the need to defend Ariel from critics calling her a “d*ck-chaser” because it’s not true.
Even before meeting Eric, Ariel had always wanted to explore the “shore up above”. It’s evident in her massive collection of human trinkets. She’s been at it quite some time.
The song “Part of
Your That World” is about Ariel wanting to get to know humans more, not specifically anyone. “I wanna be where the people are. I wanna see, wanna see them dancin’…” The lyrics in the chorus says “Wish I could be.. part of THAT world.” She only sings “YOUR world” in the reprise version after meeting Eric and saving him from drowning.
If there was no Eric in the equation, I’m pretty confident Ariel would have still rebelled and left her father especially after what he did to her treasure trove. We’re all quite familiar with this one: the more you forbid a teenager to do something, the more she is inclined to do it.
It doesn’t even need to be pointed out but Ariel is obviously a bold heroine who did everything to make her dreams come true even if it meant losing everything else she values. If there is anything to learn from her, this is it. It may come off as selfish, yes, but it also means she’s ready to take a risk even if it entails separation from the people she loves. What are dreams all about but taking risks and taking the leap anyway?
This is a man’s world and instead of tearing each other down, we as women should work together and build a nurturing place for every one. Let’s make ourselves conveyors of love and light in a hateful and dark society.