If this was a race and feminism was the finish line, Aurora would be the person who falls just past the start line, shrugs it off, sits on the lawn, and starts putting little flowers in her hair. The only thing Aurora does in the movie is not talk (she’s one of Disney’s princesses with the fewest lines of dialogue), sleep for a solid 75% of her movie, and wait for the prince to wake her up from her nap with a kiss. And none of this is ever a personal choice: Aurora has less autonomy than a chair.
Moral of the story: No feminism.
14. Snow White
Speaking of sleeping, here we have the most spineless princess in the entire Disney universe.
Snow White has to run away because, according to a mirror, she’s prettier than the queen. Snow White escapes after they try to murder her, and a group of friendly animals lead her to a house inhabited by seven dwarves. So… what is the first thing dumb Snow White does when she enters a house that belongs to seven guys? She starts cleaning it until it’s spick and span.
Moral of the story: No feminism.
Cinderella is a woman who lives as a servant in her own home, and who is forced to do all the necessary house chores in a big ass house that probably measures about two thousand square feet. TBH, Cinderella is so far removed from the world, she probably thinks “feminism” is just a new brand of detergent.
Her only chance at dignified survival is asking her fairy godmother for a pair of heels and a nice dress so she can go to the ball and find some rich guy who can rescue her from her miserable life. And, since Cinderella is pretty (yay!), she gets the rich guy (a prince, no less) to notice her, even though she has to leave before midnight so that no one suspects that she’s actually so poor that her best friends are a bunch of rats. In the end, everything is resolved: there’s nothing like running away with a rich guy you just met for, like, 15 minutes, and who (although he can’t even remember your face) has a fixation on your feet to pull you out of poverty!
Moral of the story: No feminism. Fetishism.
Ariel has a few strong points: she’s a non-conformist, she cares about stuff, she’s creative, and she’s constantly questioning the excessive self-righteousness of her father, the Asshole of the Seas. But she also decides to give up her greatest talent (her voice) so she can go and hang out with some hunk she only saw for 2 minutes and never even spoke to.
Most of her decisions don’t seem to be well thought out (maybe because she’s 16), and they always have one thing in common: guys. She escapes to get away from a guy (her father) and go meet another guy (Eric). Booooo, Ariel.
Moral of the story: No feminism.
Belle is a tough girl: she’s an avid reader in a small town in France in 1800 (she could be the next Mary Shelley!), which teaches the lesson that it’s fine for a woman to be smart and think for herself. Belle also has ambitions (“I want much more than this provincial life”) that have nothing to do with marriage and family. Just look at how she rejects the cocky Gaston, who is, in everyone else’s eyes, the most eligible bachelor in the whole village!
After she presents herself as a voluntary prisoner to free her father, she doesn’t give in to Beast’s orders. On the contrary, Belle practically forces Beast to change and behave like a decent human being if he wants her to give him just 5 minutes of her time.
Unfortunately, at the end the movie, the old “prince meets princess” story repeats itself, mixing the myth of romantic love with Stockholm syndrome. After all, beauty is on the inside… especially if it’s on the inside of a multimillionaire prince.
Moral of the story: There is feminism, but it’s kind of low-grade.
Let’s start with the basics: how cool is it for a Disney princess to grab a frying pan and use it as a weapon? Is there a more forceful way to reappropriate a symbol of feminine oppression than beating the shit out of someone with it?
Tangled is an adaptation of Rapunzel’s classic story, in which a princess who’s locked up at the top of a high tower gets rescued by a prince who has to climb up her long hair. The end. But Disney’s Rapunzel is so much more than that. While she’s locked up, Rapunzel plays chess, studies astronomy, reads everything she can get her hands on, and LEARNS TO FIGHT WITH HER HAIR.
Yes, Rapunzel gets her “and they lived happily ever after” ending, but it’s kind of by chance, rather than because she’s actively seeking it. She wanted to escape the tower and go explore the world. And in that world she also happened to find love.
Moral of the story: THE FRYING PAN.
What can we say about princess Jasmine? The first time she appears, she rejects a guy who wants to marry her. The second time, she abandons the oppressive walls of her palace to discover what lays beyond. And the third time, she proves that it doesn’t matter how much of a prince you are, she’s still not interested in “who’s got the longest dick” games. Jasmine faces a classic Disney princess problem: an arranged marriage. Like she says herself, “I am not a prize to be won.”
At the end of the movie, she gets the Sultan to change the laws in Agrabah, letting her marry whomever she wants.
Moral of the story: I AM NOT YOUR DOLL.
Tiana is an independent woman. She knows what she wants (her dream from the start is to open her own restaurant) and she works hard to get it (to achieve her dream, she juggles two jobs). All of Tiana’s money belongs to her and only to her. Ok, so she falls in love with a toad… But the message in the movie is that you have to fight to get what’s yours. And that you should never give up on your dreams.
Moral of the story: Work, work, work, work, work.
Another Disney princess with a very Disney-princessy problem: an arranged marriage. What’s fascinating about Merida is how she gets out of this situation: refusing to be treated as a mere trophy, it is she who competes for her own hand at the fair where the one to hit the target wins her hand in marriage. Apart from this, Merida also breaks down gender stereotypes by behaving like a boy in summer camp throughout the whole movie. And not only that: her size and her physique don’t fit the model that Disney got us used to in the first place. Hooray for Merida.
Moral of the story: Beauty has no specific look.
Esmeralda is a true feminist icon. From the very start of the movie, she is discriminated against because she’s a gypsy, and she fights against social injustices like poverty and the marginalization of minorities.
But wait… don’t start clapping yet.
Esmeralda has three guys interested in her throughout the whole movie: good old Quasimodo, the villain Frollo, and Capitan Phoebus. But Esmeralda is the master of her own body, and she decides what to do with it at all times. Esmeralda can’t love Quasimodo the way he loves her because he sees her as a kindly goddess who will fix all his problems. Esmeralda can’t love Frollo, who represents all evil on Earth, and who also only wants her because he considers her to be the embodiment of sin, the star of his most impure fantasies. So this means that Esmeralda breaks up the whole whore vs. saint bullshit archetype. That’s why Esmeralda loves Phoebus, because he sees her for who she is: a free, fighting woman.
Moral of the story: My feminism will be intersectional or it will be garbage.
Megara is one of the most undervalued women in the entire Disney world, and let me tell you why: Megara is not a nice chick. All female characters in Disney have something in common: they are nice. And if they’re not, it’s always for a noble cause. However, Megara’s personality comes closer to that of a villain than a leading character. She crushes that whole “smile, you’ll look prettier” crap and is a shining example to us all for doing so.
Megara is incredibly sarcastic. And if there’s one thing that characterizes her personality, it’s her cynicism, particularly when it comes to love. Megara is also full of wisdom, and she shows it time and time again throughout the movie: Well, you know how men are. They think ‘No’ means ‘Yes’ and ‘Get lost’ means ‘Take me, I’m yours.’” If this isn’t feminist thinking, may Zeus strike me dead.
Moral of the story: Fuck the patriarchy.
Disney’s greatest representative of eco-feminism, Pocahontas is one of the few princesses who chooses her own fate and denies her prince, because, TBH, she’s got more important things to do than go have tea in England.
Pocahontas is free, self-assured, and brave, and all the lessons she teaches have to do with love, respect, and equality. Pocahontas is not saved by anybody. On the contrary, she’s the one who saves John Smith, and when he goes all “hey, baby” on her she gives him a “you just don’t get it, dude. If you keep that up, we won’t get as far as the next corner.”
Moral of the story: Do you think you own everything you step on, you idiot?
Elsa can’t be any more fucking fed up with everything. Let’s see: her parents hide her problems instead of trying to fix them, and they force her to live in seclusion and give up one of the things that made her happiest in life (the love of her sister). Then, when she finally leaves her prison and faces the world, the world tries to kill her. Elsa is an outsider that no one understands. So, she drops everything and leaves.
But she leaves so she can be free. She leaves so she doesn’t have to listen to other people’s constant criticism. She leaves to live like she wants to live, surrounded by what makes her happy. She leaves to be herself. And, once she finds herself, she returns out of love for her sister. Because when you’ve lost everything, when you’ve let go of everything, you’ve also let go something that often holds you on a short leash: fear.
Moral of the story: LET IT GO.
Mulan proves that we, women, can do everything just as well as (or better than) men. And, in her case in particular, even more so, because she literally saves all of China. Mulan takes traditional gender roles, puts them on a wooden table, and then smashes them with one whooping kick. Mulan challenges everyone who gets in her way, proving that a woman is just as valid as a man and deserves the same honor and the same respect. It’s just society telling people to think or believe otherwise.
Moral of the story: Gender is a social construct.
Something is definitely going right in a movie in which the leading lady is not asking herself who she should marry or what will happen when her father dies, but rather how far she can go. That’s Moana’s mantra: she wants to go where no one has gone before, where no one has dared to go, so she can save her village from destruction and be a great leader.
She has no prince and her pet animal is a scruffy chicken who won’t stop making trouble for her. At first, she’s not completely confident (who the hell is?), but she’s not afraid to convince her ally that the solution is not male ego but rather teamwork. That’s why she can get as far as she wants to. Because who can keep her from doing so? No one.
Moral of the story: When one woman advances, all women advance.
This post was translated from Spanish.