Sometimes, I just don’t know what to say. The next time disney pulls something from the vault and releases it as “remastered” I’m going to have some questions!
crossposted from Sociological Images
For more posts on Disney princesses, look here, here, here, here, and here. Two other great posts include this rejection letter (”we don’t hire women”) and this post on the original inclusion of black slaves in Fantasia.
[Love Isn’t Enough editor’s note: Note, too, that but for Jazmin, who is kind of brownish, Disney’s princesses hold fast to a European-influenced beauty hierarchy.]
Hat tip to Jezebel for alerting me to this post. Also on Jezebel, see what one woman is doing to make Barbies more diverse. It’s awesome! I’ve never wanted a Barbie before, but now…
When I was in high school, I did a report on Race and Gender in Disney for History Day. The report itself was weak (I was 14 years old), and I still have a soft spot for Disney, since I was raised with it and their movies are visually masterful, but this post reaffirms what I was trying to get across to the judges: that Disney does promote messages that are actively harmful, and whether or not that’s deliberate, they have a responsibility as providers of entertainment for children to be responsible in the messages being sent. Then that got into a whole capitalism-responsibility debate (if you don’t like it, don’t watch, etc.), plus the fact that my topic was considered a bit unsavory, I think.
Some major things that I really felt strongly on were the rewriting of Pocahontas’s history (REAL PERSON) and the Mulan story (Here: Mulan was a SUPER-PATRIOTIC lady who served in the army for her family since her brothers were too young, and in the end, astonished her comrades by revealing she was a woman, since they never would have guessed. Vs. Disney’s Mulan who goes into and stays in the army for her father, falls in love with her commander, and, when revealed, uses, you guessed it, her sexuality, this time socially conditioned sexuality, to save… a man. Although apparently, there was a Chinese TV show that used the romance theme as a gag when Mulan’s general has to confront his “homosexuality.”). Oh, and Fantasia, of course, but no one ever believes me on that until they see the video for themselves.
“Beauty and the Beast” tends to break the mold (despite Belle’s lack of a mother, her motherish “fairy godmother” Mrs. Potts, and the clownish “gag fat woman” dresser/chiffarobe/thing). HOWEVER, this is due to the outright theft of the “Belle as bookish” motif from the novel “Beauty” by Robin McKinley (published fully 23 years before the 1991 movie release)– the library gift in particular is almost word-for-word what ended up in the film– in response to protest over “The Little Mermaid,” plus the theft of the Gaston archetype (and other visuals) from Cocteau’s film “Beauty and the Beast.”
Esmerelda, oddly, is not included as a Disney Princess at all, despite Mulan’s inclusion, and she’s not a princess, either. I think it’s because Esmerelda is seen as too sexual to be a role model, honestly. Then again, I remember my main impressions of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” being that Esmerelda was gorgeous, and that Frollo was waaaaaay too creepy for me to begin to be comfortable with. Speaking of sex, Tinkerbell is heading the “Disney Fairies” line, which is nice, especially with the introduction of POC as other fairies; but she was originally introduced in Peter Pan (which is like a black hole of women- and race-related issues, seriously) as petty, vain, and sexualized, but who eventually redeems herself. I understand Hugo didn’t help by killing Esmerelda off in the source material, but as I recall, Tinkerbell dies in the Peter Pan book, as well. I guess you can sanitize the sex out of a white character, but not out of a brown one?
I’m concerned about “The Princess and the Frog,” because at first I was hoping Disney was just feeding off of HBO Family’s “Fairy Tales for Every Child,” but she still appears to be a traditionally “European” princess as far as dress and hairstyling go. Her turning into a frog for most of the movie is also an issue for me, but I was more stunned by the giant, fat, bipedal gator (a la All Dogs Go To Heaven) in the trailer to really analyze the “ethnically ambiguous” prince. Despite how happy I am we’re finally, officially getting a black princess, I would watch it by myself before I took anybody’s kid to see it.