Princesses To Feminists: The Evolution of Disney Princesses

Princesses To Feminists: The Evolution of Disney Princesses

Disney's movement toward better role models for young girls
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“Once upon a time…” the iconic phrase that has opened countless children’s stories for centuries. Recently, Disney has been the author of these stories that have stolen the hearts of many. However, some problems have arisen with Disney’s narration of these stories, particularly in the stories protagonists – the princess.

Young girls are utterly captivated by princesses and idolize these fairy tale characters, but problematic messages are being sent by their idols: only perfection is beautiful and men are always needed to provide. Despite this criticism, Disney princess movies have become increasingly more forward thinking over time. As these movies have evolved in the span of 75 years, their plots have become less sexist and more female-driven, and their characters have become acceptable role models for young girls through exemplary qualities such as imperfection and self-sufficiency.

Snow White, from the first Disney princess movie, is the least appropriate role model for young girls. When she first appears, she is scrubbing stairs and wearing rags, but at the same time wearing red lipstick, blush, eye shadow, and she has her hair perfectly primped. This image immediately sends a sexist message about beauty and gender roles: women are to look flawless at all times and serve only to complete household duties.

This message is further driven throughout the rest of the film. In the whole duration of the movie, Snow White’s image never changes; she always has on makeup and never has a hair out of place. Upon the first sight of mess inside an abandoned house, her first thought is to start cleaning, regardless of the fact that the house belongs to strangers.

Eventually, she meets these strangers (the dwarfs) and cooks them supper, again portraying Disney’s statement on gender roles.These two points reinforce that a woman’s sole purpose is to cook and clean, not only in her own household, but outside of it as well. In addition to her depiction as a picture-perfect housekeeper, Snow White is also depicted as a damsel in distress. She takes a fatal bite of the witch’s “magic wish apple,” wishing for Prince Charming to carry her away and live happily ever after. This leaves her in a coma-like state from which she needs “true love’s kiss” to be awakened.

Consequently, the plot suffers from the sexist undertones of her needing to be rescued and the fact that the whole plot of this movie is driven by Snow White’s beauty. She is always depicted as perfect and shown cleaning, cooking, or singing. Because of the sexist plot and the unrealistic image of beauty in this movie, Snow White is the least acceptable role model for young girls.

"Frozen," the newest Disney princess movie, revolves around two female protagonists, sisters Elsa and Anna, of whom the latter is currently the most ideal role model for young girls. Elsa was born with magical powers over ice and snow, and in her childhood, accidently struck Anna with her powers. Anna survived, but at the cost of her memories of Elsa’s powers and her relationship with Elsa altogether. The rest of the movie follows Anna’s desperate attempt to figure out why Elsa has locked her out and to fix her broken relationship with her sister. It is in this plot that Disney succeeds in telling a story without any sexist undertones.

"Frozen" is female-driven by a story about sisterhood, with love as a by-product of this initial plot. In addition, the character Anna is the most acceptable role model for young girls because she is courageous and flawed. Anna is seen for the first time with long red hair and a long, green dress, standing in front of Elsa’s locked door. The next time Anna is seen, she is sleeping, but she does not resemble Snow White when she slept. In this scene, Anna is snoring and drooling with an outlandish bed head and a stray hair in her mouth – not a very pretty sight, and that is exactly the point.

This image sends the message that a princess does not have to look good at all times and neither does a little girl. Anna’s image is also constantly changing, unlike Snow White. Aside from her image, there is depth to Anna’s character; she turns out to be brave and determined. She goes off into the mountains by herself to find Elsa and make things right, showing complete self-sufficiency.

By the end of the movie, she sacrifices her life to save Elsa’s, regardless of their still broken relationship, showing her unconditional love for her sister. Both of these feats, along with her reasonable image of beauty, show Anna as an utterly realistic and acceptable role model, and a great improvement in Disney’s attempt to make forward thinking, less sexist protagonists.

Disney has planned to release their newest princess movie, "Moana," which brings up questions about how the female protagonist will be portrayed. Early in the past, both Disney’s plot and characters sent poor messages of beauty and femininity to female viewers. However, as Disney princess movies have evolved through the years, their protagonists have grown away from stereotypical, sexist gender roles and have gradually become more flawed and self-sufficient. As a result, the Disney princess has grown to be a more acceptable role model for young girls. Will the same be true for Moana?

Cover Image Credit: flickr.com

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.

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Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.


I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.


I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.


As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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