If it's one thing that makes Disney so magical, it's their princesses. There are now 10 princesses, who you could argue are ambassadors for Disney, each with their own personality and look. It all began with Snow White and over the decades we've met more princesses starring in their own roles, but they haven't always been the same.
We've seen the role of princesses' change quite dramatically, which is a reflection of how society sees women as a whole. If we analyse the movies further we can see why this is the case.
Disney Golden Age
In 1937, we saw Disney's first fully animated feature film, Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Serving as the evil queen's maid, she lives a fairly menial existence, until she escapes the kingdom and stumbles across the dwarf's home. However, she is still not safe from the evil queen's plans and it takes a prince to come to the rescue.
Following this we have Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, who both become victims of an evil villain and also require being saved by a prince. There seems to be a trend here. The princesses at this time were seen as helpless victims who needed to be saved. For the time, society saw this as normal. Unfortunately, women were not given the same equal rights as men, as they do today and this was in a way, reflected in the movies.
Each princess was resigned to house-keeping tasks and were perceived as having very little ambition, but this was all about to change following the Disney Renaissance.
After the turbulent few years after Disney's Golden Age, the movie studio made a comeback in 1989 with the release of The Little Mermaid. Perhaps one of the most popular princesses, Ariel was a character with ambition and dreams. No longer was the Disney princess seen as a victim of an evil captor.
Ariel was indeed ambitious and would seek out her goal through any means necessary, even if it did mean she had to sacrifice her voice along the way. However, she still needed a prince to save her at the end of the day.
This became slightly more ambiguous with the later Disney films that followed during the renaissance. Mulan didn't require a prince to save her and she ended up defeating the bad guys by herself. Pocahontas seemed to be caught up in between a conflict and some could argue that she actually saved John Smith.
The Second Renaissance
The rumours of Disney's Second Renaissance are becoming true. Disney had another turbulent time towards the end of the 90's and start of the 2000's. With this comes a change in how we see the princesses again. This time they are far more ambitious, standing alone against odds to achieve their dreams. Tiana wanted to build her own restaurant and Rapunzel wanted to escape the tower and see the world. Both ultimately achieved want the wanted to do with very little outside help.
Not only this, but we are seeing a complete role-reversal as the princes are now the victims! The cursed frog and the wanted thief from The Princess and the Frog and Tangled now need the help from the princess to save them.
We are now seeing women as strong individuals who are capable of achieving their own goals, a far cry from the Disney films of the 1930's and 40's. This echoes how media echoes what we see in society. But let's not forget what these movies are really about and the true message which has developed with Disney's story telling.
The stories told by Disney have moved away from the fairy-tales and focus more on reaching our dreams. You would be able to notice this whenever you visit the parks such as Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Inspirational messages are plastered everywhere encouraging you to follow your dreams and if you wish it and work hard enough, they will come true.
This is ultimately what Disney has become and the princesses' act as a story telling device for this. We can always expect this from Disney now; with the only thing changing is how we act as a society which will affect how the stories play out.
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