For decades, Disney has been shaping and engaging the minds of children and adults alike. From Neverland to Sherwood, ancient Greece to the 21st century, Disney has taken its viewers through adventures that often stick with people for life. But none have been more telling and influential than the classic Disney princess tale.
Despite their previous announcement that Rapunzel would be the last addition to the Disney princess genre, their latest release, Frozen, features not one, but TWO princesses. So what does this mean? Twice the amount of stepmothers? Twice the amount of true love’s kisses? Twice the amount of naps (seriously, some of these girls spend far too much time in “eternal slumber”)? Thankfully for audiences, none of these are true (although we do get a nice scene of Anna waking up that is sure to spur some laughter). Instead, Disney sought to forge a new path for the perception of Disney princesses.
Over the years, Disney princesses have changed dramatically. Although the screaming 7-year-old in your head would never let you admit it, the truth is that the newer princesses are better than the princesses of old (please hold your rotten fruit and pitchforks for the end).
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the chart below, highlighting some of the qualities of these animated role models.
The change is clear enough to see. These characters have gone from quiet, helpless damsels in distress, to loud-mouthed, snarky, and powerful individuals who don’t need a prince or true love’s kiss to save the day. Although these qualities alone do not make them better (the early princesses did have some pretty amazing singing voices), they do contribute to an overall nobler goal.
While separately, the transition that has taken place can be difficult to recognize, tracking them next to each other shows that there has been a definitive evolution in the way women are portrayed in young entertainment.
Why is this important? As a society, there is no denying that we are influenced by the media that we’re presented. In adulthood, this may be the news or podcasts that we listen to. But in childhood, it is the morning cartoons and the movies that we watch that subtly begin to shape our understanding of the world. Do we want children to grow up thinking that the absolute most women can do in a given situation is distract the villain while the man saves the day (hopefully you answered "no" to that, otherwise this next part might get awkward)?
In a world plagued by gender inequality (sorry guys, but it’s true) and intolerance, Disney says no. Though it has taken quite some time for it to make it this far, Frozen represents a vital step in the right direction for the equal portrayal of women in children’s entertainment.
With its two complex and realistic female leads, Frozen sends a clear message that you can definitely be a princess, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have one hell of a right hook.