Are the Disney Princesses Feminists?

The new riot grrrl on the block
The new riot grrrl on the block

Pixar's new animated movie Brave opened this past weekend, and it kicked butt. It brought in over $66 million in the United States, and these dollars don't include the mountains of Brave-related paraphernalia. The movie focuses on the dogmatic Scottish princess Merida and her disdain for doing things her parents want her to do (marry, keep her hair kempt).

The reviews of the film are mixed. It's Pixar-pretty but no WALL-E or Toy Story. The compilation movie review Web site Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 75 percent, which is okay, but as Lisa Kennedy from the Denver Post poignantly states, "Saying that Brave is entertaining but not astonishing is pretty much admitting your straight-A student got a B."

More than the reviews and its financial success, what's garnered the biggest headlines is the fact that Brave is all about girl power, and this little princess is assertive and independent, which is crazy! Maybe the suffragettes did have an impact after all.

Granted, Pixar has not made anyone's "studios that make girl-centric films" list; the most memorable females from the Toy Story franchise were Barbies, but the media has really latched onto this concept like hair on lip gloss. What I find perplexing is why a children's cartoon about a defiant princess is Jezebel-worthy news? I can barely name a cartoon not about a strong-willed chick.

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As the years have passed in the cartoon world, heroines have become increasingly independent. This does not make them feminist films by any means as, sadly, the young lady's independence is usually the thing that gets her ass in trouble, but that doesn't stop these girls from trying. How feminist are Disney princesses and how have they evolved over the years? Let us track the progression of the recalcitrant cartoon heroine, shall we?

Snow White

Man up and stop crying!
Man up and stop crying!

Snow White was the OG of cartoon princesses. She was über-fem, with shiny black hair and ruby-red lips. She also enjoyed cleaning house, which doesn't top our list of Woman Power things to do. I will give her some street cred, though, for being cool with living in a house with seven dudes; I can't imagine how many times a day she had to put the toilet seat down in that place.

Defying Feature: Being confident enough in her womanliness to allow her Prince to wear her lipstick. Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 4

Cinderella

It would have been way more punk rock if she wore that dress to the ball.
It would have been way more punk rock if she wore that dress to the ball.

Cinderella had to have been somewhat of a tough chick to put up with her two awful stepsisters and a-hole of a stepmother. Cinderella used a secret weapon that doesn't occur to many women when dealing with the jealousy and cattiness of their power-hungry female counters: kill 'em with kindness and/or singing animals. However, Cinderella is almost too kind to be a "normal" woman, as she never once unleashes her inner bitch. Even when her stepmonster rips her dress apart, she doesn't lash out. She cries like a girl.

Defying Feature: Hanging with rats. Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 3

Alice in Wonderland

Yes, why not follow this random hole leading into a tree? No one can tell you what to do!
Yes, why not follow this random hole leading into a tree? No one can tell you what to do!

Alice is nothing short of combative the entire movie. She doesn't want to listen to her sister's reading, so she chases a strange rabbit down a hole. She eats whatever precarious foods she comes across, and she has the gall to tell the crazy Queen of Hearts where she can shove her pink flamingo croquet mallet. You go, girl.

Defying Feature: Taking candy and tea from (strange) strangers Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 7

Sleeping Beauty

She totally just met this guy!
She totally just met this guy!

Just like all women, Princess Aurora was cursed from the day she was born. While she is not a rule-breaker, she is rather upset upon finding out that she is a princess. Most women would jump at this news. Sleeping Beauty is not a cartoon that's necessarily about a brawny babe, but it does have an underlying secret protofeminist message: Touch the spindle of a sewing machine and you'll die. That's right, ladies, throw those sewing machines out the window and buy yourself a pair of pants! Betty Friedan must have been proud.

Defying Feature: Dancing with a strange guy in the woods and asking him back to her place Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 6

The Little Mermaid

Nothing says feminist like a clam bra.
Nothing says feminist like a clam bra.

Ariel is a mermaid who, for some bizarre reason, wants to leave her lovely underwater kingdom and become human. Her father flips out, and this only makes Ariel more disobedient. To add insult to injury, she seeks assistance from her father's archnemesis. Ariel doesn't give a what!

Defying Feature: Lying, stealing human objects, combing hair with fork. Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 8   Jasmine (From Aladdin)

Are the Disney Princesses Feminists?

It's perplexing for us common folk to understand why princesses are so angry about the fact that they are princesses and run away and pretend to be like us common folk. It happens all the time with these autocrats. This is exactly what Jasmine does. She is a saucy girl who acts however she wants. She is self-made (kinda), and has no interest in marrying a man just because he has money and a flying carpet. We could assume this means she is crazy, but as comedienne Wendy Lieberman once said, "...don't marry for money, divorce for money."

Defying Feature: Running away from home, but still using her princess power to get her man released from jail Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 6

Pocahontas

Laugh at his jokes, make him think he's funny, then he'll be putty in your hand.
Laugh at his jokes, make him think he's funny, then he'll be putty in your hand.

Pocahontas goes against all her tribesmen to protect the man she loves, even if he and his people are there to spread mass destruction and chicken pox. She is a woman of her own making and doesn't take nonsense from anyone, except a talking willow tree.

Defying Feature: Breaking racial barriers for love, being a total kick-ass who's not afraid to show a little leg (and everything else) Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 9

Rapunzel from Tangled

Hit him with the frying pan!
Hit him with the frying pan!

Unlike so many of us women who are in a constant state of self-deprecation, Rapunzel doesn't apologize for who she is. She knocks out a guy with a frying pan, then runs away with him, carries herself just fine in a bar full of thugs and in the end she gets everything she wants, and she has good hair.

Defying Feature: Using sex as a weapon and that weapon is her hair. Girl Power on a Scale of 1 to 10: 10


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