The Evolution Of The Disney Princess
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The Evolution Of The Disney Princess

How the ideal princess has changed over time.

The Evolution Of The Disney Princess
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Who doesn’t enjoy a good Disney princess movie? Toddlers and teenagers alike curl up on the couch to sing along with Mulan, Elsa, and the rest of the gang. Disney princess movies are some of the most popular movies of all time, impacting the lives of people worldwide for decades. In the same way, the lives of people, particularly women, have impacted Disney princess movies. The definition of the ideal Disney princess evolves alongside women’s empowerment. The original princesses, such as Snow White and Aurora, are passive and wait for their prince to save them. As the years progress, society is being introduced to increasingly headstrong and independent princesses.

The first Disney princess film to be released was "Snow White" in 1937. Throughout this iconic film, following her expulsion by her jealous step-mother, emphasis was placed on Snow White’s desire to clean the dwarves’ home and care for them. Later on in the film, when she takes a bite of her step-mother’s poisoned apple, she is saved by the true love she had been crushing on throughout the whole film. "Cinderella," released in 1950, and "Sleeping Beauty," released in 1959, feature similar protagonists. Both of these princesses dream of finding their true love and are eventually rescued by them in the end. These princesses directly reflected what was considered the ideal woman at the time. For example, in 1937, Snow White cooked, cleaned, and took care of men, which was common of most women in that decade. It wasn’t the norm for them to doctors or lawyers, but rather stay at home mothers who tended to domestic responsibilities while maintaining a nurturing personality, making sure everything was ready for their man when he came home from work.

The Disney princess films released in later decades feature a different sort of princess. Released in 1989, "The Little Mermaid" is considered to feature the first well-rounded princess; she voices her opinions and interests, and characters such as her father and Sebastian are quick to point out her flaws. While she does give up her life as a mermaid for a man, she fights for her dream of becoming a human by herself. Several years later, "Beauty and the Beast" was released, featuring Belle, a beauty who loves to read and therefore considered peculiar by the locals. Belle marches to the beat of her own drum without caring what the townspeople say about her, including the town hunk Gaston, whom most girls are fawning over. She saves her father from captivity from the Beast, and ends up caring for the broken prince vying for her love. The movie "Aladdin" features princess Jasmine, who repeatedly rejects potential suitors, claiming she is not a prize to be won. The princesses shown in this time period are increasingly headstrong and opinionated, but are still in need of a little saving.

The most recent Disney princesses are considered to be the heroes of their own story, not necessarily looking for romance. For example, the movie "Brave" doesn’t even feature a romantic plot line; rather, it focuses on family values, as does the recent hit "Frozen." The movies that do focus on romance don’t end in the typical wedding scene that earlier films featured. "Pocahontas," for example, features an independent young woman who wishes to find her path in life and falls in love with John Smith along the way; in the end, she chooses to remain with her family instead of giving up her identity to travel to England with him. "Mulan" features a strong woman who disguises herself as a soldier to protect her father. While she and General Shang share some romantic tension at the end of the film, the happily-ever-after isn’t a wedding; rather, it is Mulan saving China.

Disney princess films have evolved alongside society, creating princesses who are the heroes of their own stories. Even when they fall in love with a prince, they don’t necessarily need him to save them. However, this doesn’t mean that the earlier classics should be disregarded; they merely featured what was considered ideal of women at the time. As women become more empowered, the definition of the ideal Disney princess continues changing into a progressively more heroic, independent, and headstrong woman for toddlers and teenagers alike to look up to.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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