Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who fell in love with a handsome prince after he rescued her from (insert evil character here). The prince took the princess away to his kingdom and they lived happily ever after. The end.
This reads like practically every Disney princess story since Snow White, the first Disney Princess made her appearance in 1937, and effectively took care of the seven dwarves by cooking and cleaning for them in return for a place to live. Cinderella was rescued from her evil stepmother by Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty was woken up from her spell-induced slumber by the kiss of a handsome man, albeit one that she did not consent to. Each of these stories depict women, or girls, as vulnerable, dependent on men and unable to fend for themselves and therefore, Disney princess stories have borne the wrath of feminists and advocates for women’s empowerment for decades.
What then, would happen if we turned each of these fairytales on their heads and portrayed the poor damsel in distress as a strong, independent, no-nonsense woman. Would the prince wait for consent before kissing Sleeping Beauty? Or would Cinderella walk away from her evil stepmother on her own terms, claiming what is rightfully hers? Perhaps the Seven Dwarves would spend their days in the kitchen while Snow White went off to the mine every morning? Admittedly these alternate scenarios are hard to imagine, but in reality, Disney has also given us characters like Moana, Tiana, Princess Jasmine, Mulan and Elsa who defy the traditional, stereotypical princess locked in tower needing to be rescued role, and make forge their own path on their own terms.
Jasmine refuses to marry, except for love and defies both her father and the laws of the land to stand by her ideals. Tiana demonstrates the value of hard work, eventually becoming the successful owner of a restaurant.
The list goes on, with Disney’s iconic princesses continuing to challenge stereotypes of appearance, capability and general all-round bad-assery, while still continuing to live happily (or even happier) ever after, on their own terms!