Disney is famous for their use of the idea of a “princess” as the lead character in many of their works, ranging from classics like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to Renaissance era heroines like Ariel and Mulan to contemporary CGI characters like Moana and Elsa. While they’ve often been criticised for their portrayal of princesses as damsels who can’t fend for themselves, I’ve often found that this doesn’t ring true – they are more often than not fairly fleshed out characters with dreams, aspirations, and flaws who have significant agency in their story.
This isn’t to say that they’re feminist icons that break the wheel of the patriarchy but the criticisms are primarily against the “idea” of a Disney Princess rather than the actuality. With that in mind, let’s expand the definition of Disney Princess a little bit for the three discussion points I’m bringing up: We’ll call it “Disneyesque Princesses”.
Three main discussion points are as follows:
Firstly, what are some aspects of Disneyesque Princesses that you genuinely enjoy in a story? Personally, I like the focus on finding one’s identity as the central driver of the plot.
Secondly, what are some elements that you wish would be further explored? Personally, I wish that themes of responsibility would be further explored. It can be pretty jarring to try to connect the fun adventures of princess movies with the fact that millions of peasants could be relying on this person to make decisions for their kingdom at some point.
Thirdly, has anyone ever actually read, watched, or played a story that genuinely takes the princess-locked-in-castle-by-dragon plotline seriously and presents it without irony or subversion? The only piece of media I can think of is Mario Brothers, but over time the series has moved away from that considerably, to the point where in Odyssey, Peach tells both Mario and Bowser, basically, to leave her the fuck alone. Have you ever stormed a castle and slain a dragon to rescue a princess, legitimately, without subversion, playing the trope completely straight?