The Case of the Missing Princesses

My daughter (the big klutz) broke her favourite Disney princess pink cup the other day, so being the hopeless softie that I am I went straight onto the Disney store website to order her another. Now this is where I ran into a problem that perhaps only parents of young children who love Disney princesses can relate to, Disney have released a new version of the pink cup and this new version no longer features one of my daughter’s favourite princesses. That princess being Princess Tiana from the film Princess and the Frog. Now, please bear with me. This article is not just about the highly stressful problems that 5 year old Disney obsessed little girls face.

-Tiana-princess-tiana-33893086-245-200

For some time, my daughter has been demanding an explanation as to why Mulan (another of her favourites), Pocahontas and Merida didn’t feature on her pink cup. She has also wondered why they don’t ever feature in the Disney Princess magazine. You see, my daughter like many other children her age, is incredibly observant (it is at times quite frankly annoying). She notices things like “why are there only 5 chocolate coins left when yesterday there were six”, “where is that amazing cereal box that I stuck a bit of foil to that I brought home from school 8 months ago” and she also notices missing Princesses from Disney merchandise. She has also started to notice that it always seems to be the same Princesses missing every time. So now, along with poor Mulan, Pocahontas and Merida, Tiana has now become another victim of the missing Disney Princess and to be honest when she did feature on any merchandise, she was always shoved to the back, allowing princesses such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to take precedence.

So, why have these particular princesses gone missing or have been conveniently forgotten about?

Now the more observant of you will notice that 3 of the 4 “missing” princesses are not white. Tiana is black, Mulan is Chinese and Pocahontas is of course a native American. Some might argue that Merida being ginger and Scottish could also be considered to be part of her own ethnic group. I say you’re probably just being hilarious and undermining genuine ethnic groups. However, it probably is worth noting that she is not American and is the only Disney princess to speak with a non-American accent (yes, even Mulan has an American accent). Those of you that know your Disney princesses and their copious amounts of merchandise, will know that Princess Jasmine from the film Aladdin is still regularly featured and definitely not “missing”. Jasmine is of Arabic decent (which country Aladdin was set in has never been clarified), so it could be said that the reason these particular princesses are missing cannot be racist or xenophobic. However, I do not feel the race connection can be ignored. Yes Jasmine is non-white and non-American, but compared to the other 4 princesses she is by far considerably more overtly sexual. For example she is forced to seduce the evil Jafar in order to save her life.

disney_princess_jasmine_by_princess_wilda-d66vriu

So, does this make her a more acceptable Princess to feature in the Disney merchandise? Looking at the missing 4 princesses, I would say so. Merida, Tiana, Mulan and Pocahontas are not as sexual in their charactisation. They are also the less “girly” princesses. Pocahontas jumps of cliff edges into rivers, climbs trees, refuses to marry the man her Father wants her to and saves the life of the man who she loves. Not quite your usual damsel in distress character. Mulan challenges the idea that a woman cannot fight and joins the army (albeit disguised as a man) and proves her worth and rescues pretty much everyone along the way. Tiana has ambition and demonstrates that with hard work  and tenacity you can achieve your dreams. She is also the only princess with an actual career. Lastly, Merida, well Merida is quite frankly awesome. She was the only princess before the days of Queen Elsa (who technically isn’t a princess anyway) that does not have a love interest. Her fate does not lie in the hands of a man. She is feisty, gutsy, athletic, brilliantly stubborn and outspoken. She is basically everything your average princess should not be.

Brave-Wallpaper

If Merida purposefully ripping her restricting princess dress so that she can “win her own hand” during the archery competition isn’t a symbol of the suppression of women by the patriarchy then I don’t know what is. These princesses do not rely on their looks or sexuality to achieve. It is also worth noting that their princess dresses are the least “girly” with the exception of Tiana who actually spends most of the film as a frog anyway.

All the other princesses compound the idea that the most important thing about a woman is her looks and need a man to define them and more often than not- rescue them. The exception possibly being Rapunzel who of course saves herself from the tower. However, Rapunzel with her long, LONG golden locks and huge baby-like blue eyes does conform to stereotypical princess looks.

Thank goodness that we now have Elsa and Anna of Frozen fame. I’m quite confident in saying that Disney are not going to forget these princesses any time soon. I’ve always argued that Anna is the real hero of the two as Elsa is simply born with her power. Whereas Anna saves her sister’s life purely with determination, guts, perseverance, boldness and aah love (gee love is the most powerful tool of them all etc etc). Most importantly, the girls do not sacrifice anything for men that they love (don’t even get me started on the symbolism of Ariel from the Little Mermaid sacrificing her voice for a man she has barely known for 2 seconds).

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with girls who happen to be girly and feminine. We are all different. Women are not simple, 2 dimensional people. We come in all different shapes, colours and sizes and we all have different personalities, ambitions and skills. This is the point that I am trying to make. When Disney have gone to the effort of creating a princess that does not fit the normal princess mould, she seems to be quickly forgotten about. Disney has a huge responsibility in creating role models for little girls. If little girls only see princesses that aren’t like them they are going to feel as if they are abnormal and that they are different from other girls. Disney princesses should be a diverse representation of all girls. In an age where diversity or rather the lack of is still incredibly a significant issue, Disney cannot afford to allow these princesses to remain forgotten. Only this month, yet again all 20 actors nominated for Academy awards were white. It is inexcusable that when Disney finally got around to creating a black princess, she is now being quickly shunted to the background and forgotten about. Disney have the power to make a difference and it is astounding that their effort so far to do so is a tad lazy. Elsa and Anna are a great step in the right direction, but I still feel we have a long way to go yet.

So, have Tiana, Pocahontas, Merida and Mulan gone missing because of their race or their lack of conformity to feminine norms? Sadly, I fear it is a combination of both of these reasons. All four of these princesses are excellent role models for young girls and Disney needs to push these to the front equally along with all the other princesses. The moral of the story being, all girls are different, all girls are equal.

45 comments

  1. sabina petra · January 26, 2016

    I can imagine Disney’s reply would be that they feature the most popular princesses and that they are, after all, a business, first and foremost, a business that has to make money. But I love how you say that Disney has a responsibility in creating role models for little girls. They carved that job out for themselves. They should fill it properly. Plus, Merida is just bloody fantastic!! They should be proud of having brought her to life!

    Like

  2. shelleywilson72 · February 5

    I LOVE this post!! Fabulous observations. I’m also with your daughter – Tiana is my favourite (and I’m 44!!).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Traci York · February 5

    Yep, this is one of the reasons Disney lost my loyalty. So disappointed by many of their choices. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · February 5

      It’s very disappointing, isn’t it? It really shouldn’t be that hard to make better decisions! Cheers for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Traci York · March 7

        Fingers crossed things will change in the very near future!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Traci York · 27 Days Ago

        Speaking of fairy tale princesses, I have to say one of my all time favorite Cinderella stories is, “Ever After” (and no surprise it’s not a Disney film). How could you not love a movie where the princess saves herself, and engineers her own happily ever after? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

        Perfect 👍🏻

        Liked by 1 person

      • loomkog · 27 Days Ago

        You’re probably aware, but Ghibli have some awesome female protagonists – it’s one of their many strengths!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

        Is that the studio that made Spirited Away? Very good point. I haven’t thought of them for good female role models. Cheers 👍🏻

        Like

  4. Oriana · March 7

    This is entirely true, it’s great that they can notice that at such a young age. But hey, Disney is a big company, why wouldn’t they care about making money ? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SickChristine · March 7

    I loved this! I have an 11 year old boy, so I’m not very familiar with any of the recent Disney princesses. Great insight!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Trudy · March 7

    I’m not a fan of the stereotypical Disney Princess theme to begin with it still falls under being saved, waiting for a prince to save you from danger to later become his love interest in some borderline necrophilia, pedophilia, or rape. We’ve got to find better role models than the ones who are on the cup anyway, of course that’s just my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · March 7

      Yes agreed. I’m not a fan of them either, but the later Disney female characters are much better role models and don’t fall under the being saved by a prince etc This is why it’s so important they’re not forgotten. However, even with Disney characters like Moana, Merida, Elsa etc There’s still a long way to go. Luckily, these days my daughter is more into Princess Leia.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Trudy · March 7

        It raises girls to think that they can’t do fir themselves without a male around, it’s so subliminal.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer · 27 Days Ago

        That’s great that she’s into Princess Leia. She’s strong, she’s a leader and she tells the men what to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. noellekelly · 28 Days Ago

    Merida is a great role model to be fair, I guess she just won’t sell enough merchandise to you on the mass market. I think the new Princess Moana is one of the best that’s come along – strong and fierce and Polynesian 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 28 Days Ago

      Merida is awesome & most girls I know love her, so not sure why Disney don’t push her more. Yes Moana is brilliant too. My daughter loves her 👍🏻

      Like

  8. Gay Stepdad · 28 Days Ago

    Who’d have thought Disney would be guilty of ‘casual racism’. Great post…. bring back the ‘minority’ princesses!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ritu · 28 Days Ago

    I just gotta say “Agree, Agree, Agree!” Disney do indeed have a responsibility to promote all their Princesses equally as they have some great role models to share with the young princesses of today. It’s a shame they just settle on the ‘girlie’ ones! My own Lil Princess is a total tomboy!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Shallow Reflections · 27 Days Ago

    Interesting observations. I heard a piece on public radio just today that discussed casting white actresses for roles that should have been filled with other races. The conclusion: Hollywood only recognizes the color green. And I would love to see the less ‘girly’ princesses promoted as much as the others!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

      The casting of white actors in roles that should’ve have gone to someone not white is inexcusable. Joseph Fiennes cast as Michael Jackson was just weird casting though. Yes it would be great if non-girly princess were promoted as much as the girly ones. It’s about embracing all types of personalities & giving girls choice. Cheers x

      Liked by 1 person

  11. angelanoelauthor · 27 Days Ago

    My son recently protested a proposed trip to see Moana- he thought it was another princess movie where the girl is in a pretty dress. But when he learned Moana is an adventurer, he was all for it. This got me thinking about not only how Disney’s “Princess Stable” affects girls views of themselves, but also how boys view them, too. When Disney’s princesses are all waiting to be saved, all white, and required to get what they want through using their “feminine wiles” they not only teach girls what’s expected of a “perfect” girl, but teach boys what to expect of their female classmates and friends. We need both boys and girls to see female role-models as representative of the real capability of women to change the world. It’s in all of our best interest to see “all girls are different. All girls are equal.” Phew! I had a lot to say not this, thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

      Thanks Angela. I completely agree. It’s absolutely imperative that things change both for girls AND boys. It will benefit everyone. It’s also the idea that girls’ things aren’t universal, but quite often both genders are expected to like so-called boys’ things. Thanks for your comment x

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer · 27 Days Ago

      Great point. If the only movies about girls that boys see are girls who need rescuing, then that’s how they will view women. I think Moana is by far my favorite Disney Princess. Not only was she a warrior, but she was being raised to be the Chief, not marry the next Chief.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Jeremy@ThirstyDaddy · 27 Days Ago

    Before Frozen, Merida was by far my daughter’s favorite, with Repunzel being the only other “princess” that she was all that interested in. I think Aurora, Cinderella and Belle get all the merchandise because they are considered the “classic” princesses, but I also think that a lot of the points you make here are valid. I would argue that Moana and the upcoming hispanic based movie do show that they are trying to be as inclusive as possible – there just might be a long ways to go yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

      Thanks Jeremy. Yes with Moana, Frozen, Merida etc things are definitely getting better, but you’re right we still have a long way to go. Cheers.

      Like

  13. thoughtsfromjasmine · 27 Days Ago

    I liked this! Disney has had many incidents of excluding there stereotypically “less girly” over the last few years, so I wouldn’t put this down to a coincidence either. It’s sad, as Tiana is also one of my favourites haha
    Jas xx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nicole McClean · 27 Days Ago

    I love this post! I have to say my daughter is only 18 months & I never really got into Disney as a child. However grandma (my mil) loves it so now my little girl loves it. This is something that has stood out for myself on many occasions & I agree Disney have a responsibility! It would be very interesting to see/hear their reply to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

      I thought this. Maybe I should try and throw the link their way & see if they respond? Thanks for your comment.

      Like

      • Nicole McClean · 27 Days Ago

        Yes I think you should You point out very valid information & when you think their influencing our children, it would be nice to see a change after all it’s 2017

        Liked by 1 person

  15. josypheen · 27 Days Ago

    Your daughter has excellent taste! Those are my favourite princesses too. I love how gutsy Tiana is. If I have a daughter, I’d prefer her to look upto someone like that.

    I also loved Meg in Hercules, who doesn’t really fit into the traditional princess stereotype…and normally doesn’t appear as an obvious princess either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

      Yes she’s another a good one too. So glad there’s Princess Leia too who my daughter loves. Doesn’t get better than Leia. Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • josypheen · 27 Days Ago

        YES!! She’s even a general!
        If you have to have war heroes, she is an excellent choice.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Claire Wong · 27 Days Ago

    Really interesting. I have to say, I do love the less conventional Disney princesses who are brave and fun as well as pretty. Who wants to sing songs to animals and wait to be rescued when you could be having an adventure and saving the day?

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 27 Days Ago

      Exactly Claire (though to be fair I have known to sing songs to my neighbour’s cat from time to time). Thanks so much for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth | You are Awesome
  18. josypheen · 19 Days Ago

    I visited the Disney shop last week with my niece and it made me think of this post.
    I just wanted to let you know that in London, they had all the cool princesses for sale (not just the girly ones!) I saw Tiana, Moana, Pocahontas, Mulan, Jasmine and Merida.

    The strangest was a Belle that was meant to look like Emma Watson, but it just looked really angry!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 19 Days Ago

      Yay that makes me really happy! Love all of those cool princesses. Yeah I’ve seen that Belle doll- it’s really odd!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s