The influence of gender has been visible in all walks of life, from fashion, society, colours, society, to cinema. Thankfully, with the increase in the discourse on gender neutrality and feminism, the world is slowly changing. Over the years, women have challenged social norms of pink for girls and blue for boys; resisted against inequality in pay, and have raised their voices against injustices around the world. Along with other things, such a trend has also been seen in Disney movies.
Disney as a franchise is a huge part of our childhood. Young boys and girls admire the world of heroes and heroines and aspire to be like them. For many years, princesses in Disney movies showed their princesses as meek and frail who were passive in face of adversity. They waited for a prince instead of taking action instead of taking charge. After Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, this trend was broken to some extent by Princess Jasmine in Aladdin.
An exception to other princesses from 20th century Disney films, Mulan was stubborn and courageous. She does not hesitate on several occasions to get involved for the salvation of her kingdom and does so by going to fight on the field against the fierce population of the Huns. The global success enjoyed by the Asian princess represents the true turning point in the conception of women for the American animation house.
The trend of Disney princesses emancipating themselves gained momentum in the 21st century, where we saw princesses as modern women who stood up for themselves. In this respect, Brave and Frozen are landmark films, as romance in them is absent or acts as a secondary plot. Merida, in Brave, is an independent archer who disobeys an ancient custom that unleashes a dark force. After meeting an elderly witch, she journeys to reverse the curse, as she discovers the real meaning of bravery. Frozen shines as a story about sisters and the importance of accepting oneself. The song ‘Let It Go’ became popular as an LGBTQ anthem and feminist call for freedom.
The last two decades also saw adaptations that emancipated the Disney princess. So we have a new Rapunzel in Tangled who is unafraid to realise her dreams and takes risks, never losing her charm and innocence. Emma Watson added a new sincerity and fierceness to Belle in her version of Beauty and the Beast. In 2019, Naomi Scott as Jasmine assumes herself as the Sultan, leader of the kingdom. In the original Aladdin, her husband Alladin becomes the Sultan.
Stories form an important part of a child's upbringing. Through them, children learn about the society they are growing up in. Thus, a feminist take to Disney princesses was long due. With time, may we see more Meridas, Mulans, Elsa and Jasmines.