The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

Real Princesses Do Exist



When I envision Disney Princesses, I do not envision Ana and Elsa from Frozen, whose sisterly love saves Ana from death, or Rapunzel from Tangled, who whacks her true love on the head with a frying pan. I imagine Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, Arielle, Belle, and Jasmine.

These are the Disney Princesses I grew up with — the ones I consider to be legitimate princesses because they sing, dance, cook, and fall in love. They wear fancy dresses and live in palaces. They are seemingly immortal.

Some princesses, like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, are more complex than simply a young woman in a dress waiting for her prince. Belle enjoys reading and at the end of the story, she saves the Beast from remaining a beast forever.

Other subsequent princesses are characterized by more than their relationships with their princes, but still, they all magically fall in love and marry by the end of their stories.

The Disney princess movies since 2009, though, have featured dynamic heroines who make their own destinies rather than waiting for their princes to change their fates. They too sing, dance, wear fancy dresses, and fall in love, but there is more to their lives than this limited list of achievements. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog dreams of opening her own restaurant. Merrida from Brave refuses to let a contest decide which man she is to marry. Rapunzel in Tangled climbs out of her tower. Ana and Elsa in Frozen save each other.

All of these heroines illustrate Disney’s efforts to diversify the characteristics of their princesses and change the stereotype of the damsel in distress who requires a prince to rescue her.

Pocahontas was one of Disney’s first nonwhite princesses, but I did not realize that she was an official Disney Princess until I was researching for this article. She is more independent than other Disney princesses; however, she does not wear a long gown and does not live in a palace. I never aspired to be like Pocahontas despite her adventurous spirit. This was a flaw of Disney, because although she is technically a princess, she does not look like the other princesses — not only is her race different, but also her dress. These physical difference seemed to exclude her from the Disney Princesses rather than diversify the group of princesses.

The production of The Princess and the Frog features Disney’s first African-American princess. Tiana, rather than Pocahantas, is the first legitimate nonwhite princess, since the film plays on more stereotypical princess tropes. (Tiana has a gown and a frog prince.)  Frozen defies the formula of love at first sight when the handsome prince is revealed as dishonest and scheming.

These new, independent and self-sufficient princesses will become role models and heroines to a countless number of little girls. This younger generation will be empowered to take up archery like Merrida or wish to save others like Elsa.

As they view these characters who pursue their dreams and ignore the precedent of society, should these little girls also watch the Disney Princess films featuring princesses who change themselves for men, like Ariel, or a princess who gains the favor of others by doing housework, like Snow White?

In this new era of Disney heroines, who are the “real” Disney princesses? Are they the original six princesses? Or are they the princesses who conceivably could exist in real life?

There is a piece of every little girl who would like to be a princess after seeing the singing, dancing, clothing, and palaces that the original Disney princesses lived in. My hope is that the new Disney princesses, who portray characteristics that more women in our society should strive to have, make little girls believe that being a heroine requires more than a fancy dress or a song. A princess is someone who takes charge with confidence, not someone who waits around for rescue.

Cartoon by Camila Toscano