About three years ago, I was at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Fla. (where I still currently live). I was perusing the Disney Princess section at the World of Disney store when a darling little girl no older than five came up to me and said, “I love princesses!” Naturally I was all, “OMG ME TOO, WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE, MINE ARE BELLE AND TIANA, I CAN’T CHOOSE, ETC.!?”
And instead of answering me (rude), she looks me straight in the eye and goes:
“Where’s your daughter?”
I froze for a moment. No one had ever asked me that – not “Do you have a daughter?” but “Where is your daughter?” It may not seem like a big difference to some, but question one says, “Aw, you might be buying something for your kid!” while the other clearly states, “Please don’t let this be what I think it is.”
Obviously this kid was not thinking about it that hard and probably just wanted someone age-appropriate to talk to about princesses, so I just smiled and said:
“Um…I don’t have a daughter. I just love Disney Princesses!”
Eyes wide, she backed away from me slowly, like I’d sprouted Maleficent’s horns, and went back to her mom, glancing back over her shoulder before exiting the section. My then-fiancé just about died of laughter, but I didn’t put down my official Princess Tiana wand until he pried it from my persistent 25-year-old hands.
Why will I be a Disney Princess until I’m 94, you ask? Well, I’ve seen a few psychics in ~my day~, and the most recent told me that’s the age I’d live to, so that’s what I’m going with.
Side note: Oddly enough, all three have also told me I’d eventually work for myself. So considering I have zero business or marketing acumen, we’ll see how that goes. I may need those 94 years. Maybe by then I’ll have invented the Hoverboard that was supposed to be out by 2015 which, in case you guys haven’t noticed, is in roughly a year and a half (MAYBE two and a half years – I’ll give them until the Christmas season).
Anyway, let’s Tarantino this back to a little shotgun-style house in Mid-City New Orleans circa 1992.
I was playing with my brother, my cousin, and two kids from next door, and I was like “LET’S PLAY BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!” So we all put the names of the main characters in a hat and drew them out.
I got Belle, and Chick from Next Door™ had a fit. She was like, “No, I wasn’t ready!” or “That was a practice round!” or some variation of whatever asshole kids say. So we drew again because she was older and bigger than me, and she got Belle.
Obviously I quit. Not only did she totally cheat, but there are literally zero other female characters in Beauty and the Beast unless you’re portly and old, a triplet, or a literally dirty (fine, dusty) ho. I wouldn’t even climb a tree as a kid, and I had no identical siblings or patience for bullshit, so I was over it.
Let me be clear to 1.) Acknowledge that my respect for Mrs. Potts has grown as I’ve gotten older, mostly due to the fact that Angela Lansbury is a bad bitch who originated Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd, and 2.) Point out I wasn’t the least annoying kid ever.
I was the type of eye-roll-inducing child who always had to be the mom when we played house, teacher when we played school, Pink Ranger on the playground (though what happened to the Yellow Ranger kind of makes me feel bad about that now, because she was a badass but I was obsessed with gymnastics OK), and Kelly Kapowski when we played "Saved by the Bell." Thieving Hussy from Next Door ™ also took that one from me one time when we were rollerblading and I flat-out refused to be Jessie Spano and went inside to play Barbies with myself.
So anyway, they started playing and I watched sulkily from the sidelines.
SHOCKER: This girl didn’t even know the lyrics to the song “Belle”.
I have a few problems with this, including but not limited to the fact that:
1. Belle has, like, three singing lines past the intro. The rest are townspeople, Gaston, and spoken-word.
2. THE SONG TITLE IS THE NAME OF HER CHARACTER, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.
3. She couldn’t read (this is a lie, but I’m obviously still not over this 20+ years later).
I wonder what Bitch from Next Door Who May or May Not Have Given My Brother And Me Lice More Than Once™ is up to now. Probably quoting movies incorrectly and wondering why no one is laughing.
The marketing surrounding the Princesses does bother me a little, but fortunately Disney seems to be listening to some extent. I’m not going to be one of those parents that ban Disney Princess merchandise from the house (obviously), but I do want to make it a point to teach any daughter I may have just why her favorite Princess is awesome:
Cinderella: Mice and birds make her a dress. You have to be pretty awesome to get that shit to happen. Also, she has a fucking fairy godmother. Do you know literally anyone else who does? And that Fairly OddParents shit doesn’t count (even though my boyfriend Norm MacDonald voiced a character in it, so I can’t completely hate it), because those “fairies” were obviously a drug-induced hallucination. Disney would never.
Ariel: This is actually a little difficult for me considering she leaves her entire life at 16 to marry a dude she barely knows and has said one sentence to, so let’s just go with “She follows her heart and was probably the inspiration for Hoarders."
Belle: She’s intelligent, loves learning, and sacrifices herself to save her father. She also rejects the douchiest guy on the face of the planet in a way that sends him face first into mud and herself into the arms of not only someone else, but a full-on animal. The ultimate insult.
Jasmine: SHE IS NOT A PRIZE TO BE WON! Plus she’s the first Disney Princess, to my knowledge, to wear pants. That’s symbolism, kids. And she has a goddamned TIGER for a pet.
Nala: Even though she’s not an official princess, she counts to me. She beats Simba’s ass basically every time they fight, hunts for the pack when Scar takes over, etc. She wins.
Pocahontas: Historical inaccuracy aside, she schools the fuck out of some white dude on why it’s not OK to just take whatever you want. And she can traverse a river like nobody’s business.
Mulan: I don’t even think I have to expand on this. You can’t get fiercer than a chick that refuses to bend to gender stereotypes and dresses like a man to shatter them.
Rapunzel: Girl doesn’t freak out when her hair gets chopped off. That is more than I can say for most women I know (including one of my favorite fictional females, Topanga Lawrence Matthews.)
Tiana: She works her ass off – plain and simple. She chooses a goal and while she refuses to let anyone deter her, she does allow love into her heart and learns to see the grays in life. Though I feel like she could do better than Prince Naveen, but that’s another story.
I haven’t seen Brave yet. Which is a travesty, I know, but from the trailer alone, I know Merida can kick some ass.
Even though my amazing albeit slightly obnoxious nails rep them, I’ll admit it’s a little difficult for me to make cases for Snow White and Sleeping Beauty/Aurora because they don’t do a whole lot outside of perpetuating the domestic stereotype and talking to animals, but at least they have cute hair and get some royal D.
The favorite princess of one of my best friends is Aurora, and even she admits it’s because she “Has a pretty dress, a good song, and the fairies are hilarious.” And she’s a software developer, so booyah gender stereotypes. But God forbid my kid’s favorite is one I have a stupid or no justification for; I’ll need to get less lazy real quick. Or maybe she’ll like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I won’t have to.
But in general, I think Disney Princesses can mean more than sparkles, unattainable hair, and damsel-in-distress status, even if you’ve dressed as a…let’s say less-than-traditional version of a Princess.
Which Disney Princess do you most identify with (and don’t pretend like you don’t have an answer)?*
*Even though she isn’t Disney, I’ll accept Anastasia, because she is a whip-smart firecracker and has the sexiest man.