Everyone knows the story of Snow White. It's classic, clean, pure, and altogether a fairytale. Impossible not to love. We're given this heroine as little girls: a beautiful, skinny, kind, and reserved princess with blush red lips and rosy cheeks. We want to be just like her. But the thing is that Snow White isn't really the heroine of her story at all. She sits by idly, waiting. If it weren't for the prince, she'd be stuck in the same eternal sleep for life. At the end of the day, Snow White was simply a pretty object being tossed around by circumstance. Envied by the queen for her beauty, prized by the prince for the very same thing, adored by the dwarves for her skill with cooking, cleaning, and housekeeping. But what did she really even do?
The fascinating thing about media is that it tends to evolve with social reform and express the big movements of society. Something I've realized more than ever is the slow but effective evolution of these Disney princesses. When Disney released "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937, this princess was the ideal picture of a woman. Beautiful and complacent. But that mold didn't hold for long. I think it's inspiring to look at this chronological evolution of media and truly realize the progress we have made as women. These heroines represent us and the foothold we have made for ourselves into bigger and better things, and I think no matter how old we are, we should celebrate them. They represent us, after all.
The princesses represented in the '30s, '40s, and '50s were all the same: quiet, reserved, and beautiful. Cinderella and Aurora were much the same as Snow White, purely a product of the world around them, tossed and turned by circumstances. They all sat idly by waiting for their princes. Cinderella's famous but dated tune "Someday My Prince Will Come" is clear evidence of the fact that women were stuck. Simple and plain. The idea of feminism had hardly been uttered into the realm of society yet.
But then a mermaid named Ariel came along in the '80s and started to shake things up a little bit. Ariel was stubborn and bold, two qualities women were expected to never exhibit. She was the first princess to show young girls that it was OK to have a voice and to go after something you wanted, even if you have to be a little rebellious to do it. But at the end of the day, Ariel still waited for her prince to save her. Not to mention that she left behind her entire world to become a part of his. The same goes for Jasmine and Belle. We see guts, rebellion, and budding independence. We see a new beginning. But in their distress, they still needed a man to save them. They weren't the real heroes of their stories.
Then came the '90s. This age truly reflected the progress women had made for themselves, when Disney finally stopped giving us idle women and gave us powerful ones. Pocahontas and Mulan were the first Disney princesses to really be heroes. Instead of men saving them, they were the ones to save the men. Every bit as capable and powerful as their princes, maybe even more so. These were the first Disney films to teach young girls that you do not need a man to save you. That you, as a woman, have the power to be the hero of your own story. These princesses were the message that feminism had finally taken hold of society, and it was not letting go.
Into the 2000s, it's only been more exciting to see this continued evolution. We see messages of girl power and a reliance on one another in "Frozen." And for the first time in 2016, we saw a princess finally rocking some curves. "Moana" showed us how beautiful you can be even without a corset-shaped waist and stick-skinny limbs.
I'm proud to come from this age and to say I can reflect back on all of these classic films and really see change. And I'm glad to be able to say that the next generation of girls will be growing up with real heroines across their screens, pointing the way for them and showing them that having a man is really only icing on the cake.