The moment has arrived: our beloved Disney Princesses have finally questioned why a Prince Charming is always expected to “solve all your problems”.
We’re the first to admit we’ve still got a soft spot for Disney. As children, we adored singing along to the iconic soundtracks of Pocahontas and Mulan. Even as adults, we’re pretty tempted by the prospect of a Disney stationery collaboration.
But there are undeniably some problematic themes at the heart of these much-loved films and characters. Let’s not forget, Ariel literally gave up her voice for the chance to win over a man, while Snow White depicted the ultimate housewife stereotype, cooking and cleaning for seven men. Just last year, a parent asked for Sleeping Beauty to be removed from the school curriculum because she felt it blurred the lines of sexual consent.
All in all, the Disney princess gang hasn’t always championed the strongest feminist message. But that’s all about to change, because the women have now come together for the first time on screen – and they mean business.
If you’re unfamiliar with Wreck-It Ralph, it’s a Disney children’s film that tells the story of characters living inside the games at an arcade. The new trailer for the second film (Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2) has just been released, and shows two of the main characters, Ralph and Vanellope, stumbling across all of the Disney princesses.
The trailer shows Vanellope arriving at a digital version of Disneyland, where she immediately spots all of the Disney princesses.
This is the first time all of the female Disney leads have appeared together on screen, acknowledging each other’s existence and showcasing their bond. After finding her way into the Disney princesses’ plush dressing room, Vanellope introduces herself to the women.
But instead of being a gaggle of simpering stereotypes, the princesses come across as refreshingly assertive. Strong, defiant and utterly unafraid, they whip around to inspect the intruder. Jasmine holds her magic lamp up as a weapon, Pocahontas brandishes her wooden staff, while Cinderella smashes the edge of her precious glass shoes in a moment, sacrificing those glamorous slippers to protect herself.
After Vanellope explains that she is also a princess, the women ask her a series of questions to establish what kind of royalty she is. The questions are wryly telling of the treatment endured by the women in their original films. After inquiring about the magic state of Vanellope’s hair, hands or ability to talk to animals, the women chorus: “Were you poisoned? Cursed? Kidnapped or enslaved?”
Rapunzel then notes that the easiest way of telling if you’re a princess is to ask whether you’re viewed as weak and vulnerable, forever waiting for that elusive Prince Charming to validate you.
“Do people assume all your problems got solved because a big strong man showed up?” she asks.
“Yes!” Vanellope replies. “What is up with that?!”
Considering that Disney has historically been known for passive female characters who rely on Prince Charming to save the day, this feels like a welcome moment of self-awareness.
In recent years we’ve seen more independent Disney princesses in films such as Frozen – where sisters Anna and Elsa ditch the male characters to save each other – and Brave, which omits a love interest storyline altogether. Here’s hoping this latest development is a sign that we can expect many more strong, intelligent and self-sufficient princess in films to come.