Princess and the Frog: Another Racist Disney Movie

That's not necessarily a terrible thing, but proceeding in that manner places a very heavy burden on the quality of your opinions. With Schickel and Gabler, the salient characteristic of their opinions is not their intellectual substance but that they coincide with the prejudices of their target audience—urban sophisticates who have long regarded Walt and his works with comprehensive disdain. Such congruence guarantees some good reviews, even when the authors involved are lightweights compared with Schickel and Gabler. (Among other writers on Disney and related subjects, Marc Eliot and Stefan Kanfer come immediately to mind.)

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Moreover, just as feminists of the second wave resisted oppression from their patriarchal society, these princesses challenge the status quo in pursuit of their true desires. Dissatisfied with the sea, Ariel collects human artifacts and dreams of living on land. Belle fantasizes about a more exciting life, far from her dull, provincial town, and persists in reading and learning despite the disapproval of her neighbors. Pocahontas resists marrying a man selected by her father, and Mulan joins the army in her father’s place (and fights better than many of her fellow soldiers). And, significantly, the stories of non-white princesses like Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan reinforce the third wave’s emphasis on the empowerment of racially- and culturally-diverse women (even if those films do contain several historical inaccuracies and some stereotyping – but that’s a different article).

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However, these films have devoured the youth of America and, in the process; have perpetuated an institutionally racist society based on harsh stereotypes....

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Yet, for all the progress made by Disney princesses of the 1990s, one glaring vestige of pre-feminist society remains: every story centers around or ends with a happily-ever-after-style relationship between the princess and her true love. In the most extreme case, Ariel sacrifices her voice – her very means of personal expression – to be with a man, and she must seduce him with only her beauty in order to be saved. True, the other films of this era offer a more feminist attitude toward romance, as the princes and princesses of those stories love each other sincerely for their personalities, but the implication remains that a woman will only find complete happiness with a man. Her other accomplishments fade in comparison to the ultimate goal of getting married.

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Enter the next generation of princesses, featured in “Disney Renaissance” films like The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995), and Mulan (1998). These newer princesses reflected society’s drastically altered beliefs about who women are and how they should act, as each princess has a distinct personality. These women are nuanced and flawed: Ariel is fiery and headstrong, Belle is intellectual and fiercely independent, Pocahontas is wise and strong, and Mulan is awkward but incredibly brave.

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But the significance of Disney princesses extends far beyond their entertainment value. As stories created for children, and often intended to teach a lesson or impart specific morals, these films serve as mirrors that reflect our culture’s shifting values. Specifically, they demonstrate women’s perceived importance and purpose in society at specific periods in time. When analyzed parallel to the feminist movements of the 20th and early 21st centuries, they highlight intriguing – and sometimes disturbing – truths about the world in which we live.