is it okay: to be a disney princess?
What if Prince Charming was actually a rapist with necrophiliac tendencies, already married to a sociopath? It is a well trodden path that being a Disney Princess means a life dedicated towards the ultimate goal of getting married. Sure, you may fight a few battles, win a few wars, say a few curt words, and rebel by moving in with seven men, but at the end of it all the music will swell, your frock will be frilled and you will be gazing lovingly into your two dimensional man’s eyes as the camera zooms out on an opulent wedding.
Further criticisms include the fact that Disney princesses are also invariably beautiful and thin – albeit a bit fashion crippled (one day-to-day outfit for a film that can span anything from days to years? Hygienic.) Ugliness is for villains; the female of whom also share the ultimate goals of being beautiful and being number one in the eyes of a man (see: every evil stepmother ever and Ursula the Sea Witch). Either that or they are just bitter spinsters. Then we get into the territory that most of our princesses are teenagers (or less) when they get married off to the first male person to give them the time of day. Love happens in the time it takes to lock eyes, take a twirl around the dance floor, or to kiss a bit of apple out of your throat.
But this isn’t unique to Disney (well, other than the apple thing). The same can be said about most romantic comedies, soap operas, musicals, One Direction fan-fiction – pretty much any movie with any love plot in it ever. Disney just cops a lot of flack and attention because it is well-known, widely referenced and, let’s face it, the best thing ever.
In reality, Disney is really a nice, pantone veneer over a much harsher and guttural series of folk stories and disquietingly true tales. There’s the story where the evil stepmother who wanted to eat Snow White’s lungs and liver, the Beauty and the Beast where in the place of Gaston, Belle has two douchebucket sisters who try to get her eaten, there’s the Cinderella with the foot mutilation, the Cinderella with the binge eating sister and the Cinderella with the sandal snatching eagle. Those are mild however, compared to these three:
Pocahontas: Actually a true story. In reality she was around the age of 10 when John Smith, portly, older, and not actually her love interest came to Jamestown. Her tribe and the settlers lived peacefully for a number of years until tensions mounted, she was kidnapped and her father refused to pay the full ransom. She converted to Christianity, married a recently widowed tobacco farmer called John Rolfe (who was quite anxious about the ethics and religious implications of marrying a “savage”), had a son with him, and was taken to England as a shining example of the “tamed savage”. This was all actually (somewhat covered) in Pocahontas 2, which ends on her on a ship bound for home. What they didn’t include was that she never made it, dying in the first leg of the trip of unknown causes. She was 22.
Ariel: Hans Christian Anderson’s original Little Mermaid has the protagonist sacrificing her voice in order to be made human to win the love of a prince. Every step she takes is like walking on needles or sharp knives, but she bears it just to be near the man who seems to spend every waking minute telling her that she is awesome because she is a) devoted to him, b) looks like the princess who took credit for saving his life when actually it was the little mermaid. It’s OK though, he tells her she should be ‘with him always’ (of course by this he means she can sleep on a velvet cushion outside his door. Romantic!). He eventually marries this other princess, and the mermaid stabs herself to death.
Sleeping Beauty: This is actually based on Sun, Moon and Talia, the story of a lord’s daughter prophesied to be in danger from flax. Naturally she touches flax and falls down like dead. Her father can’t bear to bury his daughter and instead has her placed in one of his country properties. Time passes, and a local King is hunting nearby and finds his way into the house and discovers Talia. Unable to wake her up through prodding, shaking or having sex with her unconscious body, he leaves. Continuing her streak of good luck, she gets pregnant and gives birth to twins, Sun and Moon, one of whom sucks on her finger and dislodges the flax. The King’s wife is less than impressed when she finds out, and orders the royal cook to capture, kill and serve the twins up as the King’s dinner and summons Talia to court in order to be burnt alive. The cook kills two lambs instead, and the King finds out about the plot. Chivalrous man that he is, he kills his wife instead, marries Talia and they all live happily ever after. Awkward times await when Sun and Moon ask Mummy and Daddy how they met.
It’s better to be a Disney Princess than what inspired one. Disney is a mist filled mirror held up to the reality, both past and present, with real world relevance. While Disneyland may be touted as “the happiest place on earth” (side note: now grammatically confusing due to there being multiple Disneylands) if you take a closer look, the stories, messages and morals are a lot more grim. Just not Brothers Grimm.
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