As I've mentioned, I've been spending some time lately with Disney princesses. And wow, they piss me off. I mean, them pissing me off is why I started the subversive boxes in the first place, clearly, but now that I am looking for them I see them EVERYWHERE, and I really, really hate them.
Here is a list, chronologically, of the Disney princesses and why they suck.
1. Snow White (1937). Disney's first princess. Stock story--wicked stepmother, Garden of Eden-style poison apple, handsome prince. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Then there's Snow White's turn as a subservient house maid for the dwarves, the racism implicit in the good character being "white" and the evil character "black"...What bothers me the most about Snow White, I think, is the sick emphasis on her "purity." It makes me want to retch.
2. Cinderella (1950). My guess is that Cindyrella is Disney's most popular princess. You know the story: another wicked stepmother, this time with sisters to boot, another beautiful maid, another handsome prince. With freaky 50s class implications! The thing that pisses me off the most about it, though, I gotta tell you, is the conflation of big feet=ugly horrible woman and small feet=lovely perfect princess. Gah.
3. Aurora (1959). Princess Aurora, also known as Sleeping Beauty, has the distinction of being the Disney princess who takes the longest nap. The wicked stepmother becomes an evil witch, but once again we get a wake-up kissing prince, this time one to whom Aurora was betrothed at birth! And requisite sexless protector women (the good fairies), whose vanity over whose signature color will reign ends up getting Aurora caught--they are the most irritating part, I think. There's also a weird class aspect here--Aurora has to give up her class/crown in order to be safe, and there's a feeling of "noble poverty" that bothers the shit out of me.
4. Ariel (1989). Ariel is the Little Mermaid. I have no idea why Disney decided to pick the princesses back up after a 30 year hiatus, but when they did, they put her underwater. Possibly just so the princess could wear a bikini. Again we have a handsome prince and a stepmother/witch, and talking animals (they're a must in the previous stories too). Ariel is a bit different from the previous princesses in that she's more headstrong and has a bit more agency, but the script is really still the same. And still annoying. The man who saves Ariel is her dad and not her prince, but the stupid trope of falling in love with a handsome prince reigns supreme.
5. Belle (1991). Ariel was so successful Disney had to follow her up, so they kicked it old school with Beauty and the Beast, which is possibly the single most irritating and horrifiying Disney movie ever made. Belle isn't actually a princess, she's just a girl, and she is trades herself for her imprisoned father and is held hostage by the Beast. With whom she, of course, falls in love. Falls in love with her captor--yay. Then of course she "breaks his curse" and he becomes handsome and lovely. Because there ain't nothing worse than being ugly. Gag.
6. Jasmine (1992). Not only did Aladdin give Disney the chance to feature another navel-revealing princess, this time she got to live out basically the same story while being non-white. Yeehaw! Like Ariel, Jasmine is a bit spunkier than the early princesses, and she gets herself in all sorts of trouble. Jasmine's rescuer, Aladdin, is a commoner not a prince, and she never takes a big nap. The film also continues a trend away from female villains (the stepmother role), with Jafar. Which is all well and good, but it's still a racist piece of shit.
7. Pocahontas (1995). How excited were Disney execs when they realized how profitable non-white princesses could be? So excited that they followed Jasmine up with Native American princess Pocahontas! The story line does change up some here, with no evil older man/ugly dude/stepmother and a princess who doesn't get married and live happily ever after in the end. However, Pocahontas still bugs me, because it's racist and reactionary and historically inaccurate. It's almost progress, though.
8. Mulan (1998). Disney continues its run of non-white princesses (and inaccurate co-opting of other people's legends) with Mulan, about whom I have lots to say over at Heroine Content. Again, there is almost-progress here, but not quite.
Apparently, the next Disney princess will be Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog, upcoming in 2009. Unsurprisingly, Tiana will be the first Black Disney princess. My hopes were low to begin with, and only got lower when I saw Tiana's picture. I'm sure Disney will pat itself on the back for its cultural sensitivity (that's four non-white princesses in a row!), but will she possibly be anything other than another horrible stereotype (now with gender AND race!)?
For the purpose of the boxes, I am also making a honorary Princess of Peter Pan's Tinkerbell, just because I hate her so much. Disney released their version of Peter Pan in 1953, and in it Tinkerbell was jealous, mute, and possibly stupid. Gah. To go along with the revenue-generating Princesses, Disney has built a Fairies franchise around Tinkerbell. Interestingly, the other fairies are new characters, young hot fairies from Neverland. The company didn't chose to incorporate its old fairy godmothers from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Can't think of why that would be...
You can take a quiz to find out which princess you are here. I honestly wasn't sure which one to hope for when I took it. I got Pocahontas, which I guess is about as well as I could hope to do.