I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time but I have been so busy I didn’t have time to do it justice. Let me give it a shot. Recently over on a popular blog a woman wrote about 3 Disney female “role models’ that aren’t really deserving of that title”. I want to add my two cents of why with all due respect I think she is wrong and that the 3 she has chosen are worthy characters to emulate in many ways.
Her first target is Alice
She says of Alice “She always has her head in the clouds and it took seeing her wildest fantasies realized to knock some since into her. Even when she becomes hopelessly lost in Wonderland and desperately wants to leave, she still lets her curiosity get the better of her”
Hmmm… well, let’s ignore the fact that there would be no movie if she didn’t let her curiosity be the better of her. But I propose there is more to Alice than mere wild fantasies and curiosity over a rabbit.
Alice doesn’t just wander absent mindedly into Wonderland. She proposes at the start of the film that a world with nonsense would be better. The whole point of Wonderland is to then test out this worldview. She meets one form of nonsense after another whether it be philosophic nonsense in the caterpillar or a tea party that never ends with the Hatter.
There is actually something bold about the mental exercise Alice undertakes. The great philosophers and minds of our time have gotten to greater understanding because they dared to test the world out in a new way. For example, Plato’s Republic, Dante’s Inferno, Moore’s Utopia all put on new goggles to hopefully understand the world better. This should be encouraged and makes Alice a good role model for girls.
The thing that sucks about the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland is they forget about this part of Alice’s character and make it a meaningless adventure with a prophecy and chosen one. Alice is escaping her own problems in that version but in the Disney animated film she is seeing the world in a whole new way.
Next up is Aurora
The writer is so bold as to say “I think it’s pretty obvious that Aurora doesn’t set a very good example for young girls”. Her main beef with Aurora is that she falls in love with a man over a dance and she seems to think they are going to run away together. I guess this writer must not like Juliet, Isolde, Guinevere or any number of classic romantic heroines who fall in love quickly.
But where does it say that Aurora is planning to run away with the Phillip? She has plans to meet him later that evening and is twitterpated but I don’t think it is ever clear she is getting married that night. She’s excited about a dance with a boy. What’s wrong with that? She’s then sad when she finds out she will never see him again. Pretty natural response if you ask me.
Also, the author claims Aurora “is beautiful and can sing…That’s literally it”. I disagree. Animals do not take to people very easily but who do the animals love? Aurora. The Fairies adore her and feel sad when they have to turn her over to her father. Do you think they would feel this way if she was a ditzy nothing?
Then the author faults her for giving into the curse. “And the fate of her entire kingdom rests on her not pricking her finger on a spinning wheel; *sighs* you had one job!” This critique is by far the most baffling as even Merrywether an actual faerie can not reverse Maleficent’s magic. How is an ordinary girl like Aurora supposed to do that? It’s an outrageous claim!
Part of the problem with Aurora is we simply don’t see that much of her what with her being SLEEPING BEAUTY!! But what we do see is a loving, caring person who is elegant and graceful. How she is a bad role model is beyond me.
And then we get to the one that really fired me up!- Ariel!
The author’s qualms with Ariel aren’t particularly original, but I reject them nonetheless. She says “you should never go so far as to change who you are to get what you want, especially not for a guy”
Ok. Let’s talk about this. The first time we see Ariel she is missing the concert for what? She is off collecting treasures from a ship. This is where she finds the dinglehoffer and snarfblat. Then we first see her entering the grotto and singing Part of Your World BEFORE SHE MEETS ERIC!
She has hundreds of items in her grotto and what does she tell Flounder? ‘I just don’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad’.
You can make the argument that Ariel is short-sighted when she follows the Sea Witch but why does she do it? Not to get a man but because her father has just destroyed her grotto- her one connection to the human world. Eric is simply the catalyst that gets her to make a decision she has always wanted to make.
I don’t know if it is canon or not but in Ariel’s Beginning we also learn that her mother had a fascination with human artifacts- particularly a music box, so that may explain part of it as well.
Ariel is definitely smitten with Eric but how you can say it is the reason she gives up who she is I just don’t understand. I think she has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. Again before she meets Eric she says “I just don’t see things the way he does”. It is no accident that Ariel has become a ROLE MODEL for many LGBT teens who also feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.
When she sings Part of Your World she says ‘lookin around here you think sure, she’s got everything” but then adds “I want more…”. Again, all before Eric. I think that’s a great thing to look up to. Someone who fights for where they belong and who they truly are. Triton recognizes this at the end and that is why he changes her over.
Even Sebastian says it is either Ariel be human or “be miserable for the rest of your life”. That’s a good role model in my book.
This whole thing baffles me when you have such easy fodder as Pocahontas who is actually partly responsible for an innocent man’s death. She is older than Ariel or Aurora and is consistently a poor listener to those warning caution. She does selfless things at the end but if you had to pick a bad role model of a Disney woman she’s at the top of the list.
And then there are other questionable characters. How about the girl in the Jungle Book who is perfectly happy to get the water and care for her man her entire life?
As much as I love Frozen, Anna is much less developed and is manipulated by men more than Ariel.
Megura in Hercules sells her soul to the devil to get a man. That’s pretty bad and Esmeralda in Huncback dances provocatively before men.
The truth is I don’t think any of these women are bad role models because their characters have arcs that teach good lessons. With proper parenting kids can gain all kinds of lessons from ANY Disney film.
You may think I am fangirling here but I think that’s the case with Dreamworks too or Don Bluth or any film designed for children. I have yet to see one that is so bad that there isn’t something a parent can use to teach or role model off of. Even the dreaded Chicken Little has lessons in there.
So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’ll keep my role models to the end. 🙂
19 thoughts on “In Defense of Disney Women”
To be fair, Megara sells her soul to the devil to rescue a man she love, not to get him…he just leaves her in the dust after it, because he is an undeserving a-h….
Well, you know what I think about two of those characters. In the case of Alice I don’t think that we can interfere anything about her character other than her being curious and very imaginative, since the whole movie is one long dream sequence.
Yeah that’s true about Megara. Yeah I admit my view on Alice is somewhat unorthodox but if you think about each person she meets along the way it is a different form of nonsense so I think there is something to it. Especially when they make such a point of it at the beginning. Anyway, thanks for reading. I knew you’d especially agree with Aurora.
Haven’t heard about that “popular blog” before, so wasn’t aware of her post.
But, good defending of these three. Alice makes mistakes, but I mean, if you’re in a land like Wonderland where nonsense prevails, I’m sure mistakes is all that we would be making too. She’s actually my favorite female non-princess Disney character!
And Aurora gets way too much flack from people accusing her of “falling in love with a man right away” or “sleeping throughout the movie” (It’s called SLEEPING BEAUTY! What else were you expecting to see besides a beauty sleeping?)
And while one can point out Ariel’s teenage stubbornness or rebellion, it’s still not as bad as people point out saying how she “changes her self for a man” or whatnot. So, good job defending these three!
I don’t think there’s any female Disney character that I have any major problems with. As you know, I don’t really have any problem with the girl at the end of The Jungle Book as she represents the culture of her people there. Meg pays and learns for her mistake. I don’t particularly mind Esmeralda’s dancing as from what I remember, it’s only in the beginning of the movie.
Thanks. Glad I could introduce you to the DCast because I really do enjoy it quite a bit. You make a good point about the girl in Jungle Book and it such a small part that it doesn’t really matter too much. I think we forget that kids aren’t blank slates that pour in whatever is given to them. No they are individuals who will form their own opinions about characters and ideas. It is then the parent who talks to their child about the pluses and minuses of any role model or character in a story.
Thanks for your kind words. It was a fun post to write as I have always enjoyed crafting arguments and debate.
I only enjoy debating if it’s discussion and sharing ideas. When people use debates as a sporting event and to try and trounce the other one’s position, then I’m not into that.
Sure I agree
It’s more debate in the classic academic sense. Crafting arguments and writing persuasive essays. I find that satisfying
This is why I love talking about this stuff!! It ignites discussion! I totally see where you are coming from and I can see that we will definitely have to agree to disagree. My next post is actually going to be about Pocahontas and was inspired by what you said over in the comments on the DCast. Rock on, great points!
Thanks for being a good sport about it. It is totally fun to hear different points of view.
Well written argument!
I popped over to read the post and then read your followup. Both make interesting points, and to be honest, I’ve never delved into an analysis on the princesses before, but now I’m intrigued by this premise. Ariel has always been a favorite of mine, and I do agree with what you said about being uncomfortable in her skin. I admire her tenacity throughout the film.
Thanks so much! It’s all in a fun spirit of debate so I’m glad you enjoyed reading both posts. What’s interesting about Ariel is before I started blogging it had never occurred to me that she could be anything but a good example. Then I found out she is a bit of a controversial character and it shocked me. It was fun to defend the hero of my youth :). Glad you admire her too.
Really interesting. I personally don’t think any Disney females are really poor role models. Especially with these three characters, one thing I think it’s important to keep in mind is that they’re all young (Alice especially). Disney women like Tiana and Belle are at least a little bit older and grew up with relatively normal lives (not like, say, Aurora).
I did have to laugh at the Aurora bit because if you’ve ever watched the special features on The Princess and the Frog, there’s a part where Mama Odie “re-tells” some of the classic stories in her own way. And when she does Sleeping Beauty she comments, “Girl, you can’t just run away with some boy you met in the forest!”
But yeah, is it any surprise that Aurora would become infatuated so quickly, given that she’s been locked up for so long and never even seen a man? Ariel is in a similar situation where she’s been kept from the things she wants to explore, which just makes her more desperate to break out from the situation she’s in.
Though I disagree with some of your other examples – I honestly feel like every Disney female has positive qualities and could be good role models, including Anna, Pocahontas, Meg, and Esmeralda (especially Meg and Esmeralda – both may have made some mistakes in their lives but they are awesome, strong women).
Ha. I will have to watch that special features on Princess and the Frog. You make a very good point though about Ariel and Aurora being excluded from people and their desires so making their choices more understandable. I agree.
And I actually also agree on the Disney women. I think they all have something admirable about them and you have to look at the entire story arc not just the mistakes they make.
It just occurred to me that all 3 of her women have A names. A clear bias I think 😉
Reblogged this on Smilingldsgirl's Weblog and commented:
I thought you guys might enjoy reading this. I thought my arguments were laid out pretty well and were well written.
I have definitely heard of these debates before, and I can see both sides depending on the character.
With Alice, sometimes being too curious is not a good thing, but in the film, the entire point of it is for her to learn that there is a reason why rules are in place, and she has to develop as a character.
There was never any indication that Aurora was going to run away with Phillip, and it is smart for her to have him meet her family at her house. What generally annoys me is that current pop culture tends to rewrite what actually happened in the older films like this, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
I remember some years ago, there was definitely the Pocahontas vs Ariel debate as to who is worse role model. I am sure you know my sentiments about Ariel, and I would be lying if I said she was a really good role model. A lot of the claims like she solely changed for a man is false though. It seems like Ariel just doesn’t like Triton’s rules instead of hating being a mermaid.
Either way, there are pros and cons to each female character.
Fair enough. I dont think you collect all those things for years if it is just rebellion against her Dad