Last time, I talked about the Best, the Underrated and the honourable mentions. This time, I’ll be looking at the not so great princesses. The ones with zero personality. The princesses with questionable morals or motives. But before I do, I’ll be starting with the one princess who I think always gets an unfair bad rap.
Cinderella (Cinderella, 1950)
We’ve all heard the feminist whining about this one. There have been countless articles written about how unempowering and dangerous the Disney princesses are to girls, and Cinderella usually makes the top of the list. They complain that Cinderella just sits around, does nothing and dreams of a better life while making no effort to improve her current situation.
Cinderella’s stepmother Lady Tremaine is one of Disney’s greatest villains. She is a classic example of a controlling narcissistic person, and the instigator in a highly abusive relationship. Abuse victims such as Cinderella have no control and no power in a situation like this. Their abusers give them a sense of powerlessness.
However, this doesn’t make Cinderella a bad character. I actually find her quite admirable. She’s patient, kind-hearted and still manages to find happiness in her everyday existence while putting up with three people controlling every aspect of her life. I don’t know about anyone else, but there has to be some good morals there. And since when did being patient and kind become undesirable traits? Cinderella is emotionally strong. Physical toughness does not a strong woman make. This is a different kind of strength. One that I think deserves more attention and appreciation. Go watch the movie again if you ever get the chance. It holds up pretty well.
Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989)
I’m just going to go on record here by saying I liked The Little Mermaid when I was a little girl but my fear of Ursula kept it from being my favourite. I’m serious. Even seeing a picture of Ursula was enough to send me into terror.
I loved Ariel though. I spent hours in the bathtub trying to make my hair flow like hers, and I constantly wished to sing like her (now that I’m a professional singer, I realise that my own voice is unique and great in its own way). However, as I got older, I heard that Ariel was either loved or hated. And going back to the movie, I can see both sides. She’s definitely a whiny teenager. She gives up everything for a man she’s never even spoken to. And yeah, she really doesn’t grow, change or particularly learn anything by the end of the movie. She gets exactly what she wants.
But at the same time, she has a drive and a passion that’s certainly admirable. So, is Ariel a bad character? No. She’s too flawed to be among the best princesses, but still likeable enough to avoid the worst list.
Pocahontas (Pocahontas, 1995)
Oh, how I adored this movie. Absolutely loved it. Then a couple of years ago I watched it again at the age of 20. And I sadly had to conclude that Pocahontas wasn’t anywhere near as good as I remembered. Not to say the movie doesn’t have some very strong elements. The music is excellent and the art design is amazing. But the story is so dull and predictable and the characters are straight up boring, including Pocahontas. They try to make her adventurous and free-spirited but she’s still not very interesting. However, what saves her from being on the Worst list is that she does contribute to the story and is the one to stand against the fighting. Sadly, Pocahontas is a classic example of seeing a film without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.
Drum roll please, for the weakest Disney Princesses.
Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937)
I don’t know whether to blame the fact that it’s a fairy tale and therefore written this way, or that it was made in 1937, but I don’t think Snow White even gets that excuse. The dwarves have really fun and memorable personalities. The Evil Queen is terrifyingly awesome. So why on earth did they have to make Snow White so utterly bland?
She’s not bad or anything, just dull. Sure, she’s nice but she doesn’t really do much except scream and cry. Although to be fair she does have a bit of substance when it comes to cleaning and making the dwarves do things. There’s that. She’s not quite as bad as….
Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, 1959)
Aurora is rock bottom. The weakest Disney princess of them all. Go watch Sleeping Beauty again and marvel at how completely useless Aurora is. She does nothing, hardly appears on screen and has little personality. Her weakness is highlighted by the other great characters in the film. The fairies are a riot. Maleficent is incredible. The kings are charming and funny. The climax is one of the greatest in any Disney film. But Aurora and Prince Phillip are a total waste of space. We’re supposed to care that she’s fallen asleep. You need to want them to end up together. And honestly, I really don’t care about either of them. Eighteen minutes of screen time for the title character doesn’t leave a lot of room for development. And that’s not a good thing.
Princess Aurora is the essence of why people hate the Disney Princesses. She is every stereotype. Boring. Bland. Whiny. Meets a man for 5 minutes and decides he’s the one. If I ever watch the movie again, I think I’ll have the fast forward button on standby.
So there’s my list of Best and Worst Disney Women. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I missed a really important one? Let me know in the comments.
Next Week: Top Ten Touching Simpsons Moments.