People love to rag on Disney for giving little girls unrealistic expectations about their lives, and they have a point. Almost all of those girls were gorgeous with amazing singing voices, and they all ended up marrying a wonderful prince (except Pocahontas. And Jasmine, since technically Aladdin isn’t a prince), and lived happily ever after (I choose to ignore any and all Disney sequels). But do you know what else?
Those girls were fucking bad ass.
Let’s take a closer look at what, exactly, those “princesses” went through, and then you can tell me that Disney doesn’t offer good role models. For today, I’m just going through the first five. Expect the next five on Thursday!
Note: Technically, I suppose these qualify as “spoilers,” so consider this fair warning. Though if you haven’t seen any of these movies, there is something seriously wrong with you.
1. Snow White
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Snow White was the first Disney Princess, gracing the screens way back in 1937. You definitely already know the story, but I’ll re-iterate anyway: her evil step mother the Queen had this beauty complex, kicked her out and sent a woodsman after her to kill her and cut out her heart. Long story short, she met some tiny men, made some inadvisable dining choices and ended up with the original animated happily-ever-after when Prince Charming kissed her back to life.
Hang on there–met some tiny men? See, the thing about Snow White is that people always assume that her cleaning/cooking for the dwarves is somehow a sign of her subjugation as a woman. You know, because women cook and stuff. I don’t know what movie people are watching when they say this, because if anyone was getting subjugated, it was the dwarves. They did not want to be clean. They did not want her to cook for them. They certainly didn’t want all her little animal friends running in and out of their house, where she was trespassing. But did Snow White care? No. She marched into the home of seven complete strangers, changed everything around so that it was to her liking, and then when they came home, she blithely demanded that they wash their hands. Never mind that it was their house; she was going to have her goddamn way whether they liked it or not.
And when Grumpy, the lone hold-out, refused to bend to her will? She turned the rest of the dwarves on him. They essentially beat the shit out of him to get him clean, to make her happy. Tell me that isn’t power. Snow White didn’t take shit from anybody.
As for that notoriously terrifying forest scene at the beginning of the movie–I’d like to see Prince Charming come out of that ordeal with a smile on his face. He would probably be too busy rocking back and forth, sobbing hysterically to even notice the dust.
When it comes to the short end of the stick, Cinderella got a twig. Her father dies, and she’s left to play slave girl to her evil stepmother and step sisters, who both look and sound like the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz (seriously, how has no one else noticed this?).
Let’s think about this for a minute. Cinderella spent years doing slave labor for her step family. That life has to have sucked massively, but she never complained. But when the moment finally came–when her stepfamily had gone too far–she let them have it. Remember when news of the ball first comes, and her stepsisters are making fun of her, and she’s all “bitch, I’m a lady, too, and I’m going to the goddamn ball,” and her stepmom was like “I said IF”? Not only did she go to the ball, but she won the ball. That prince didn’t know what hit him. Clutch play of the century if you ask me.
Cinderella is probably the quietest bad ass on this list, but what better “fuck you” to her stepmother could she have possibly orchestrated than becoming Queen? I’m pretty sure underneath that quiet, calm demeanor, she’s got balls of steel.
Incidentally, if you want a truly bad ass interpretation of the Cinderella story, it is imperative that you read Ella Enchanted. That book was one of the highlights of my childhood. But whatever you do, do not see the movie. It is a travesty.
Okay, I lied. Aurora is actually the quietest on this list, but she is not a bad ass. All she ever did was sleep, which is probably why Sleeping Beauty never enthralled me the way the rest of the movies did. Even as a child, I liked my heroines tough–not snoozing in a castle with some plants and shit. Next.
Talk about a teenage rebel. Ariel’s father is the most powerful man in the ocean, and I don’t mean politically. Here’s a man who successfully burned the hell out of her entire thing-a-ma-bob collection underwater. All my dad has to do is narrow his eyes and I’m towing the line, but not Ariel. She told her all-powerful pops to shove it, threw in with his mortal enemy and went up on land anyway. I don’t care how misguided that may have been–it was a BAMF move, and emo teenagers everywhere only wish they had that kind of gumption.
Incidentally, Ariel was also the one who saved Derek’s life, not the other way around, which makes her even more bad ass. Especially since she did it twice.
This bookworm French girl is probably the best role model on this list, though my own love of literature has no doubt colored my perception (she is not my favorite princess; we’ll get to her next time). Belle is the first girl on this list who was really smart. Not just street smart, but honest-to-god, straight As, kicked-your-ass-on-every-single-homework-assignment smart. But when this lit nerd had to go up against a giant fucking monster who wanted to kidnap her father, did she flinch? No. She took a leaf out of Snow White’s book and made him learn table manners.
Although I would like to interject here with the one issue I do have with Beauty and the Beast: he’s an animal. Both literally and figuratively. Angry, self-centered and violent, and he tried to kill her dad. The fact that she fell in love with him is nothing short of Stockholm syndrome, and it reinforces the idea that a woman can change an abusive man. If you ask me, she should have kicked his ass to the curb and just taken the library (and the castle) for herself. But that’s Disney for you.
That’s all for today, but stay tuned! Disney princesses 6-10 coming on Thursday (read it here!).
“I’m a damsel; I’m in distress; I can handle this. Have a nice day.” -Megara, Hercules