Throughout the years, Disney has created many wonderful animated and non-animated features. With each new film, a franchise within the franchise is created or characters are added to an existing franchise.
To date, Disney's most successful and popular franchise is the Disney Princess franchise. You walk into any Disney Store and you'll see lots of toys, clothing and other things devoted to the princesses. But even then not all the princesses are featured and you don't see merchandising devoted to the Disney Heroines. Crazy, right? Actually, no it's not. There's actually a reason behind all this. I believe this needs to be changed. The line up is very much like the starting lineup used in sports that is altered to fit the strategy used, in this case, marketing among other factors.
* The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely mine and not the views of the Disney Company. Enjoy.
1: Marketing A Stereotype To The Masses.
Believe it or not this is very true. I bet if you go into any Disney Store and pick up something with the princesses on it, chances are you might be missing a couple of them, like Tiana and Pocahontas. Same goes with the dolls. You'll see the princesses, possibly their princes, heck even the villains. But it's hard to find a Tiana or a Pocahontas doll. It just doesn't happen in the Disney store. You see it in the products shown in the media too. Sometimes even Mulan and Jasmine are left out. Why is this? It's all because of a certain stereotype. A white, thin, popular, beautiful, royal, leading lady.
Doesn't seem very fair. The fact that on some occasions, the newest images of the princesses have them decked out in glitter and made prettier, or they are barely featured. Examples are as follows:
- Merida: her face shape was changed and she was given a more feminine wardrobe, her waist was made smaller and her hair was tamed. Merida is supposed to be tomboyish and wild, with no interest in dressing up.
- Mulan's face was made more feminine as well and her clothes were made more extravagant. She was in the army and looked fine the way she was. She didn't care about fancy clothes either. She was not an overly feminine character!
- Pocahontas was decked out in something far fancier than her humble deerskin dress. That's not who she is!
- Some of the darker skinned princesses, like Pocahontas and Jasmine, have had their skin lightened to an extent.
Princess Eilowny fits this stereotype perfectly and yet she's not there. Why? Because she wasn't popular enough.
Another thing that bothered me were the re-designs. They're making them fancier, girlier and with tons of glitter. My eyes burn from how much glitter was used. I personally loved the old designs. Why? Because they looked beautiful and in some way, I felt like I could be just as pretty. But now with all the glitter and the perfect hair and new outfits, that feels impossible now. It's like if you don't fit into just one aspect of the stereotype, you aren't worth the mention.
What kind of message is this sending to girls? Why make it so hard for a girl to find a Tiana or Pocahontas doll? Stereotyping, that's why. It's ridiculous. Even Roy E. Disney was against the creation of the Disney Princess franchise.
2: The Official Lineup
This lineup is very familiar to many, and will soon feature Moana. So.... what makes a female character an official princess worthy of a spot in the lineup? Several surprising reasons.
- Being born a royal or marrying into royalty
- Main female lead
- Success in the box office
- Significant portrayal of heroism in their film
So what makes them not cut out for it?
- Unsuccessful marketing
- They did not fare well in box office
- Too young
- Not a royal or no royal marriage.
Even so, there are several Disney women who don't even make it into the unofficial Princess line up.
Why This Needs To Change
From a very early age, girls look up at the Disney princesses as role models. But because of limited marketing, they're limited to the types of women they can look up to. I remember wanting to be a princess when I was a little girl, but looking at it now, I realize that there are hidden guidelines involved that we don't see until we're much older. It's like telling girls they can only be a princess if they're one of these things or they do a certain thing. Even then, not all girls want to be a princess, but marketing is limited and so is their exposure to other female characters in mainstream media and marketing.
So What Needs To Happen And Why?
This is personally my opinion on the matter. Either quit with the stereotyping in marketing, add in more characters or dissolve the official Disney Princess lineup and create an all new, all inclusive lineup. I get Disney is trying to be more diverse but seriously, bring back Pocahontas and put her in mainstream media again. Esmeralda was, in fact, a part of the Disney lineup until 2008. Put her back in! Enough with the new princesses to try and replace the old.
Why create a new lineup to be more inclusive? No Disney woman is exactly the same and each brings a different personality, morals or aspect of character to the table that girls can relate to. Personally, I'd love to see more Esmeralda as she was a huge favorite of mine as a kid and still is. I thought she was an excellent role model. As I stated before, not all girls want to be a princess. One friend looked up to Nani because Nani's relationship with Lilo was in a sense similar to my friend's relationship with her own sister.
Each Disney woman teaches us something different and unique. Perhaps we find a character we relate to or we wish to model ourselves after. But that can be hard if they aren't exposed to them. There's a vast store of potential that's limited.