RESEARCH INTO THE PRINCESS OF DISNEY:
For my research I will be writing what is my personal opinion what the princess give as a positive image – and negative, and then an overview of the opinions of others from the articles I find.
NOTES ON THE PRINCESS AND MY PERSONAL OPINION OF WHAT THEY TEACH CHILDREN:
The actual princesses and their release date:
• Snow White – 1937
• Cinderella – 1950
• Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) – 1959
• Ariel (The Little Mermaid) – 1989
• Belle (Beauty and the Beast) – 1991
• Jasmine (Aladdin) – 1992
• Pocahontas – 1995
• Mulan – 1998
• Tiana (the Princess and the Frog) – 2009
• Rapunzel (Tangled) – 2010
• Brave – 2012
• Elsa and Anna (Frozen) – 2013
My opinion of the Significant change to the princesses:
– Sleeping Beauty (slight turning point): First film not to focus on the princess, doesn’t have a lot of screen time. It focuses more on the curse, and those around Aurora who are trying to protect her.
– Ariel (start of turning point): Women being more independent – taking a stand about their personal believes, and leaving home.
– Belle (a big turning point): leaving home, and loving someone for who they are and gets to know them first.
– Aladdin: second film that doesn’t focus on the princess – though a secondary character still popular. She doesn’t want to follow tradition,and voices her opinion.
– Pocahontas: doesn’t focus on finding true love, making peace between two countries.
– Mulan (First film not to have mention of love interest until the end): doesn’t focus on true love, saves a country.
– Tiana: doesn’t focus on having a ‘happily ever after’. Has a normal job to earn for her restaurant – a very nice but “realistic” dream . (Similar to Rapunzel wants to make her dream come true, and goes out to do it herself). Doesn’t get along with her prince but eventually falls in love – similar to Rapunzel.
– Rapunzel: doesn’t focus on true love, about going out into their world to make your dream come true.
– Brave: NO true love, focus on family
– Elsa and Anna: Has true love in the story, but the main focus (like Brave) is to bring back a family together.
The story of Frozen and it’s princesses have recognisable qualities from other disney princess films:
– Little mermaid: Anna and Ariel are similar, they both have naieve curiosity of the world beyond theirs, and they both fall in love with a man at first sight. (Rapunzel is like Ariel as well, she chooses to leave her home and is curios about the world beyond her own.)
– Mulan: Anna goes off on her own to safe her kingdom, and the relationship between Anna and Kristoff starts to blossom at the end (same as Mulan and Shang)
– Pocahontas: Anna kept true to what was in her heart about her sister, despite telling everyone telling her that Elsa was a monster.
– Jasmine: Anna falls in love with a commoner, rather than a prince
– Brave: Focus on family. And is about mending a broken bond between family.
My in-depth opinion of the princesses, and what messages they send out to children:
Snow White, SNOW WHITE (1937)
The first princess in the Disney’s legacy, and part of the early Disney years, Snow White is a typical princess. Beautiful, innocent, kind, fair and dreamer. I see her as a physical form for the beginning of a woman’s life – no judgement towards others, positive attitude and a confidence that anything is possible. This in itself is a positive attitude for children. However the negative to Snow White is her naivety, making her seem gulliable.
Cinderella, CINDERELLA (1950)
Cinderella was turned into a servant due to her stepmother not wanting Cinderella to outshine her two cruel, and ugly, step daughters. A positive to Cinderella is that she has a fiery spirit in some scenes, and despite her situation remains a kind and caring person. The only negative aspect of Cinderella was that she didn’t try to do anything to change her situation, even though she was her father’s only heir to the manor.
Aurora, SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959)
Princess Aurora was cursed as a baby by Maleficent for not being invited to her christening. The one thing I find positive about Aurora is that she likes the outdoors, and loves animals (Snow White and Cinderella both loves animals as well).Princess Aurora is a dreamer, and her main dream is to find her one true love (same as Cinderella and Snow White) – which could be seen as a negative because it seems her whole life evolves around finding this true love.
Ariel, THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989) (A turning point point of Disney, and the princess grow a bit of a back bone).
Ariel was the first – and only – non-human princess as a mermaid of Atlantis. Ariel was the second princess to change her unwanted life style by doing something. Unlike Cinderella, Ariel took a chance by taking the offered help from the wicked sea witch, Ursula, to become human – even though she knew who Ursula was.
Despite this, a positive idea that can be taken from Ariel is that she is independent. Ariel is different to everyone else (she is curious rather than frightened of the world above), and she left her home in order to fulfil her curiosity.
However the negative side to this is that Ariel cut off everything of her old life – the safety of her home, her family and her friends – for a man she just met. And with giving up her voice it could suggest to children that a girl is meant to be primarily pretty to win a man’s heart.
Belle, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)
(Belle is a personal favourite of mine, and a huge role model.) Belle is the first princess who started out as a peasant, and ended up marrying into nobility therefore becoming nobility (though Cinderella was turned into a servant, she was still an aristocrat through her father’s bloodline.)
Some parts that make her a positive role model is that she reads book – the first princess to do so – and she is different to what other people want her to be – Belle is a dreamer, a girl who doesn’t simply fall for looks, and, like Ariel, she wants something more than the life she knows. However the best lesson she can teach children is that you should love someone for who they are, rather than how they look – and by getting to know them.
The only negative lesson to be found in the film is that Belle says to children that you can change a person by being in love with them. in the beginning of the story the Beast is a bit harsh (though we see a bit of softness when the Beast goes to Belle in the tower), and yet after falling in love with Belle he becomes more caring and gentle. Realistically, depending on a person’s perception of right and wrong – a person cannot change just because you fall in love with them, and stay with them. Instead they could become worse.
Jasmine, ALADDIN (1992)
(This was the second Disney film to not follow the tradition of centring the story around the princess.) Though Jasmine was not the primary character in Aladdin, she has never the less gained a spot light with children. A positive to Jasmine is that she wishes to defy tradition, by not wanting to be forced to be married. And is the first princess to marry a commoner, also she began to fall in love with Aladdin for he was on the inside.
A minor negative to Jasmine is that she is a bit harsh – even though those scenes are understandable. (Though a way to see this as a positive is that she is no push over.)
Pocahontas, POCAHONTAS (1995)
Though this story follows a princess, and she eventually falls in love, the story is more about a conflict between the native americans, and the english travellers – who come searching for supposed gold. Pocahontas chose to approach the traveller John Smith, learning about him herself. And even after being told by her people they are dangerous – Pocahontas followed her heart and chose to discover the truth for herself. The positive quality to her is her determination to keep to her heart, and an admirable quality is that she managed to bring peace to her people and the english. A negative to Pocahontas is that she trusted a stranger after a short period of time.
Mulan, MULAN (1998)
Like Pocahontas, Mulan’s story is about her saving her people. She took her father’s place in the army and managed to destroy the huns and their leader, Shan Yu. A positive quality to Mulan is that she teaches children that it’s ok to be a different (she couldn’t be like the other girls), and managed to find her own path by being able to fight in the army.) Mulan showed that to become a warrior took time, inner strength and determination – but she was just as good as a man, if not better. A negative was that at first Mulan had to pretend to be a man in order to be in the army. (But even after revealing her true self, she still managed to prove her worth – showing that it’s about not what you are, but what you can do.)
Tiana, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009)
The final 2D princess from Disney – for now – Tiana’s story is not about finding the dream of true love, but finding the dream of owning a restaurant come to life. Tiana’s story tells children that dreams can come true, and that your wish sets your goal/dream – while hard-work gets you to the dream. This a good thing to tell children as it will help with them realising that to get your dream job is not all down to luck.
Having a dream like Tiana’s in a positive way in the story is a good idea, because it’s a dream that is something seen everyday – unlike the dreams that involve fame, e.g. pop star – and a job type that most people will land with. Another admirable quality was Tiana’s inner strength to remain true to what was right, and wrong, despite the temptation by the voodoo man.
The only negative I had with Tiana was that she seemed to be willing to give up her dream to be with Naveen – says “my dream wouldn’t be complete with out you” and is perfectly fine with staying as a frog.
Rapunzel, TANGLED (2010)
The first ever 3D princess from Disney, and the company’s 50th animated film.
Rapunzel is a young woman who wants to fulfil her dream to see the lanterns, which are let off by the king and queen on her birthday. She wants to leave her home and explore the outside world, despite being told by her “mother” the world is a dangerous place – similar to Ariel. She has the – reluctant – help of thief Flynn Rider – whose stolen crown she’s hid in the tower, to be her guide to the kingdom to watch the lanterns. This is her positive trait.
The only negative is that Rapunzel befriends theif and thugs who turn out to be nice. When in reality they could be bad people.
Merida, BRAVE (2012)
Merida is another princess whose story isn’t about finding true love.
Brave is a story about a young girl finding a way to be independent, and also it’s about the importance of family.
A positive thing about Merida is, for a start, her free spirit. And she does, in a way, represent every girl at that age – the want to find your own path and live the life you want. Also the films gives a good method as to how to understand your overbearing parent – through spending time with them. The only negative thing is that Merida is a bit too hot headed in some parts, though while understandable Merida could have been a bit more calm in some situations.
Elsa and Anna, FROZEN (2013)
The latest – and hopefully not the last – princess film from Disney.
The film is about brining back together a family (like in Brave), and that family is for life. A positive to Anna is her curiosity to explore the outside world, but a more honourable one is that she loves her sister Elsa unconditionally – despite Elsa always pushing people away.
Elsa and Anna’s story teaches children to be patient with their older sibling – that they’re just going through a rough time, and just be there for them.
Another positive to their story is that Elsa gives the subtle point that True Love and Love at First sight aren’t the same thing, (something which Kristoff extends later in the film). Another thing that Elsa shows is that it’s ok to put everything to one side once in a while, but you do need to come back if you want to move on.
A negative to Frozen is that, in my personal opinion, though while completely understandable, was the method Elsa’s parents used to help her “control” her powers. Though by trying to get her to keep it hidden away, this only dimmed Elsa’s confidence within herself, and therefore making Elsa hate herself. These inner emotions would affect Elsa’s external use of her powers, and by keeping Anna close by in her home – Anna didn’t have a real clue about the world.
My conclusion of the princesses:
In personal opinion, when putting the princess in a timeline, I feel that the growth of the princess’s behaviour is like that of a person’s life (And in a way could also show the growth of society, and their view of the female gender). Starting out young, innocent, and not with much of an idea of the world – Snow White – and then progressing to a strong, confident, wise young woman, Anna and Elsa.
Disney Fanatic. (2014) Disney Princesses – Are They a Positive or Negative Influence on Young Girls [Online]. Available from: http://www.disneyfanatic.com/disney-princesses-positive-negative-influence-young-girls/
Johnson, M, R. (2015) The Evolution of Disney Princesses and their Effect on Body Image, Gender Roles, and the Portrayal of Love [Online]. Available from: http://commons.lib.jmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=edspec201019
Manduke, J. (2015) Feminism and the Disney Princesses [Online]. Available from: http://the-artifice.com/feminism-disney-princesses/
Sternberg, R. (2013) The Disney Princess Effect on Young Girls and Feminist Theory [Online]. Available from: https://storify.com/sternb13/the-disney-princess-effect-on-young-girls-and-femi
Audio/visual resources (e.g. DVD, CD, live performance):
Frozen (2013) [Now TV]
Brave (2012) [Now TV]
Tangled (2010) [Now TV]
Princess and the Frog (2009) [Now TV]
Mulan (1998) [DVD]
Pocahontas (1995) [DVD]
Beauty and the Beast (1991) [DVD]
The Little Mermaid (1989) [DVD]
Sleeping Beauty (1959) [DVD]
Cinderella (1950) [Now TV]
Snow White (1937) [DVD]