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Disney Princesses and Their Feminist Arc

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWindsor chapter.

Once upon a time, in a far away land in the mid 1900s, Disney princesses had the world captured by their grace, poise, beauty, and well, not much else. The early Disney princesses such as Cinerella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty really didn’t have much to offer in personality. As far as we knew, Cinderella had terrible time management and was always losing things, Snow White had OCD and felt the need to clean up after 7 grown men, and Sleeping Beauty let her intrusive thoughts win all too often. I mean seriously, who looks at a pointy object and says “let me poke it”. Lack of common sense and mental stability aside, these three ladies were the definition of pretty privilege. Young girls wanted to be them and idealized them for what? Sleeping Beauty literally slept for over half the movie, but hey, at least she looked good doing it. As a result of their mesmerizing good looks, they were all able to get what they wanted. They got their prince charmings, their freedom, and most importantly their happily ever afters. 

Then the world began demonstrating more progressive outlooks, and as every smart marketing team does, Disney followed the trends and tailored its movies accordingly. By creating princesses with real personalities such as Belle, Mulan, and Tiana, the Disney team began carving the path for the feminist arc of their princesses. They gave Belle a love for reading and learning, Mulan bravery and combat skills, and Tiana a strong sense of perseverance and ambition. This was a huge step in the right direction for the company and for all the young girls influenced by the media. However, even though the movies all depicted their struggles in breaking stereotypes, the princesses all still got their prince charmings, their freedom, and their happily ever afters. 

In no way shape or form am I saying that an individual is any less of a powerful woman for finding her prince charming. However, it does need to be acknowledged and recognized that it isn’t necessarily a requirement in order to achieve the happy ending to your fairytale. This is where we jump to the present time. With even more princesses (or queens) such as Merida, Moana, and Elsa, girls all over the world could finally idolize a strong independent woman who wasn’t defined by her marital status. All these women still  had their respective struggles, but the differentiating factor was that their end goal wasn’t a set of broad shoulders, but it was instead family relationships, their people, and their community. 

Although it may seem ridiculous to some to put so much pressure and importance on fictional characters, this representation allows for future generations of strong women to be created by providing them with progressive and unique princesses to idolize and aspire to be like. Our society continues to improve and empower women everyday through various methods, including representation through fictional characters. At the end of the day, using such an easy medium to reach out to children like television and movies is an essential thing for society to do to help create empowered women. Always remember that strong women create strong women.

Liz Case

UWindsor '25

Liz Case is a writer at the University of Windsor Her Campus chapter. She writes and publishes articles on a weekly basis to the site. Her articles tend to cover diverse topics usually pertaining to her own life experiences or current events. She is currently in third year at the University of Windsor pursuing her Bachelors of Applied Science in Industrial Engineering with a Minor in Business Administration. When she isn’t writing for Her Campus or studying, she works as a Dance Teacher at a local dance studio. She is also a member of other university organizations including the Lancers Competitive Dance Company as well as a member of the FSA (Filipino Student Association). In her free time she likes to play various instruments as well as whatever hobby is of current interest. This of course includes regular young adult activities such as working out and hanging out with friends.