Sunday, 28 August 2011

Disney Fanboys and Real Princesses

So it turned out, over lunch at the Baldi Hot Springs two weekends ago, that one of the guys in my group of volunteering friends (there are four of us including me - another girl working at the same school as me, and two guys working at a school in a smaller village about 10min away) is a massive Disney fanboy. I can't remember how the conversation started - we were talking about Disney Land and Disney World, I think - when he asked "so what are your top 3 Disney movies?" Off the top of my head, I answered:
  1. Mulan
  2. Beauty and the Beast
  3. Aladdin
Of course the Little Mermaid and the Lion King would also definitely make top 5, but this is a strictly Disney list. None of this Disney/Pixar business, because they are in two very different leagues, my friends - like comparing apples and oranges. AMAZING DELICIOUS fruits, but two different kinds of fruit nonetheless.

In any case, let me justify my choices. What sets these 3 films apart for me is their fierce heroines. These women aren't wimpy princesses who wait around all day for a prince (think: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, et al) - although I would also include Ariel and Pocahontas in this category. These are women who don't stop at dreaming, but actually actively pursue these goals. And what I really like about these women is that their lives don't revolve around men. They can be just as strong without them. They're not waiting for true love's first kiss - they want adventure. They demonstrate courage, confidence and charisma - they are women who know who to stand up to and defy the patriarchal society in which they are prove they need not - and indeed can not - be condemned. 

Mulan is by far my all time favourite Disney films, mainly because I watch it and feel proud to be a woman. Yes, it makes my feminist heart happy. Mulan is funny, smart, sassy, bold, fiercely loyal and doesn't pine for a man in her life. She doesn't think twice about making sacrifices for the ones she loves, or to do what is right. She is a heroine to admire and aspire to be. 

Belle is probably a close second, because I can relate to her - off in her own world, a day-dreamer, a book lover. Belle, too, is someone who won't settle, who makes up her own mind, sets stock in her own opinion, sees through the facade of others (see: Gaston), doesn't judge people by their appearances (see: the Beast), is selfless, kind, and wants to believe the best in people. 

Really I love Aladdin for the genie and his musical numbers, but also because Aladdin himself is a total babe, and yes, Jasmine is a fiesty symbol of awesome. She will not marry for anything less than love, and takes it into her own hands to find it. 

Actually Tatiana would be 4th on my list of favourite Disney heroines, because there's a girl who is working towards her dream. She's made of stern stuff, and knows what is needed to make her dreams come true. 

What makes me sad though is the prevalence of Disney at the school I'm working at here in La Fortuna. They have the Princess pencil cases and stickers and bags. Now hear me out, because clearly I'm a fangirl and certainly not above these things. But what I truly hope is that they can weed out the weaker princesses; that they don't aspire to be Snow White, and wait around, dreaming of their Prince, but they try to be Ariel, who knows what she wants and goes after it. I worry about how Snow White and Cinderella and Aurora influence young children, because they are the "true" Disney Princesses, and therefore the most often/typically portrayed, but thankfully Jasmine, Belle and Ariel are there to balance them out and offer themselves as the embodiment of Walt Disney's quote (one I try to live by):

I would also argue that being a Princess is not about a title, it's about character, which is why the definition of Disney Princess is usually extended to include Mulan, Pocahontas, Tatiana, etc. 

So: your top 3 Disney films?


[All pictures from, except the Walt Disney quote, which is from]


sara said...

"Mulan is funny, smart, sassy, bold, fiercely loyal and doesn't pine for a man in her life"..... AND SHE'S ASIAN! which obviously makes her awesome in itself. right? RIGHT??? ;)

(so much love for this post!! <3)

Aerialgrrrl said...

Got some awesome alternative Disney princess art to share with you..will link to you on Facebook if I can!

Just a girl said...

@Sara: OMG you're right, I totally forgot that the most awesome part about Mulan is that she's ASIAN and clearly I want to be her, hence why I ♥ her sooooo much! :D

@Aerialgrrrl: please do! you know I love whatever you link me: I shall call you Queen of the Interwebs!


Drop a tear in my wineglass said...

Sara: Hi 5! :P I'm Asian and I woop out loud at Mulan! me, the Disney films symbolize my childhood, dreams, femininity, strength, light and fantasy. I don't think I want to analyse them too much because, for me, they're mainly memories. Like a trip or something. So while I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, JAG (I always love reading your posts and am *infinitely* jealous of your South American adventures), my list is solely based on my memories of enjoyment from watching them. Haha!

1) Robin Hood. A beautiful retelling of the tale, that is full of adventure, politics, romance and beautiful colours and animals. They nanage to give every kind of animal their own characteristic and really transform an English folktale into a colourful fable, with morals and surprise and music. I love this film to bits!
2) Pocahontas. My heart flies a little bit whenever I hear "Colours of the Wind, and it's beautifully made. The scene at the waterfall takes my breath away. The pride she feels for herself and her people is contagious.
3) I have so many that I want on this list, but ultimately, I have to make it a tie between The Aristocats and The Little Mermaid. I love cats and I love mermaids, what can I say? Haha. The Aristocats is such a beautiful film (as is Cinderella) and Paris sets such a romantic background to the story (of the cutest kittens in the world! And I, as Rachel Zoe, die whenever I hear the Duchess' voice). And the Little Mermaid...the sea world is breathtaking, the story classic, Ariel is naïve and strong and honest and kind, and knows how to have fun, which was what I longed for as a child...

Now, we need to go through a list of the Disney Princes...because for some reason, I found myself very interested in knowing more about the Prince in Sleeping Beauty when I was little, and now realized that my boyfriend looks just like him! And my friend, who always loved Beauty and the Beast, is in love with a guy who looks exactly like the prince the beast turns into at the end! With smaller eyes, and without the hair-tie thingy. Is it just us? :P

Just a girl said...

@Diana: oh hai friend!! So nice to see you again!! *waves enthusiastically* :D

Haha yes I know I've been a little analytical in my approach to Disney, but never fear, the fangirl is never far from the surface! Honestly, these would be my top 3 out of love alone, for their songs, their love stories, their utter beauty and sheer tragedy - I related most to Belle (and probably second most to Rapunzel) but my relationship with Disney films - in particular Disney princesses, who I've loved and idolised since I was young - has been something I've been thinking about long and hard lately. I just can't help but wonder (and worry) how much influence Disney has over us at a very young (and crucial, formative) age; how much it shapes our ideas about love, happiness, bravery, what it means to be a woman, ambition, hope, courage, dreams, fear - to what extent it's lead me to build up The Kiss, to feel lonely, to need/crave/want a boyfriend - are these natural, internal desires? Have they been flamed by society, or inspired by Disney, or is this my unique brand of crazy coming to the fore? (All valid options!) Now I'm not blaming Disney for anything, but I do wonder how much power it has over our subconscious (and otherwise) development and thought process.

And I think because I continue to rewatch the films even now, to rediscover that joy, delight, happiness, warmth, adventure, surprise, music, strength and fantasy you talk about, it's all tangled up with my current emotions and reflections.

Sadly I've never seen the Aristocats :( I really want to though!! With great lines like "ladies don't start fights - but they can finish them!" how could I NOT love this movie?? It was only recently I saw The Lady and the Tramp, I still haven't seen Bambi, and I've only ever watched half of Robin Hood...I really am a failure of a fangirl!! I'm sorry!! Please don't hate!! :P

Oooh yes, we should definitely rank the Disney Princes...since I know so little about them (except Aladdin, or Li Shang), I'll probably do it on looks alone. ;)

JA(disney fan)G

Ylime Fles said...

This is really hard because the only one's I've watched since I was a kid are... Aladdin and Pocahontas.

So I'll say the ones I loved when I was about 5 were:

1) Aladdin
2) The Little Mermaid
3) Cinderella

But nowadays my favs are:

1) Aladdin
2) Treasure Planet (Oh my gosh, this is actually one of my FAVs)
3) Probably Mulan, but I really haven't seen it in ages.