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Tuesday, July 05 2022
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Redefined Disney princesses: No damsels in distress - 3 min read

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Literature has always been a mirror to the society and also mirror of the society. Our lives, ideals, goals, dreams and in various scenarios even personality are formed by what we read and watch. Walt Disney had once said, “Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood”.

For many young children, movies become a guiding light for the future. They aspire to become the characters they see on the screen, act like them, talk like them and even dress like them. In this case scenario, the narration and portrayal of various characters become very important. For, the young kids accept things the way it has always been shown to them. And then this goes on to become an important characteristics of their future personality.

For decades, movies have portrayed female characters with a certain cliché. They are expected to gossip, be naïve, defenseless, and must fulfil a certain level of the beauty standards. Bold and daring are the adjectives used only for the male characters. But, in the recent times, we can see these stereotypes breaking. Filmmakers are writing strong female characters who do not wait for a prince charming to save the day. Disney’s princesses are now very much capable of fighting their own battles and choosing their own destinies.

Cinderella is a classic fairytale. Peggy Orenstein, in her article, ‘Cinderella and Princess Culture’, discusses how young girls imitate these fairy tales by wanting to be a princess. ‘Princess’ may not be a negative term, but the way they are portrayed is wrong. The concept that she is a damsel in distress who must be ultimately saved by the Prince Charming is damaging. Therefore, it is heartwarming to watch Disney+ Hotstar’s Cinderella (2021) choose herself over societal expectations. She daringly says “I don’t want a life stuck waving from a royal box, any more than a life confined to a basement. I have dreams that I have to chase. So if it’s a choice, I choose me”. These changing narratives are very essential in imbibing goals and dreams in young girls instead of showing them that it’s okay to lose yourself for the sake of others.

Another such fairytale is of the sisters Anna and Elsa from the Frozen franchise.  The movie has not one, but two strong female characters, who rule the kingdom inherited from their father. The female relations shown in this film series is commendable. Whereas other tales show the clichéd love of the prince saving the princess, this movie confirms that sisterly love is no less. It was Anna’s true love that thawed Elsa’s frozen heart. A similar troupe can be seen in the Maleficent film series. It was the Godmother’s love that woke Aurora (The Sleeping Beauty) up and not the prince’s kiss (though it is debatable as to how can he kiss without her consent). Moana, the future leader of a Polynesian island village, is another awe-inspiring character ever written. She was chosen by the ocean herself to reunite the Goddess Te Fiti with her relic stone. When doom dawns, it is Moana who sets sail to find Maui and return the relic. And, unlike many stories where women stand as a barricade to reach your goals, here, it is her grandmother who pushes her forward to fulfil her destiny.

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As Jo March said “Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for”, and we all agree. Therefore, in an era where women are owning up to themselves, these misleading quest of love must cease.


Picture credits: unsplash/pixabay

Saman Syed

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