To use the term ‘princess’ loosely…

I began pondering animated movies on my drive home today.  (I have had several discussions recently, with different people, about the genre.)  Through a variety of steps, my brain landed on the topic of the Disney Princesses.  Disney has had it’s fair share of male protagonists – most of their animal movies have male main characters – but it is the princesses that get the most attention.

Those of you who are familiar with my writing and/or this blog know that I lean toward strong, female protagonists.  I’ve written a few fluffy, silly girls into my books as needed, but most appear when useful before drifting away, not keeping my (or my plot’s) attention.  When considering the female leads in many animated movies, I realized that they are also all strong females in some sense.

According to the Disney Princess website, there are 9 female characters that are considered the “princesses.”  They use the term somewhat loosely; only four start their movies as princesses, and two of them never truly become princesses at all.  (The two who aren’t princesses at any point are Mulan and Pocahontas.  I will argue Pocahontas with you if you want – the daughter of a Native American chief is not really a princess, and I will stand by that.)  I’m also sure that, with Tangled released this summer, Rapunzel will probably round the group out to a nice even ten.

Some of these ladies are stronger individuals than others.  Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), while my sister’s favorite princess, is a fairly wilting flower when you get down to it.  Snow White, too, relies heavily on others to help her through life.  Poor Jasmine, while definitely a strong woman, isn’t even the main character of her movie!  (Let’s face it, she’s the female equivalent to Aurora’s prince.  She’s a major player in the story line, but if your name isn’t in the title of the movie, the movie isn’t about you.) 

Mulan, Tiana (The Princess and the Frog), and Belle (Beauty and the Beast) are the three that stand out to me as the strongest of the Disney ladies.  They are strong, smart, and fight for what they believe.  Pocahontas and Ariel (The Little Mermaid) are both insistent on their individuality, and stand up for themselves, but there are a few moments in their movies when they lapse back into helpless girls.  Granted, real ladies out there probably do the same thing at times, so it’s not fair to expect every female to carry her own every moment. 

To be honest, I never really identified with the princesses available to me growing up, and many of the books I read were lacking in females I could relate to.  My favorite Disney character as a kid, the one who seemed most like me, was Mowgli from The Jungle Book.   I have always been an animal child.  🙂  Now, if forced to choose a “princess,” I’d have to go with Mulan, the only one without even a hint of princess about her. 

From that, and my opinions above, it should be clear why my protagonists are females who are strong and independent, and even the princesses in my stories have another, more important role.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. YerMom
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 08:22:27

    Well written! I hope this gives everyone who reads it today something to think about. Miss you.


  2. Nicole W.
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 10:49:55

    I am not one for weak female characters either. I did some thinking after I read your post and I realized that practically every television show I watch has a strong female character in it. In Castle there is Beckett, in Fringe there is Olivia, in Burn Notice there is Fiona, and in NCIS there is Kate and Abby (Abby is sort of my hero,btw). I also realized that I never really identified with any of the princesses as a kid, I wanted to be one of the fairies from Sleeping Beauty. Even in my stories not many of the characters I have are royalty. If they are, they usually resent being nobility and are a tad rebellious. I guess if I had to choose a “princess” that I liked today, I would probably also choose Mulan.


    • Leigh Townsend
      Feb 17, 2011 @ 13:11:22

      Well said! I agree on the TV, as well – unless there is some type of strong female character, a show usually doesn’t grab me.

      To add more food to the thought banquet, why is it that a movie with a female main character requires a complimenting male, but movies with male main characters may or may not have female characters at all?


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