Thursday, June 14, 2012

Disney Princesses: New Drawings, New Problems

Fairy tales are in right now. It seems more and more on TV, in books and films, taking these old classics and re-imagining them in the modern world and in modern contexts. While it’s something we like to see, we also do think it has its flaws.

Recently we came across these series of images of Disney Princesses made bad ass. And that’s definitely something we support. We’re beyond tired of heroines whose role in their story is to lie back and wait passively for a prince to rescue them. We much prefer heroines who not only can rescue themselves - but won’t be kidnapped or imprisoned in the first place, not if you know what’s good for you! So these images in fighting poses and weapons looking mean? We like.

Except... why does being bad ass mean a woman has to lose her clothes? They’ve become tough, dangerous, mean fighters - and this involves fish-net stockings (Snow White), a loin cloth (Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel), and a bared navel (pretty much all of them). And Sleeping Beauty (ye gods). We’ve seen this time and again, when a woman goes to fight she leaves her clothes behind. Can a woman’s clothes and a weapon not exist in the same picture?

This unnecessary sexualisation of women whenever they are pro-active seems to be part of a prevalent message that a woman cannot be powerful or aggressive without it relating to being sexual; she is reduced to sex.

And these images have other flaws when we look at the WOC

Princess Tiana

The Princess and the Frog is fraught with problems from start to finish. Unlike the majority of the Disney Princesses, Tiana did not get to retire to a castle with her princess charming, she got to run a restaurant. We see her at the end of the movie serving food to people. It is not an accident that the first Black princesses did not get the fairytale ending. If that were not enough, she spends most of the movie as a frog. A frog people. You would think that any kind of revision would be be better than the original but that is not the case.

Tiana goes from being fully clothed in the Disney version to being heavily exposed. Why does sexualizing a character which has already been othered relative to the White princesses equal empowerment? You don’t need to be naked to kick ass. Tiana is also the only princess who was given a gun.  Am I really supposed to ignore the racial implications here because some artist wants to yell rah rah sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits?



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