Ashley Weiss 01/23/10 Period 2 H. English 11 Does a Disney Princess Really Have the Perfect Life? As all old tales used to be told “Once upon a time…” was a very popular starting phrase. This one single phrase came to be well known in Disney films, made by the infamous Walt Disney himself. There were many other things that came to be known from Disney movies; however some of them may not be the most positive ideas. These thoughts take a lot of deep thinking and analyzing and can be very controversial as well as argued upon.
The main idea I bring forth today is the feminist view of most Disney movies, if not all of them. When looked closely upon, it is shown in Disney moves that all women need some type of man or “prince” in their life and cannot be left on their own. As well as needing a guardian, most women are well known for their housekeeping capabilities and make perfect “housewives”. Let us dig deeper into this aspect and see what there is to find, that may have never been intended to be found. In the beginning the very first feature length animated film to be made was created by Walt Disney and called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
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At first view, it seems to be a pleasant picture of a woman who enjoys singing and is simply waiting for her prince. Snow White is young, beautiful, pure (possibly hence the name “Snow White”), kind natured and simply obedient. She does not mind doing the housework and she truly believes that one day a handsome prince will come to her rescue of her evil stepmother and they will run away to a “happily ever after. ” However, why is it, that in order to have a happily ever after, there must be a prince involved. Is it so difficult for Snow White to simply decide to make her own life and move away from her wicked stepmother on her own?
She does seem to be at the age where she can be held responsible for herself. But it is shown in this movie that she cannot live a happy life without a prince. When Snow White’s stepmother attempts to kill her, Snow White runs away into the forest and becomes frightened and falls to the floor and begins to cry. She seems to show no strength for herself or bravery. As she finally picks herself up and moves on, she travels through the forest searching for a safe area. Ultimately, Snow White stumbles upon a small cottage in the middle of the woods and takes residence in there. When she lets herself in, the house is filthy and he decides to clean. This would be the simple “housewife” aspect of the princess. It is not her house and she by no means is asked or forced to clean the house, but she chooses too, as if it is her job. When the dwarves come back they welcome her to live with them and she takes care of them and becomes somewhat of a mother figure to them. The stepmom was Snow White’s only known enemy. Another noticeable aspect of all Disney movies is there is always a villain or villainess and occasionally the villainess happens to be the stepmother of the main character, such as in Cinderella as well.
Now, in Snow White, the evil stepmother poisons Snow White with an apple and she falls into a deep sleep, where she will not be awaken until kissed by a handsome prince. Soon, the prince comes to the rescue and sweeps Snow White off of her feet and they ride away into the sunset to live their “happily ever after”. There were videos after Snow White that had given the same perspective. For examples: Cinderella and/or Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella lived in a mansion, though was treated as a slave by her wicked stepmother, quite similar to Snow White’s situation.
Soon Cinderella was given a Fairy Godmother that granted her wish to go to the ball. Cinderella then met and fell in love with the prince. When the prince came to realize who she was, he soon fell in love with her too and they also lived their “happily ever after”. Sleeping Beauty begins to have the same plot line. Sleeping Beauty, formally known as Aurora or rose, was a beautiful young lady who was put under a trance on her sixteenth birthday. She was put into a deep slumber, similar to that of Snow White, and could only be woken by true loves kiss.
Shortly, Prince Phillip comes along and Sleeping Beauty’s dream of riding off into the sunset with her love becomes reality This became the notorious story line for Disney movies; and it seems to become quite repetitive when thought about. The young beautiful women are naturally home-makers. They clean the house, do the dishes, the laundry and everything else around the house day by day, simply waiting for that one man or prince to come and sweep them off their feet and give them a life. But a man is not the only way a lady can live her life fully and should never be considered so.
However, that seems to be the message passed along to the young generation when watching these movies. Young girls believe that “someday their prince will come” and they start to think until that day comes, they will wait and watch life pass by. As it can be taken from these three examples, although the three princesses are the main characters, they hardly contribute to the story line in any major fashion. These women are helpless pawns, as they can be called, to the power struggles of the other characters, waiting to be rescued by their handsome prince.
These princesses merely reinforce the stereotype of women having no major role and being passive about the actions surrounding them, merely used as a decoration, catering to mans desire. In the later years Disney seems to become aware of the change in woman power and slightly changes their take on their films; however they do not change everything completely. Three good movie examples for this statement would be “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Aladdin”. Through these films the princesses take on a somewhat stronger role and become a tad more independent of the men, however still not fully separate.
These ladies have goals of their own and ways of achieving them, though still need the help of men. In late 1989, Ariel in “the Little Mermaid” gives up her underwater life and her voice to become human and be with the man she loves. She still looks for the love of a man, however goes though her own challenges and paths to get to him. Ultimately, there is still dependence on the male character however. Ariel is saved by Prince Eric, who kills Ursula and reverses the wicked woman’s curse on the people of the sea.
Ariel was not able to do this on her own and required the help of her Prince. In 1991, the movie “Beauty and the Beast” was created and the princess, Belle, gives her life to the Beast as a prisoner in order to free her father. Now Belle certainly plays a big role in “taming” the beast, but it is still the beast who completes their “happily ever after” by disposing of Gaston. Moving on to 1992, with Aladdin. In this Disney movie, Jasmine disguises herself as a daily peasant in order to escape from the daily life as royalty in the palace.
She chooses not to have the perfect life and does not go in search of love or a prince. But, although Jasmine is just as smart and cunning as Aladdin, she still needs him in order to defeat Jafaar and rescue her from his grips. The Disney princesses in this area of time reflect the changes in the view of women and their equality with man-women are no longer weak and submissive to all of mans word, but they are also not quite fully independent of them yet. In the mid to late 90’s Disney came up with two movies that featured two prominent female characters, Mulan and Pocahontas.
These two female characters defied the society’s view of women and cultural normality, proving women could go on without the male influence or superiority. Pocahontas, created in 1995, was the daughter of the Powhatan chief, who saved the English captain John Smith from execution. Soon Pocahontas was faced with the decision of leaving her tribe and family in order to follow Smith to England and live her life with her love, or to stay with her people, shockingly, Pocahontas chooses the latter- a surprising ending for a Disney film, where two lovers lived happily, but apart.
Mulan, which was released in 1998, portrayed a Chinese female who masked herself in order to appear as a male soldier and take her ailing father’s place in the battle with the Huns. In the beginning, Mulan is viewed as a failure for not knowing a woman’s place in the patriarchal society. However, throughout the movie Mulan begins to prove herself to be as capable as any man can be, if not more capable then some. Mulan is able to preserver through the strenuous training for the army and eventually saves the entire Chinese dynasty through an act of cunning smartness and strength.
It is a constant debate on whether media simply reflects or can actually shape society. In terms of Disney, it can be shown that it is a dynamic mix of influences, both documenting ideals of feminism and imparting them as well. Both of these can be done through the use of princesses, who in the beginning were weak passive beauties and in the end were smart, strong-willed heroes. As it is shown throughout the years, Disney had improved much of its views of women. We started with helpless damsels, as they could be called, waiting for their princes to come save them and live their life.
It should be known now that a woman does not need a man to complete her life. In this century we have many successful women who have made it on their own and can continue to go far without a man by her side. Then we slowly moved on to the better view, where women had their own ideas and wishes, but they needed a tad bit of help in order to complete them. Finally we come to what we have most recently and starting to transform now, the idea that women can be completely independent and do not need a man by their side in order to complete their life or make their decisions, for women can do it on their own.