Tag Archives: disney princesses

Fear and Love at First Sight: An Examination of Disney Princesses and Their Princes

Standard

Ariel and Eric are probably my Disney OTP (besides Esmeralda/Phoebus and Jane/Tarzan and Jasmine/Aladdin and Pocahontas/John Smith *cough*). I, and I’m sure many of you, have wanted to meet our Prince Charming with a perfect Love at First Sight moment we frequently associate with Disney. But I took a closer look at all the Princess/Prince meetings and um… well… I noticed a lot of trends that don’t really sit well with me. Let’s explore!

Pre-Renaissance Films
The Pre-Renaissance princess movies are Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. All three meetings are a very typical ‘love at first sight’  storybook scene. However, in the case of Snow White and Aurora, their prince appears out of nowhere, drawn by their voice and startling them. Snow White actually runs into her castle because she’s so scared, while Aurora pulls away. The meeting in Cinderella is less creepy since it happens at a party, where one would expect to meet new people.

Though Cinderella isn’t singing like the other two princesses are when they meet their princes, music is still an important element in their meeting. Cinderella is the first film where dancing is introduced as both an important storytelling and romantic element.

cinderella and her princey dancing

There is also a song, and though it is sung with the impression it is Cinderella and her prince, they’re not actually singing in the scene. Instead, their meeting has a narrator of sorts, the Duke. In contrast, Snow White and Aurora are both singing alone and then have a duet with the prince (Snow White’s doesn’t last very long though, since she runs off when the prince startles her).

Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have many elements of their meetings in common. Firstly, both princes are on horseback. Animals are involved in both, with Aurora dancing with her owl friend and her other critters watching. In Snow White, Snow is singing to the doves. While Cinderella has mice friends and they did take her to the ball, they’re not present in this scene.

The settings for all three meetings are also similar. Snow White and Cinderella both happen in a castle and while Sleeping Beauty happens in the woods, they both stare at the castle in the distance afterwards.

sleeping beauty cuddling

The audience knows that castle is Aurora’s home, where she should be. Where Philip will have to battle his way to her and free her from Maleficent so they can be reunited. Cinderella meets the prince in his castle, where she ultimately belongs because she’s so good. It’s her escape from her stepmother. And while Snow White runs from the prince into the castle, at the end she leaves with him.

Setting is a theme we’re going to see repeated as well as some other points I made above.

To recap the pre-Renaissance Love at First Sight moments: running away, music, instant attraction, and castles.

star wars uhh reaction

Renaissance Films
We skip ahead a bunch of years and come to The Little Mermaid. TLM is the first film where we have a sort of ‘two meetings’ thing happen (it’ll make sense as we go on).

The first difference, and my favorite, is what draws Ariel and Eric together. Where Prince Charming and Philip were drawn by the sound of a mysterious voice and that’s how they find their princess, Ariel goes to the surface simply because she wants to see the ship.

little mermaid we're out to discover Exactly, Scuttle.

Then, she notices the fireworks and her curiosity skyrockets. For the first time in Disney Princess History, neither of them were looking for/drawn to each other. However, the only piece of Ariel Eric has is her voice, thus the trend does live on. We’ll come back to this.

Music too is involved here, though neither of them is singing. Eric is playing a flute, while crewmembers dance and play instruments. Another common theme is the presence of animals: Max (Eric’s dog), and Scuttle. Scuttle also marks the first meeting where a princess has a friend present. Aurora is with her forest buddies, but they’re just passively watching everything happening. Scuttle is actively involved, talking with Ariel throughout. If only Ariel could have had another mermaid as a friend, or maybe even one of her sisters. (Princesses need friends, too!)

Ariel watches Eric, much like Philip and Charming watched Aurora and Snow. It’s love at first sight for her. However, I give her a pass because she actually sees Eric acting like a decent human being. She sees that he has the same lust for adventure she does (when Grimsby tries to tell him he needs to marry and he’s not having it), she sees that he’s humble (disgusted by the giant statue of himself), creative/artistic (the flute), AND is a total sweetheart when it comes to his dog. Please tell me who would not turn to mush at a real life Eric?

my body is ready reaction my body is ready hook reaction my body is ready copy reaction

Exactly. Boys and their dog get me every time. Philip and Charming just watched Aurora and Snow singing and talking to animals. Neither of those things seem very healthy.

But then, BOOM! Chaos. A storm! The ship EXPLODES! Ariel rescues Eric after witnessing him selflessly going back for his dog. Now she knows he’s courageous. When he wakes up on shore, Eric finally sees Ariel for the first time. She probably looked like an angel to him, with the sun hitting her the way it did and her perfect voice. Before they can talk, she’s startled by Max and Grimsby—just like the pre-Renaissance ladies running away.

little mermaid fuck mermaids reaction

The second time they meet is when Ariel has legs. They’re on the beach this time, with the castle in the distance. That is where Ariel is going to end up, visually illustrated as Eric offers her his support so she can walk with him. But the first time Ariel saw him, he was on a ship, perfectly straddling the line between their two worlds. They’re also on a beach, near the water, Ariel’s world, but firmly on land, Eric’s world. The castle visual remains in their first mutual meeting, while Ariel seeing him on a ship before is also significant.

The meeting is again facilitated by Max (animals shipping Disney couples since 1937!), who spooks Ariel onto the rock. Max is barking and unfamiliar and chasing her, so she’s rightfully a little scared.

And now here is the most important discovery I made: Every princess is scared during their so called “Love at First Sight” scenes. In Snow White a stranger pops out of nowhere and Snow literally runs away and barricades herself in her castle. This screams fear. Aurora is also scared, running and hiding behind a tree.In Cinderella, yes, it is definitely way less creepy and she does not present the same amount of fear. However, Charming approaches her from behind and she jumps when he touches her, hesitating before accepting. We can argue Cinderella is more shy and coy. If we had to pick one as the exception to the rule, I’d pick her.

cinderella and prince

Now Ariel is never fearful around Eric like Snow, Cinderella, and Aurora were. But when the ship begins to burn, she realizes there’s danger. And later, when Grimsby and Max arrive, she’s scared of them and also what would happen if they knew she was a mermaid. So far the princesses have either been scared of their suitors or there is an element of danger surrounding them. This theme is going to come up in every single movie.

this displeases me reaction

Their second meeting is kind of a twist on the “Love at First Sight” trope. Though Eric is clearly drawn to her, he’s disappointed when he thinks she’s not the girl that saved him and so he tries not to like her that way. Spoiler alert: he fails.

little mermaid prince-eric-laughing

Next we have Beauty and the Beast and I’m going to jump right into fear because um… Belle and the Beast do NOT have a love at first sight moment at all. Belle is terrified of the Beast. He’s holding her father captive, slithering around in the dark, and yelling and threatening her. He physically grabs her and throws her to the ground.

Like Ariel saving Eric during their meeting, Belle is also trying to save someone she loves: her father. A trend of heroism develops here and continues into the Renaissance era.

The setting here is also a castle and instead of animals, there are inanimate objects everywhere. Their gossip is an important aspect of the scene because they’re talking about needing Belle to save them as she’s trying to save her father. Ultimately, this castle needs her and she’s accepted in it in a way she never was in her small town. And then of course, it also becomes her home, too.

frozen me... feels reaction

This meeting is the first one when the prince isn’t immediately visible to the princess. Belle needs to tell the Beast to “come into the light.” This is something we’ll see repeated with Tangled. Also important to note, this is the first meeting with no music involved. The Beast isn’t drawn to Belle’s voice, nor is there a romantic song they sing together like in Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps this is because Belle does not fall in love this version of the Beast. She only cares for him after he changes his attitude and stops acting like such a dickwad. That is when they have their duet.

All right, let’s head to our next film: Aladdin. Like our other princesses being scared, Jasmine is about to have her HAND CUT OFF. Yes, she’s terrified. Jasmine comes from a very clinical environment where all her needs are met. No one has ever raised a hand to her and here is this giant man with a knife and she has no idea why she’s in trouble. Cue: terror.

Also cue: ALADDIN!

I mentioned this theme of heroism in the Renaissance first meetings and here’s another one: Aladdin saving Jasmine. This first meeting builds on the one in TLM where Ariel sees Eric being a decent, normal dude. In Aladdin, he sees her giving an apple to a child (just like he did with bread!), so while he is clearly drawn by her looks (“Wow.”), there is something deeper there. The scene also establishes that he and Jasmine work well together to get out of a very bad situation. She questions him initially, but plays along right away. However, Aladdin saving Jasmine reverses the mini-trend of women saving men.

Like other meetings, animals are involved (Abu). There’s also a familiar shot of Aladdin watching Jasmine similar to Philip and Charming and yes, it’s cute, but it is also is a tad creepy.

aladdin watching jasmine

There is no song involved and here is where the trend of saving that big duet moment happens. Well, it technically started in Beauty and the Beast (Something There happens later), but it continues here, thus making it a trend. While the pre-Renaissance films where all “Love at First Sight” these later films added more obstacles to their love stories, so while there was instant attraction, they didn’t immediately act on it. The importance of voice dies out in Aladdin. While singing voices led men to women (Snow White, Aurora, Ariel) or there was singing during their meeting (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), that common thread is cut.

Aladdin and Jasmine meet in the marketplace. I like the symbolism here again as they’re between worlds. Like Eric was on a ship, a piece of land on water, in between, Jasmine and Aladdin are meeting in the middle, too. Jasmine has left the palace and is among common people, while Aladdin is in the “city” so to speak and later brings Jasmine to the outskirts, where he lives. And of course, they look at the palace, like Aurora and Philip. Aladdin longs to live there and with Jasmine at his side, not knowing she’s the princess, he will eventually.

aladdin

This leads to Pocahontas, where John Smith PULLS A GUN ON HER. Pocahontas is already wary (but curious) because John is a stranger and invader and now this. She doesn’t physically appear scared, she seems calm the entire time.

pocahontas in the mist

And even if she is not afraid of John Smith, neither were Ariel and Jasmine. They were scared because of what was happening around them and the element of danger. A gun pointed at you definitely qualifies as an element of danger present in a so called LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT meeting.

aladdin what

The mood changes quickly, though. After she runs off, like the pre-Renaissance princesses (and Ariel), a more traditional first meeting happens. The music and the flying leaves when their hands meet is more romantic and dreamy. That is the scene we see their attraction happen.

pocahontas holding hands

This meeting brings back a musical element since John was just singing Mine, Mine, Mine. There’s also animals present as Meeko and Flit watch. Pocahontas falls back on a lot of old tropes. However, in a move only Philip and Eric have made, John Smith asks for her name, which I am very proud of.

The setting here is the wilderness, something we haven’t seen since Sleeping Beauty. Pocahontas is not with her tribe or by Mother Willow, so she’s out on her own, kind of in her own space. And John Smith is new, so he has no place that’s familiar yet. In a way, they both meet in a strange land to signify the new world they’ll create together.

From there we move to Mulan. Like Beauty and the Beast and their decidedly not “Love at First Sight” meeting, the same applies here. And like Eric thinking the girl he met on the beach wasn’t his savior, Shang of course has no idea Mulan is about to blow his mind.

reaction giggling noise

There is a huge emphasis on names in this scene, something other meetings have lacked. Similar to how Jasmine and Ariel never feared Aladdin or Eric, Mulan isn’t afraid of Shang, but he is the authority figure and she’s clearly frazzled. However, the element of danger here is the fact that Mulan was just the target of a legit fight. The entire camp has been fighting with Mulan buried underneath them. Her meeting with Shang is also her first real test at being a man so she’s understandably nervous. Still, it fits an unnerving trend of princesses being afraid or under threat in their supposedly “Love at First Sight” moments.

Mushu is the animal present in the scene. Their setting is also out in nature, getting ready for war. I think this ties back into Mulan’s own personal story and I like that.

Modern Films
Now we hit the most recent princess films. Princess and the Frog obviously meets the animal trend since Naveen is a frog when they meet. Like TLM, though, they also have two meetings. There is a quick scene in the beginning when Naveen is playing music and trying to be charming, but Tiana is not having it. However, fear is back in their second meeting.

Tiana is startled because there’s a talking frog! And also, what was he doing on the balcony? He was just there, like the pre-Renaissance princes happened to be. In something we see continued in Tangled, Tiana physically assaults Naveen with books since she’s so scared. Naveen does apologize for scaring her, which is nice, but that’s probably because he needs her to kiss him.

Several new things continue to arise in this film. Tiana is concerned for her friend Lottie who is dancing with a fake prince Naveen. Of course, no other princess has needed to be concerned for their human friends since they never had one before (besides Pocahontas).

princess and the frog bestie hug

This is definitely not a “Love at First Sight” scene, but still, it’s the only one where they kiss as soon as they meet! Again, the plot hinges on Tiana kissing him so there’s a reason for it, but she did still kiss him. Like Ariel, Belle, and Aladdin, the thread of heroism returns since Tiana was trying to save Naveen. New and old elements combine in Princess and the Frog.

Our trip though Disney Princess History takes us to Tangled. I touched on it previously, but Rapunzel smacks Flynn with a frying pan since she’s so scared of the strange man that climbs into her room, a la Tiana. Flynn also shares some similarities with Naveen. Naveen is definitely more flirty (seriously go watch that scene over with this in mind), but Flynn tries to use his smolder.

tangled meeting

When it fails, he drops the act and just wants to get as far away from Rapunzel as possible.

Unlike any other scene, except maybe Mulan, their first meeting is more about Rapunzel proving herself to Gothel. After she hits him with the frying pan, cowers behind a mannequin, and checks him for sharp pointy teeth, she traps him in her closet to prove to Gothel she can take care of herself.

tangled pascal

In between she also tries on the tiara he stole and while it maybe seems familiar to her, it is quickly forgotten when Gothel returns. Later, after Flynn assures her he wants nothing to do with her hair, Rapunzel is confused. After all, Gothel swore her everyone would be out to get her. But like he also had normal teeth instead of terrifying ones, Flynn represents her freedom from Gothel. He guides her out of her isolation.

As discussed, like TLM there are two meetings. One where Rapunzel sees him (like Ariel watching the ship) and one where they actually talk for the first time. Tangled also draws other parallels to films like Beauty and the Beast. Rapunzel is first cloaked in darkness and steps into the light so Flynn can see her. While the Beast hid himself away because he believed himself hideous and unlovable, Rapunzel did it partly out of fear and suspicion.

As the pre-Renaissance films had an emphasis on music, a reprise of Rapunzel’s solo song follows their meeting and her subsequent leaving of the tower.

tangled now's when my life begins copy

And like the Renaissance films, their big duet comes later.

Their meeting is her tower because, as I said, Flynn represents the world and life Rapunzel can have. They leave together to see the lights.

reaction dead from the feels

Finally, this brings us to Frozen. Frozen has two meetings and while I considered if I had to include Anna meeting Hans since he’s not her true love, I rewatched the scene to see if it played with any tropes I’d already noticed or diverged from the usual meetings as a sign that Hans was not a good guy.

What I found was this:

-the Hans/Anna meeting plays out very cutesy and storybook-like (what you’d expect of a “Love at First Sight” scene)

frozen gorgeous wait what

-danger is present since she gets HIT BY A HORSE and falls onto a boat that nearly topples into a lake

-prince on horseback trope reappears (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty)

-no visible castle but Anna’s status is immediately told + mentions of the coronation

This takes us to Anna meeting Kristoff. Now, Frozen bothered me since it hated on previous Disney love stories. You’d expect then that this meeting would be very different from the others. However, Anna has the same fear as the other meetings discussed. Kristoff is covered in snow, not clearly visible like the Beast, and she backs away from him.

frozen awkward

Like Tiana, she expresses concern over her friend/sister since she has a person she can do that for! While Tiana wanted to know who Lottie was dancing with if he was with her, Anna wanted to know what Kristoff knew about Elsa.

This scene is a contrast to the perfect meeting she has with Hans. While Hans is perfect and charming, Kristoff is gruff. He doesn’t make a good first impression on her or Oaken since he gets tossed out of the store. Similarly, Mulan makes a horrid first impression as the center of a fight and unable to pick a name for herself. It’s not a traditional “Love at First Sight” scene but we’ve already seen several of those (Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog).

It even has an animal involved since Kristoff needs to buy carrots for Sven and Sven is waiting for him right outside the shop. Clearly, Frozen’s “you can’t marry someone you just met” love story doesn’t really hold up when compared to other princess meetings.

Conclusion
Wow! That was a lot of films! Okay, so the trends that carried through all were DANGER! FEAR! (which is great… not) and the presence of animals. We’ve also seen the importance of music and setting. All the eras also had their own particular features like heroism and the removal of a song while couples met. In the more recent films we saw a lot of physical humor added, even in Frozen, where Kristoff is thrown from the shop and hits his head on the sign. But the eras also weaved in and out of each other with similar aspects reappearing like women running away or light vs dark.

Some stand out meetings, I think, are Tangled, where there’s less focus on them as a couple and more focus on Rapunzel beginning to realize some of the things Gothel had told her were wrong. I also loved how Ariel saw Eric for the first time and it was a total surprise since she was just excited about the fireworks. Still, she got to see several sides of him (his adorableness with his dog, his disgust at a statue in his honor) that told her something about who he was instead of the three previous couples before her where there was no depth to why they fancied each other.

Fun Facts:

-Sleeping Beauty is the first film where Aurora is actually like, “What the hell you’re a stranger!!” (Not really, but kinda.) Points for that!

-Snow is the only princess that actively wishes for love and then POOF: Prince.

-Cinderella is the first film there’s an iconic dance.

-Prince Philip is the first prince to ask his love for her NAME upon meeting her (though it happens after Once Upon a Dream). Eric asks Ariel for her name during their second meeting. I think it’s hilarious while the Prince in Cinderella is begging her to stay he never once asks for her name.

-Belle and Anna both have two suitors, one being the villain of their film. While Anna and Hans have a first meeting scene, Belle and Gaston do not since they already know each other.

-Snow White and Tiana are both wishing, one by a wishing well and the other on a star, when they meet their prince.

-The setting in Princess and the Frog is a mansion, instead of a castle. There is also a party like in Cinderella.


Which is your favorite True Love Meeting? What do you think of all these common threads? What are some other fun facts you noticed?

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. See you next week!

Cheers,

M&M

Advertisements

What’s in a Title? Exploring Gender and Naming Trends of the Disney Princess Movies

Standard

Something that’s always nagged at me is the swap to gender-neutral titles for the later Disney Princess movies. Before then, Disney has always taken pride in naming movies after protagonists, so what changed? Let’s take a trip through titling history and find out.

Thus far, there are twelve Disney Princess movies. They are (in order):

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
  2. Cinderella (1957)
  3. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  4. The Little Mermaid (1989)
  5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  6. Aladdin (1992)
  7. Pocahontas (1995)
  8. Mulan (1998)
  9. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  10. Tangled (2010)
  11. Brave (2012)
  12. Frozen (2013)

Out of these, 7/12 either contain the princess’ name, or a title referring to her (ex: Sleeping Beauty, TLM). Two of these – Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess and Frog – involve a princess sharing a title with their love interest. There are a few reasons for this.

The majority of the Disney princess movies are named after the fairytale/legend they were inspired from. For example, Mulan comes from the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, while The Little Mermaid was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale The Little Mermaid. (Seeing the similarities here?) Since Disney takes a lot of inspiration from myths and fairytales, they also tend to use the titles (or similarly stylized titles) as well. Makes sense, right?

reaction yes

The movies are also often titled with a name/title related to the protagonist to show 1) who the story is about, and 2) that this is the heart of their journey. For example, to take an example from a non-Princess movie, Hercules is about Hercules trying to discover who he is, and find his place in life. Mulan is about Mulan, who doesn’t feel like she fits into the confines of her society and breaks free of them when she joins the army and finally uncovers her true self. That’s why for #6, Aladdin makes sense as a title despite Jasmine’s heavy involvement in the plot. While Aladdin and Jasmine both get a bulk of the movie’s POV, Aladdin is the one whose journey we follow most. His character arc (proving his worth and showing everyone that he’s more than their assumptions) drives most of the plot. Thus, he inches ahead of Jasmine just a bit, making him the protagonist (main character) and her the deuteragonist (the secondary protagonist/second most important character).

The titles are also common sense: in marketing, you want to have a title that stands out and makes sense for the story you’re presenting to an audience. By naming their movies after the tale that inspired their story, or naming them after the protagonist, Disney makes it easy for an audience to see who and what their story is going to be about. Example: look at the title of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: it’s pretty obvious that this movie is about Snow White and her seven dwarf friends. The Little Mermaid is about a mermaid. Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful girl and a beast… You get the picture.

The other three are our latest Disney Princess installments: Tangled, Brave, and Frozen. Notice the stark difference in titling between the early movies and 10-12. All three of these are one-word titles that detail actions or attributes rather than a name or specific tale. So what changed?

The simple answer: Disney wanted to appeal to boys.

The longer answer: The Princess and the Frog was the last movie with traditional Disney styling: it had 2D animation and the fairytale-based name. However, PatF was considered a failure by Disney, despite its success with critics, because it grossed less than many of the other movies that came out earlier in the Renaissance. Disney’s marketing believed that the word “princess” in the title was part of what caused the failure, because it labeled the movie as being for little girls specifically.

seriously? reaction

Now, let’s talk about this for a second. Why does the word “princess” = only girls want this? Unfortunately, that’s because of a little thing called gender roles, and the gender stereotypes that come with them.

According to Psychology Dictionary, gender roles arethe pattern of behavior, personality traits and attitudes defining masculinity or femininity in a certain culture.” A problem with gender roles is that they can often lead to gender stereotypes: pegging girls as one thing and boys as another when that isn’t always the case.

Some examples of this include: Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Girls are emotional, boys are stoic. Men are financial providers, women are caretakers of the home and kids. And, according to Disney, “princesses” are for girls.

Looking at it this way helps explain the title change: in trying to avoid losing out on a male audience, Disney does a 180 and decides to use more gender-neutral titles. It’s interesting to point out that before this, Disney hasn’t really focused specifically on appealing to a male audience with their princess movies. While they never used “princess” in their titles before now, that made sense considering they named their movies after the stories themselves. Most of their Disney Princess merchandise and advertising also relates directly to the Princesses themselves. (Our only exception would be Aladdin, because, as I said before, Aladdin is our main protagonist, so most of the promo would naturally focus more on him.) PatF happened to get unlucky, maybe because of “bad marketing” as Disney said, or maybe because Avatar opened just after it and swept the floor with every other movie out there. Whatever the reason, it led Disney to try something new, and this where the new titling began.

I’m going to go through each of the three movies in order and talk about titles, marketing, and why it’s important to note Disney’s approach to each of the movies. All three of these could have had more traditional movie names, but Disney (and Pixar, in the case of Brave) decided to avoid that. So let’s start with Brave.

pixar_brave_2012-wide

As some of you may know, there was a point in time when Brave was going to be called The Bow and the Bear instead.

bear-and-the-bow-preview

However, while some believe this was the initial title, Brave’s producer, Katherine Sarafian, admits that Brave was always the initial title, although they did consider The Bow and the Bear for a while:

Right, first off the title from the very beginning was BRAVE, so BEAR AND THE BOW was actually a later detour and then we came back to BRAVE. (x)

So why Brave? Mic pointed out to me that before Brave, Pixar hadn’t done a female-led movie, so I think that’s part of the name divergence from traditional princess titles. But in a way, Brave’s title tries back to tradition. Unlike Tangled and Frozen, which are more abstract, Brave is a trait, and one that’s at the heart of Merida’s journey. Much like Mulan, Merida’s journey is all about being brave enough to step out of the confines of the role she’s been placed in and change her fate. Early teasers for the movie illustrate this well with her father’s monologue, in which he talks about bravery:

Now, the advertising for Brave is really interesting, because this is where you can see the start of Operation Appeal to Boys. There’s lots of action: darkened forests with dramatic music, Merida on her horse riding quickly through the woods, the scene at the end with the bear and Merida aiming an arrow at it…

brave merida notching arrow

Merida’s face is also concealed for a large chunk of the teaser, which I found interesting. Did the advertisers want to focus less on her gender in fear it would turn away boys?

brave i cant even brave reaction

The later trailers showcase Merida better, but don’t focus much on Merida and her mother’s bond (although it does show them bickering quite a bit):

While this could be in order to avoid showing the twist (which was also part of the reason The Bow and the Bear was nixed as a title option), one might wonder if the mother/daughter bond, a highly important part of the plot, is ignored for fear it wouldn’t appeal to boys. While Brave had some great promos, ignoring Eleanor and Merida’s relationship loses out on a potential alternative way to draw in more viewers. Instead, the relationship comes as a pleasant surprise to those who weren’t expecting it, but is also frustrating at the same time because it gets no promotion.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

brave merida and mom

There is some good in Brave’s promotion though. I like that the promo doesn’t classify bravery as a gendered trait (the use of “we” throughout the trailer). Brave is about a girl being brave, and the trailers showcase that. To this regard, Pixar does a better job at following Disney Princess tradition than Disney does in their next two Princess movies.

Next up: Tangled, where things get really sticky.

tangled-poster-0

Tangled went through quite a few title changes, as well as a ton of creative changes. (The concept was a lot different, and more of a spiritual successor to Enchanted, with two teenagers traveling to a fairytale world as a sort of reverse to Giselle winding up in the real world. Very, very different from the actual movie we got. Sounds cool though.)

Originally, Tangled was supposed to be called Rapunzel Unbraided, which 1) is a really awesome title, and 2) actually tells a lot more about Rapunzel’s journey. Much like Quasimodo, Rapunzel’s story is all about stepping out of her comfort zone, leaving behind the known safety of her tower and venturing out into the unknown to discover the world and see the lights. For this reason, Rapunzel Unbraided would’ve been so much more of a fitting title than Tangled.

rapunzel unbraided

(Note how different the writing is from how Tangled is written. It’s more glittery and “princess-y” – those elements are removed from the final logo to make it appear more “gender-neutral.”)

The styling was also incredibly different. While there was CGI involved, it was more 2D-based, and meant to look like traditional oil paintings in motion. This can be seen in the animation of Rapunzel’s hair for the title sequence, and in early test footage:

rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 1 rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 2

My reaction upon seeing this was:

this is the best reaction

totally awesome starkid reaction

Promptly followed by disappointment that Disney didn’t go in this direction.

stewart reaction why not just pull out my heart

Because Disney did not go in this cool innovative direction. Instead, we got the CGI style that they then uncreatively reused for Frozen.

come on reaction gif

not impressed reaction

:,( As someone who loves animation, this wounds me. Let me grieve what could’ve been.

waiting reaction

ugly sobbing reaction

Next up was the title change to Rapunzel.

rapunzel title

Not too drastic of a change title-wise; it relates back to the actual fairytale it was inspired by, it’s simple and to the point…so why did they change it? WHY MESS WITH PERFECTION?

It all leads back to Disney’s attempt to appeal to boys. In Disney’s mind, by changing the title to Tangled, it presents a more gender-neutral title. However, it actually ends up relating more to Flynn than it does Rapunzel, since he gets “tangled up” in Rapunzel’s plot. (One of the promos actually has a line that says “it takes two to get tangled,” which proves this point.) The promotion for the movie is also heavily focused on Flynn, making him out as the protagonist and Rapunzel as the Jasmine to his Aladdin, which is definitely not the case in the movie. The promo though, would like you to believe otherwise:

The focus on Flynn and his thieving antics/adventuring are yet another tactic to appeal to boys, and one that, like Brave, leaves out essential plot points like the fact that Rapunzel drives the majority of the movie with her journey. It also leaves out Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s bond, which is hugely importantly to the plot. Again, we have a relationship between two women not shown to “appeal to boys” and it’s very unsettling. It devalues both women’s bonds and our lead woman herself, who doesn’t show up until halfway through the promo.

u serious right now? reaction

It also paints Rapunzel’s character as more of a tough girl/badass, and lacks the nuiance of who she really is as a character. It’s quite frustrating, but since we still have one last movie to cover, I’ll move on. (And express my frustration via gif.)

quinn's disdain reaction gif

Okay, onto Frozen!

disney frozen pic

Frozen was originally supposed to be The Snow Queen, since it was based off the fairytale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson. The direction was a bit different initially, where Elsa was the antagonist rather than Hans. (As seen in early character sketches.

Disney's__The_Snow_Queen_

Thus, the title suggests an Elsa-heavy movie, considering well, she’s the Snow Queen.

seems legit reaction

Obviously over time, the direction changed, and Elsa became more sympathetic in nature. The title also changed to Frozen, which is kind of boring, but also like Brave makes sense in a way, considering how central Elsa and her powers are to the plot. Despite Anna being our protagonist, Elsa’s character arc has more depth and more of an impact on the plot, so the title being more related to her makes a lot of sense. What doesn’t make sense is the promotion.

The teaser for Frozen contains neither of the female leads and instead focuses on Olaf and Sven.

frozen wait what

That’s right! It focuses on a snowman and a reindeer, both of whom are minor characters. This is so insultingly “let’s avoid mentioning the women” that it makes me angry.

the lord is testing me reaction

It gets worse. The official promo is so insulting in so many ways that it makes me angry.

First, while the trailer focuses on Anna, Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, there’s a certain important character who is extremely neglected: Elsa. Like I said earlier, Elsa is our second protagonist, and drives quite a bit of the plot. But you wouldn’t know that, based on the five seconds we see her. She’s barely even in the trailer, even though she plays a huge part in the movie. It’s ridiculous.

rude copy reaction

Anna and Elsa’s relationship is also noticeably absent. For a movie that prides itself on being built on a sisterly bond, we really don’t see any of that promoted in the trailer. The only indication we get that Elsa and Anna are even related is when Anna says “that’s no a blizzard, that’s my sister!”

tmz 7 reaction

Just like Merida and her mother, and Rapunzel and Mother Gothel, Elsa and Anna’s relationship gets absolutely no focus whatsoever. Again, this gives me uncomfortable vibes that it was excluded in order to appeal more to boys.

Speaking of boys…we get a lot of focus on Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, especially in what I like to call “the most offensive trailer montage ever.”

frozen who 1

frozen who 2

frozen who 3

frozen who 4

frozen who 5

rejection reaction

This is such a messy promotional moment. First of all, these three guys are focused on before we even focus on Anna, which is insulting considering she is our protagonist – not Kristoff, not Hans, not Olaf, but ANNA.

Second, calling Anna “no man” is incredibly offensive. By having a category of guys/men and then saying “no man” Anna is being Othered based on her gender, which is really gross.

This whole promo is just not great. It’s misleading, focuses more on the guys in the movie than it does the two main characters, and worse, it has weird sexist undercurrents. By trying to appeal to boys, the advertising shuns girls and worse, Others them. We as a society already have a huge problem with women not being valued and viewed as unimportant, and the dismissive early promotion for Frozen does exactly that. What makes this sadder is that The Snow Queen (the original fairytale) has a lot of crucial female characters. Seeing only two women in the cast – and worse, undermining them and their roles – is spitting on the original tale in an awful way.

star vs. evil sad face

Conclusion

A title says a lot about a story. For Disney, their drastic 180 in titling shows their attempt to hook a male audience by hiding crucial female relationships as well as their female characters. Disney’s titles used to have merit and tell a lot about the story. Now, they feel flat and lack depth. Disney’s next princess movie is Moana. Since the title is reminiscent of older (/more awesome) titles like Pocahontas and Mulan, this could be a sign that they will 180 back and show more respect to their female audience. However, Disney has a lot to prove, and considering how poor their previous promotions have been, I won’t get my hopes up just yet. We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings, and hope it’s a lot less rage-inducing.

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments!

Animated Meta can be followed on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a great weekend!

Cheers,

M&M

 

Works Cited

Pam. (n.d.). What is Gender Role? Retrieved May 29, 2015, from Psychology Dictionary: http://psychologydictionary.org/gender-role/

Sarafian, K. (2012, April 13). Exclusive: Katherine Sarafian, Producer of Pixar’s ‘Brave,’ Talks Director Controversy, Pixar’s Reaction to the Chilly ‘Cars 2′ Reception And More. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from SlashFilm: http://www.slashfilm.com/film-interview-katherine-sarafian-producer-pixars-brave-talks-controversy-marketing-cars-2-reactions/

 

 

 

Princesses Need Friends Too: The Problematic Lack of Positive Female Interactions (and Friends) in Disney Princess Movies

Standard

Disney only has two sets of female friendship in the Disney princess movies. I repeat: only two sets of female friends. That’s really, really bad. Come to think of it, Disney Princess movies in general are lacking in positive female interactions. Either we get a lack of women present, or their relationships are antagonistic in nature. There are a few proud exceptions, but not many.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick trip through the halls of Disney Princess history and explore the nature of female relationships.

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The only two women in this movie are Snow White and her stepmother, the Evil Queen. And Snow White’s stepmother spends the majority of the movie trying to kill her because of her beauty, which doesn’t make for a healthy relationship. It’s interesting that the only two women we have in this film have an antagonistic relationship relating to beauty and power; it says a lot about women in society, who are often set up as competitors rather than coworkers. It’s a no for Snow.

mary margaret says no

Cinderella

Good news: Cinderella has a stepmother and stepsisters, which is a step up from Snow White. Bad news: her stepmother is the worst, and her stepsisters aren’t much better.

cinderella and stepmother

Instead of being treated like family, Cinderella is made into a servant by her stepfamily and constantly put down/ridiculed by them. There’s another antagonistic set-up here, with Cinderella’s stepsisters seeking marriage to the prince, and Cinderella inadvertedly coming into competition with them when she meets Prince Charming and falls for him.

There are also a few female mice, but Cinderella doesn’t seem particularly close to them. 😦 So no.

Sleeping Beauty

Our first sign of positive interaction: Sleeping Beauty gives us Briar Rose (aka Aurora) and the three fairies that raise her in seclusion to protect her from Maleficent. While the fairies tend to be a little oblivious, they mean well, and they take good care of Briar Rose. From the few interactions we see of theirs, it’s evident they care a lot about her, and want her to be happy. The surprise party for her birthday is a great example. Despite their no magic rule, they’re willing to go around it to make her present and her cake the absolute best. Nothing but the best for their Briar Rose!

sleeping beautiy cake candles life copy

They also play a key role in getting Prince Phillip free and giving him the tools he needs to defeat Maleficent, so that they can save Aurora. And then there’s that sweet scene when they tuck Aurora in under the sleeping curse, much like a parent tucking their child in.

sleeping-beauty-disneyscreencaps.com-6071sleeping-beauty-disneyscreencaps.com-6054

While Aurora doesn’t have female friends, since she’s secluded in the woods, the fairies are maternal figures to her, so I’m going to fill this one under “sort of.” It could be better, but it’s progress.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel falls into the start of the “daughters with missing mothers and great relationships with their fathers” trend. Guys, I think Ariel’s relationship with Triton is awesome. And I think it’s important that Disney conveys so many great father-daughter relationships in their films. However, the lack of mother figures is really depressing, and I think it’s sad that like in most of the Disney princess movies, Ariel has a mother who isn’t around. It’s also sad that Ariel is one of seven sisters, and barely even interacts with her sisters throughout the movie. A woman she does interact with a lot is Ursula, the female antagonist, who spends the movie plotting against Ariel, steals her voice, and attempts to sabotage her relationship with Eric. No for Ariel.

little mermaid crying

Beauty and the Beast

B&TB doesn’t have a lot of women. The three most prominent ladies in Belle’s village are a set of blonde triplets who aren’t displayed in the best light. They fawn over Gaston and basically exist to be his fangirls.

beauty anf the beast fangirling  copy

In the castle, we have Belle’s wardrobe, who is nice, and we have Mrs. Potts, who is awesome, but she doesn’t interact with either of them a lot. So no.

Aladdin

Jasmine is our only prominent female character, which is really sad, because I would’ve loved if Jasmine had a friend. Poor girl is lonely in that castle with only her tiger to keep her company. Nope.

aladdin done w your shit

Pocahontas

YES. Pocahontas is one of our few Disney princesses with a female best friend, who happens to be awesome. Nakoma and Pocahontas’ friendship is fantastic. They squabble like sisters, gossip about everything (including cute boys), and just hang out like most girls do.

pocahontas nakoma cheeringpocahontas and nakoma assessing men

pocahontas and nakoma 3

Out of the two, Nakoma is the more level-headed and reasonable one, who tries to keep Pocahontas from doing anything too insane. But she’s also loyal, and tries to trust her friend’s judgment, even when she’s a bit unsure of Pocahontas sneaking around with John Smith.

pocahontas and nakoma 2pocahontas and nakoma 1

And while Pocahontas’ mother isn’t around, she does have a grandmother figure around in Grandmother Willow. She’s the one that Pocahontas goes to when she’s in need of guidance, a good listening ear, or just for comfort in times of strife. While Grandmother Willow never tells her what she should doing, she instead teaches Pocahontas to trust her intuition and follow her heart, allowing her to become a stronger leader and have more faith in herself and her decisions.

pocahontas grandmother willow 3pocahontas grandmother willow 2

Mulan

Mulan has won the parental lottery, guys, because she not only has a father and a mother, but she also has a grandmother! Sadly, like a lot of the princesses, Mulan’s bond with her father gets more focus than her bonds with her mother and grandmother. Mulan also doesn’t have any female friends, although in her case, it’s slightly more forgivable considering she’s posing as a man in the army and ends up surrounded by dudes. So no, but one that’s slightly more forgivable than other films due to the circumstances involved.

mulan horse

The Princess and the Frog

Heck yes. This movie is the jackpot of female relationships in my opinion. There is this really awesome close-knit relationship between Tiana and her mother. There’s a years-long friendship between Charlotte and Tiana. There’s even a powerful woman named Mama Odie who assists our heroine on her adventure. But since Mama Odie is more supernatural assistance than friend, I’m going to focus on Tiana and her mom, and Charlotte and Tiana.

Tiana and her mom are awesome and close. We don’t get to see a lot of their interactions, but we get a nice glimpse of them when we see little Tiana, and we get a great scene where Tiana shows her mom the restaurant she wants to lease, which leads into “Almost There.” Unfortunately, after that, we don’t get much interaction from them, since Tiana is a frog for a majority of the movie.

Tiana/Charlotte we do get a lot of. We get a glimpse of little Tiana and little Lottie at the beginning of the movie, showing how long they’ve been friends, and they’re still close when we see them again.

princess and the frog ickle besties

princess and frog lottie and tiana

Despite differing social class and race, Tiana and Lottie have a really strong friendship. Lottie knows Tiana well enough to know she can’t give her bestie any handouts, so she does things like hiring Tiana’s catering services so she can pay her and give her the remaining funds she needs to achieve her dream. She also lends Tiana a new outfit when hers gets ruined at the party, which is total best friend behavior.

princess and the frog

Lottie also cares a lot about Tiana and her happiness. Like Tiana has her restaurant dream, Lottie’s dream is to be a princess. (Which I’m pretty sure a lot of us dreamed of, once upon a time.) When Naveen and Tiana fall in love while they’re stuck as frogs, Lottie offers to kiss him and forgo her dream of marrying into royalty, because she can see how much the two of them care for each other and there’s no way she’s getting in the way of that.

prince and the frog lottie 1princess and the frog lottie 2

These two are fantastic. The whole movie could’ve just been about them being awesome and I would’ve been content.

princess and frog lottie catches the bouquet

Tangled

Tangled has Rapunzel, Mother Gothel, and Rapunzel’s mother. Rapunzel doesn’t get a ton of time with her mother, but we see her with baby Rapunzel at the start, we see her and her husband’s grief after losing their daughter, and we see her at the end when she reunites with Rapunzel. It’s sad we don’t get a ton to go on, but the end of the movie establishes what should be the start of a prosperous mother-daughter relationship, so at least that’s something.

tangled hug

Mother Gothel and Rapunzel have a painfully abusive relationship. Mother Gothel berates and terrifies Rapunzel into submission to break her spirit and keep her in the tower. She wants Rapunzel to be dependent on her, so that she can harass the power of her hair and stay alive. Not exactly a healthy relationship.

tangled gothel bitch 2tangled gothel bitch

She may have a budding relationship forming with her mother, but sadly, Rapunzel doesn’t really have any female friends. Boo.

tangled maximus horse

Brave

I haven’t seen all of Brave, but I do know one thing: Merida, like Tiana, has a close relationship with her mother, and their bond is a big part of the movie’s plot.

brave copy

Merida’s mother and Merida don’t always see eye to eye: they have different goals and outlooks, and Merida doesn’t always live up to her mother’s expectations, thus, they butt heads a lot. But Merida cares deeply for her mother, and vice versa. Merida’s accidental wish – and her attempt to undo it – bring mother and daughter closer together as the movie goes on.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

I think this is probably the biggest mother-daughter focus we get out of any of the Disney Princess movies, which is pretty awesome because the bulk of Disney Princess relationships tend to be between fathers/daughters, or a princess and their significant other.

brave merida and mom

While we do get a mother-daughter relationship, Merida doesn’t have any female friends though, which is sad. Maybe we can get one in a sequel? 😉

Frozen

And finally, we have Frozen. Frozen is kind of a weird one, because the only two prominent women in the movie are the leads, Anna and Elsa. Anna and Elsa sisters, who used to share a close bond that Anna is hoping to rekindle, despite Elsa’s avoidance of her. However, Frozen doesn’t do a great job of displaying their relationship.

frozen strugglebus reaction

Elsa and Anna are separated for a majority of the movie, and while they connect a little at the palace after Elsa’s coronation, they’re quickly separated afterwards, and only interact for a short time before Elsa’s powers freeze Anna’s heart and Anna and Kristoff are forced to flee. Next interaction: Anna steps in just in time to stop Hans from cutting down Elsa. Her act of true love both saves Elsa and defrosts her own heart, which is a nice twist.

frozen hug

I think Frozen is a draw for me. Elsa and Anna are close, and I enjoy the bond between them. It would’ve been nice though to see their bond better fleshed out, and see more women in the movie in general.

 

Conclusion (Aka, Why Is This So Important, Mel?)

feminist rant reaction

Much like the Bechdel test, checklisting whether a movie contain female friendships or not doesn’t mean that it is a failure. However, it’s telling that there are only two prominent female friendships, and three strong mother-daughter bonds, within 12 Disney princess movies. Why are father-daughter bonds and romantic bonds prioritized over female friendships and mother/daughter bonds? Why are so many of the female interactions in Disney films negative and antagonistic in nature? In a society where women are torn down, pitted against each other, and strive to be “one of the boys”, positive female interactions in Disney movies, especially Disney princess movies, might promote stronger female relationships in everyday life for young girls and women. (It would also be good for boys as well, and it’d be nice to see more parents take an initiative to be more gender-neutral, but that’s another post in itself.)

Do you think Disney movies need more positive female interactions? What are your favorite Disney bonds? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. Have a happy Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 2

Standard

Welcome back to part 2 of my Disney Princess I Want Songs meta! (Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already.) Today, we’re tackling the rest of the Renaissance era princesses (Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan), and then we’re onto the Post-Renaissance (Tiana, Rapunzel and Anna). So let’s get started!

Jasmine: Jasmine’s Song…Uh…About That…

aladdin jasmine
Okay, so Jasmine is a weird case, because she doesn’t quite have an “I Want” song. In the Broadway musical, she has this gorgeous song called “These Palace Walls” that sums up her wants so well, but this is Animated Meta and we’re talking about the animated movies, so that’s off limits.

So sadly, Jasmine has no I Want Song. But she does have an I Got What I Wanted song. Confused? Let me explain.

Despite not having an I Want Song, there is a nice little scene between Jasmine and the Sultan where she tells us exactly what she wants out of life. The Sulan wants her to marry, and reminds her that there’s three days until her next birthday, by which time she needs to announce a suitor. Jasmine’s not thrilled with that.

“I hate being forced into this,” she says firmly, and then: “If I do marry, I want it to be for love.”

aladdin i want it to be for love

The Sultan’s also worried about her being alone. He wants her to be “taken care of,” but Jasmine points out that she’s never had a chance to take care of herself, and it’s clear that she resents the fact that she’s been so sheltered all these years. (“I’ve never had any real friends…I’ve never even been outside the palace walls!”)

Here, we have Jasmine’s core want laid out: she wants more independence. Because her father has tried to protect her, Jasmine has never really been given the chance to decide anything for herself. She’s never been able to go out beyond the palaces walls and see the kingdom. She hasn’t made any real friends (well, any human friends; she has Raja). And she doesn’t want to marry just because some law tells her to. Like many of us, she wants to find someone she loves and settle down with them. And she wants to do that on her own time, not on some insane three day time limit. So obviously, she’s not super happy with her dad.

aladdin done w your shit

And that’s where “A Whole New World” comes in.

aladdin a whole new world

Unlike most of the princesses, Jasmine’s song is an I Got What I Wanted song. By this time, she’s achieved many of her core wants. She snuck out of the palace and got to see outside the palace walls. She met a cute guy (Aladdin) who she connected with in a way that she hasn’t with the suitors her father threw her way. And of course, in “A Whole New World,” we have Aladdin offering her something else she wants: a chance to see the world.

“I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid,” he promises her: “No one to tell us no or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming.”

aladdin flower

Which is exactly what Jasmine wants: Aladdin gives her the independence she craves, because he understands her desires? She wants to see the world? Well, he’ll hop in his carpet and show her. And Jasmine appreciates that:

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings,
Soaring, tumbling, free-wheeling, through an endless diamond sky
A whole new world, a hundred thousand things to see,
I’m like a shooting star; I’ve come so far
I can’t go back to where I used to be

Aladdin opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Jasmine. He opens up opportunities and choices that she never thought possible, and in the end, he’s what inspires her to reach for what she wants. And in turn, she helps him achieve what he wants as well. Now that’s what I call an equal partnership.

Pocahontas: Just Around the Riverbend

pocahontas riverbend rainbow

I already talked a lot about “Just Around the Riverbend” in my Pocahontas and Spirituality post a few weeks back, so some of this might seem repetitive. But here we go anyway:

Pocahontas’ want is actually kind of vague, to be honest. What she wants is “something more.” She actually isn’t sure what specifically she wants, but she knows that the path her father has put her on isn’t what she wants, and that she could aspire to so much more:

Can I ignore that sound of distant drumming
For a handsome sturdy husband who builds handsome, sturdy walls
And never dreams that something might be coming
Just around the river bend?

“Just Around the Riverbend” is all about internal conflict. Pocahontas is deciding whether she’d rather choose the smoothest course or find out what’s waiting for her just around the river bend. Like Grandmother Willow tells her, the right path is not always the easiest one, so it makes sense that Pocahontas would antagonize over whether it’s better to follow the path she knows or take a risk and travel down one less known.

pocahontas kocoum riverbend
But Pocahontas has always been an adventurer, and she’s never been one to ignore her heart, so when she picks the rougher path at the end of the song, we know she’s on the right track. And sure enough, choosing to follow her heart and find what’s around the river bend leads Pocahontas to John Smith. Although their tale ends bittersweet, Pocahontas doesn’t regret the path she chose, because in listening to her heart and taking the path less traveled, she brings together her tribe and the settlers, and finally comes into herself as the future leader she is destined to be.

pocahontas choosing another course

Mulan: Reflection

mulan

Ah, Fa Mulan. I love Mulan so much, guys. I could ramble about her forever. But I’ll just stick to this gorgeous I Want song of hers. Unlike many of our princesses, Mulan isn’t seeking adventure or romance: she’s seeking acceptance from the people she loves. “Reflection” is all about identity and acceptance. Mulan wants her family to accept her for who she is inside, and wars with the fact that who she is goes at odds with what society (and her family) expect from her:

Now I see that if I were truly to be myself,
I would break my family’s heart

Mulan is not ladylike or elegant, and that’s what messes with her chances with the Matchmaker.

It also makes her feel inadequate, because the role society puts on her demands that she be one way, while she is another. She tries to hide it, but can’t, and it tears her apart:

Somehow, I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried
When will my reflection show who I am inside?

mulan reflection

The animation sequence that goes with “Reflection” is so brilliant, because we see Mulan dismantling parts of her appearance (removing the make-up, taking her hair out of its bun). She’s at war with who she is, and she’s uncomfortable with whom she is as well. You can see it in the way that she stares at her reflection, and how she tugs at her hair nervously when she sits by the tree at the end of the song.

mulan reflection end

In the end, Mulan does get to show who she is inside. Her inner warrior comes out when she takes her father’s place, and she shows her family – as well as all of China – just who she is inside. And best of all, she gets the acceptance she wanted all along. Pretty happy ending, in my opinion. (Plus, she gets Shang, who’s pretty awesome as well.)

Okay, onto the post-Renaissance!

Post-Renaissance Princesses
For the purpose of this post, the Post-Renaissance princesses are the one who came after the glorious Disney Renaissance. So here, three princesses apply: Tiana, Rapunzel, and Anna. (Remember: no Elsa, because she’s a queen. ;))

So let’s get this Post-Renaissance party started by talking about Tiana and her want.

Tiana: Almost There

princess and the frog almost there

Similar to Jasmine, Tiana’s “I Want” song is a strange case, because while it is what she wants, she’s also very close to achieving it, so it’s almost an “I’ve Almost Achieved my Want” song. (Which I guess is why it’s called “Almost There.”)

One of the things I love about Tiana is that like Cinderella, Tiana has a strong work ethic. She believes in her dreams, but knows that she can only make them come true if she works at them. Tiana isn’t royalty: she doesn’t have the world on a platter the way some of our princesses do. But she’s determined to work hard and be ambitious and reach for what she wants: that restaurant in New Orleans. Out of anyone, Tiana’s dreams are the most clear-cut, and thus, in order to make them harder to achieve, the movie throws her life off course. The men she wanted the shop from refuse to let her get it. She gets turned into a frog for the majority of the movie. And by the end, she’s almost lost hope of every becoming normal again.

But Tiana gets there. She gets the shop, she winds up with the romance that will make her mother happy (I want some grandkids!), and as we catch a glimpse of her in her shop at the end, we know she’s finally there. Mission accomplished, all through hard work and dedication.

Rapunzel: When Will My Life Begin?

tangled rapunzel
Okay, so I’ll admit it: I love this song so much. As much as I will forever be sad that Disney seems to be straying away from 2D animation with their Princess movies, Tangled is really a glorious movie. And Rapunzel’s I Want Song, “When Will My Life Begin?” is sweet and wonderful.

Rapunzel’s want is easy to decipher: like so many Disney princesses before her, Rapunzel wants to know when her life will begin: aka, when will she finally get out of this tower and get to see something new? Now, unlike many of our lonely bored princesses, Rapunzel’s actually invented some great ways to distract herself. She knits, she bakes, she makes pottery, she paints…the girl has many hobbies, and I think she’s actually got the most hobbies of any princess ever. But alas, hobbies cannot stop a girl from wondering what’s outside when you’re stuck living in a tower with only a verbally abusive mother to keep you company, so Rapunzel wonders about what’s out there. Unlike most of the princesses, who have less specific wants, Rapunzel’s got one thing in particular she wants to see:

And tomorrow night, the lights will appear
Just like they do, on my birthday every year
What is it like out there where they glow?

Rapunzel wants to see the lights and find out what all the fuss is about. And guess what? She does, thanks to Flynn. Interestingly enough, once Rapunzel sees the lights, she has a second Want appear: Flynn. One of the things I found really cool about Tangled was that the characters have multiple Wants. Wants change as they’re achieved, or as the characters grow and realize what they wanted are different than they first thought. And I think that’s very true to life, isn’t it? As we achieve goals, we want new things. Lucky for Rapunzel, she gets both wants achieved, and better yet, she finds the family she never knew was out there, waiting for her. Wants fulfilled, bonus achieved. Happily ever after.

tangled hug

Anna: For the First Time in Forever

frozen blank anna copy

Okay, so I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge fan of Frozen. But Anna’s I Want song is clearly defined in a great way, and Anna is my spirit animal, so I’m happy to talk about her.

Now, Anna’s an interesting case, because she technically has two I Want songs: “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “For the First Time in Forever”. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is set up as her past Want: it’s all about her desire to reconnect with Elsa. Anna doesn’t understand why her big sister has abandoned her, and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is spent with Anna outside Elsa’s door at varying times of her life, trying to get her sister to come play with her. Obviously, we the viewer understand why Elsa doesn’t want to hang out with Anna, but Anna doesn’t. Her pleas to Elsa go from peppy to semi-hopeful to that final resigned lines of the song, where it’s clear she’s on her last limb with Elsa:

We only have each other,

It’s just you and me

What are we going to do?

Do you want to build a snowman?

frozen do you wanna build a snowman gif

When that fails, and Elsa still doesn’t open the door, Anna’s priorities change. Understandably, after years and years of trying to connect with her, Anna is done trying. And so, her wants change. That’s where “For the First Time in Forever” comes in.

frozen for the first time in forever gif

In “For the First Time in Forever”, Anna’s wants are set up easily. She’s pretty blunt about her wants (a nice change from some off the vaguer I Want songs), and what she wants is this:

For the first time in forever, there’ll be magic, there’ll be fun
For the first time in forever, I could be noticed by someone
And I know it is totally crazy to dream I’d find romance
But for the first time in forever, at least I’ve got a chance

Does she get all of these things? Yes, but not exactly the way she expected.

When Hans appears at the end of “For the First Time in Forever,” we fully expect him to fulfill Anna’s expectations. After all, they have their Meet Cute moment (when she stumbles into the boat and he saves her from going overboard), and she gets flustered, and he’s smiling, and cuteness ensues. Then he reappears at the ball, they share their cute little duet (“Love is an Open Door”, which becomes a lot less cute when you realize that Hans is really a scheming schemer), and he proposes. They share a magical night, he notices her, they have fun together…everything Anna wanted fulfilled in a flash, right?

frozen gorgeous wait what

Not quite. See, Hans ends up being evil, which means that Anna got out of meeting him is kind of a lie. He uses her feelings for him and her desire to be noticed against her to manipulate her, so that he can rule Arendelle. Not exactly the romance a girl desires.

However, there is one bright side to all of this: Anna does get what she wanted, from the other people in her life. She gets some magic (in the form of Elsa’s cool ice magic). She gets noticed by two very important people: her sister, who she’s wanted to rekindle a bond with forever (ties back to the song title nicely, huh?) and Kristoff, who winds up giving her the romance she wanted. She also has some fun on her journey. Granted, there are snow monsters and accidental ice shards in her heart and feels, but some of it is fun. (Especially the parts that involve Olaf.)

So in the end, Anna gets what she wanted. She gets the magic, she gets noticed, she gets the romance, and she has some fun. The ending of the movie is a great example of this, when we see her, Elsa and everyone else in the town ice-skating. Finally, Anna’s gotten a chance to live the life she always wanted, and better yet, the people who truly love and care about her are by her side.
I’d say that’s a happy-ever-after for her.

Notes: I had a lot of fun writing this post! Mic and I are actually considering tackling some of the other types of Disney songs at a later point. What do you guys think? Would you like to hear more about the music? Let us know in the comments!

Follow us on Twitter and Tumblr!

Have a great Tuesday!
Cheers,
-M&M

Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 1

Standard

Today, I’m talking about one of the fun aspects of the Disney Princess movies: the music. More specifically, I’m going to talk about each princess’s “I Want” song. That means that this post (and next Tuesday’s; I’ll explain in a moment) are going to be about what exactly an “I Want” song is, what the common trends are among them, and then I’m going to analyze those songs.

I’ve wanted to do this for a really, really long time, so I’m super excited to get started. But first, a few notes. I composed my Disney Princess list based on Disney’s considerations of what a Disney princess is, so that means Mulan, who technically isn’t royalty, makes it onto the list, while Eilonwy, Nala, Kiara, and others, who could be considered princesses in their own right, are not on the list. Maybe I’ll come back to them at some point later on.

Since there are 11 princesses with “I Want” songs, I’m going to be splitting this post right down the middle. Sorry guys; you’ll get the other half next Tuesday. I could do all 11 at once, but honestly, the word count would be really, really huge, and our eyes would all burn trying to read it, so it’s better to split it somewhere in the middle and save us both the pain. (Plus, it gives you something to anticipate! And isn’t that fun?)

I know that Merida counts as a Disney princess, but Merida is also a unique circumstance because she was created by Pixar, and does not have an “I Want” song in the tradition of the other princesses. She has an “I Want” speech, as my lovely blogging partner Mic pointed out, but that is not a song, so alas, she is not on the list. I also did not include Elsa on the list, because Elsa is a queen, and she’s also not a primary protagonist in the way that Anna is.

What On Earth is an “I Want” Song?
So what is an “I Want” song? If you’ve seen a Disney movie before, you’ve most likely heard one. According to TV Tropes, the purpose of the ‘I Want’ song is to “[establish] the character of the protagonist and their one burning desire that will motivate their actions from here on” (“I Want” Song). Basically, it tells you what on earth the character wants, and tells us a little something about the character as well. And since this is Disney and the majority of these movies end happily, the protagonist gets exactly what they wanted in the end.

A non-princess example: in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which I just talked about recently), Quasimodo’s “I Want” song would be Out There. His want is to just have one day out in the open, just like everyone else. And what do you know? He gets that at the end of the movie, after some mishaps. 😉
So now that you know what the song is, you probably want to know why I chose this topic. Well, because 1) I love Disney music so much, and 2) because the last time I was on a Disney listening spree, I noticed patterns between all of the “I Want” songs.

The Top Three Wants
After a lot of listening, I’ve discovered a pattern…or rather, a few patterns. In general, there are three top wants that Disney characters tend to have:

1) Adventure
2) Acceptance
3) Love

Now, those all seem like pretty common wants, yes? That’s because they’re core human wants. Some of us long for adventure in the great wide somewhere, like Belle and Ariel. Some of us long for people to accept who we are deep down inside, like Mulan. And some of us have that deep-seated longing for love, like Snow White and Aurora.

Today, I’m only talking about five princesses to start with, which means we’ll get through the pre-Renaissance (the start of the princesses) and begin digging into the Disney Renaissance (which contains some of my absolute favorite Disney movies). And where better to start than the beginning of the princesses?

Pre-Renaissance Princesses
If you want to be technical, the pre-renaissance era at Disney is considered 1977-1988, which is way after all three of these movies were released. But I’ve always considered these pre-Renaissance because they take place before the Disney Renaissance, and thus are the beginning of Disney’s animated history. These all came out at least 50 years ago: Snow White came out in 1937, Cinderella came out more than a dozen years later in 1950, and Sleeping Beauty came out just before the 60s in 1959. Thus, these three often come off as the most dated to us, because they come from a very different time in history, with a very different set of values. However, I think the “I Want” songs still carry a lot of desires that we have today.

So let’s start with the original Disney Princess: the lovely Snow White.

Snow White: I’m Wishing

snow white i'm wishing
Snow White’s “I Want” song is the pretty (if slightly piercing) “I’m Wishing.” Snow’s song is sweet, simple, and to the point: she wants someone to love, and she wants him to love her too. She dreams of him complimenting her as well, which makes sense, since she and the Evil Queen obviously doesn’t see eye to eye. From what little we can infer, it’s obvious Snow doesn’t have much of a social life early on in the movie.

So does Snow get her wish? Well, the second her song ends, the prince shows up, with his own song to sing for her (“One Song”) and then it seems like our lovebirds are all set. However, it takes a little longer than that for Snow and him to find one another again, especially since Snow’s busy hiding from the Evil Queen for the majority of the movie. However, in the end, her prince wakes her with true love’s kiss, and together they ride off to the castle. So it looks like that wishing well did Snow White some good after all.

 

Cinderella: A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

cinderella no matter how your heart is grieving
Okay, I’ll admit it: as a little girl, Cinderella was my absolute favorite Disney princess, so nostalgia clouds me whenever I think about this glorious movie. Even without my nostalgia lens though, her song is probably the best Pre-Renaissance princess song. “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is pretty and hopeful, and I love it so much.

While Cinderella’s song doesn’t specifically say what she wants, I think it’s pretty obvious that Cinderella’s major want is to get out of her situation, mainly. She does her work without complaint, but it’s clear she would really rather be elsewhere – and who wouldn’t want to be elsewhere if they were her? All she does all day is work. She barely has time for anything else. She cleans, cooks, takes care of the animals…the works, basically. She doesn’t even have time to make her own dress for the ball; the mice have to do it for her, because she’s drowning in chores. And when Cinderella gets that magical night out, she paves the way to getting exactly what she wants. She meets the prince, has a romantic night with him, the shoe fits when he finds her, and happily ever after ensues. Another princess want achieved.

cinderella happy ending

 

Aurora: I Wonder

sleeping beauty i wonder

Similar to Snow’s short song, Aurora has a tiny song of her own. It’s one I think we often forget about, since “Once Upon a Dream” is the more celebrated Sleeping Beauty song, but her “I Want” song, “I Wonder,” is very pretty and heartfelt. Just look at these pretty lyrics:

I wonder, I wonder
If my heart keeps singing
Will my song go winging
To someone who’ll find me
And bring back a love song to me?

Can’t you feel the longing? Like Snow, Aurora wants somebody to love. She wants someone to sing a love song to her, and viola, in the next scene, Prince Phillip appears, and they have that adorable romantic moment when they sing “Once Upon a Dream”.

sleeping beauty once upon a dream

In a twist of irony, Aurora is horrified when she later finds out she’s betrothed (not realizing it’s to Phillip, of course) and she’s sad, because she’s worried she’ll lose out on a chance at love with him.

sleeping beauty sad aurora

But despite the mishaps and problems along the way, at the end of the day, Prince Phillip’s the one to wake her with his kiss, and Aurora gets her wish: her prince to sing love songs with forevermore.
One more princess wish accomplished.

 

Disney Renaissance Princesses
Ah, the Disney Renaissance: a time of glory, gorgeous movies, and the best musical numbers in history (in my opinion, anyway). The Disney Renaissance Princesses are some of my absolute favorites, and I’m really excited to talk about them and their songs. For now though, I’ll be handling two of them: Ariel and Belle. You’ll have to come back for the rest next Tuesday. 😉

 

Ariel: Part of Your World

little mermaid 3
Okay, Part of Your World might actually be my favorite “I Want” song of them all. Ariel gets so much undeserving flack, which she shouldn’t, but you can’t deny that her song is amazing.

Ariel’s song is all about adventure; she’s the first adventurous princess, actually, and in “Part of Your World”, she talks about her desire to travel to the human world and explore. People tend to misconstrue Ariel’s desire to go on land as being about Eric, but if you look at the song, it’s really not. It’s about her wanting to experience the things others don’t, and get the freedom she feels she’s lacking under the sea.

The proof is in the lyrics:
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world

What would I give if I could live out of these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?

Ariel’s all about adventure and exploring. Love only factors into her deal to stay human, and what’s so awesome to me about Ariel’s tale is that she gets all three of the core wants I mentioned:
1) She gets the adventure she craves on Earth.
2) She gets love in the form of Eric.
3) She gains acceptance from her father, and they finally learn to understand each other a little more.
For that reason, Ariel is probably one of the luckier Disney princesses endings-wise. She gets everything she wanted and more. Pretty awesome, huh?

Finally (for now, anyway), let’s move onto the Disney Princess that is pretty much me: Belle.

 

Belle: Belle (Reprise)

beauty and the beast belle

Belle’s case is really interesting when it comes to her “I Want” song. Unlike most of the princesses, Belle’s “I Want” song is actually a reprise. When you look at the songs, you would think that “Belle” would be her song, considering that it’s her name and all. But in an interesting twist, “Belle,” while it is about our heroine, is actually about how everyone else views Belle and what they want. We get a little bit of Belle in the song, and we get a hint of her wants (“There must be more than this provincial life!”). However, we don’t really dig deep into that. “Belle” is mostly spent with the townspeople musing about Belle’s strangeness, and Gaston musing about how he wants to marry Belle.

beauty and the beast there must be more

And as we find out in the “Belle Reprise”, Belle is not too keen on Gaston’s plans for the future:
“Madame Gaston!”
Can’t you just see it?
“Madame Gaston!”
His “little wife”
No sir! Not me!
I guarantee it
I want much more than this provincial life

Here we bridge into the unique musical twist that Beauty and the Beast provides: Belle’s song is actually the “Belle Reprise.” That’s right, Belle’s “I Want” song is the reprise of the song all about her. Pretty cool twist, huh? And what does Belle want? Well, we find out, when she mentions that awesome line that defines pretty much every Disney Renaissance Princess:

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere,
I want much more than I can bear

beauty and the beast belle reprise

Belle wants adventure. She wants to see the world and get out of the tiny, judgmental little town she lives in. She wants much more than anyone in this town has planned for her, because she knows that she’s worth more. And although she doesn’t get it in the way she expected, Belle gets that adventure when she goes to find her father and meets the Beast. She also finds unexpected love with him.

Alas, unlike Ariel, Belle doesn’t get acceptance from the town, but honestly, she doesn’t really need it. Plus, she has it from the people who really matter: her father, the Beast, and her new friends. She’s also got a handsome prince, the adventure she wanted, and a pretty sweet library. I’d be cool with that deal too if I was her.

beauty and the beast belle's library

Sources:
“I Want” Song. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from TV Tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IWantSong
Disney Lyrics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from ST Lyrics: http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/d/disney6472.html

Alright, next week we’ll talk about the rest of the Renaissance Princesses and talk the Post-Renaissance Princesses as well! I’m curious to know: who is your favorite Disney princess, and what is your favorite “I Want” song? Let us know in the comments!

Have a happy Tuesday!

Cheers,
-M&M

Pocahontas and Spirituality

Standard

Since Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday, and the holiday season is upon us, I thought it would be fun to talk about spirituality – or more specifically, spirituality in Pocahontas. I’ve always been a very spiritual person, and the last time I watched Pocahontas, it really struck me how much that aspect is touched upon. So today, we’re going to talk about animism, spirituality and what exactly the colors of the wind really represent.

Animism
So, what is animism, and what does it have to do with Pocahontas? Well, if you Google the word, you’ll get two definitions.

The first definition is: the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.

This one’s the easiest to relate to Pocahontas. So much of Pocahontas’ culture and way of life is defined by animism. She and the rest of the Powhatan Tribe hold the spirits and the land sacred. Instead of trying to conquer and plunder the land, like Radcliffe and his men, the Powhatan Tribe works with the land, only taking what they need and respecting it.

As Pocahontas tells John Smith (and us) in Colors of the Wind:
But I know every rock and tree and creature
has a life, has a spirit, has a name

pocahontas has a lifepocahontas has a spirit

pocahontas has a namepocahontas butterflies

(Doesn’t that lyric sound a lot like the definition above? I certainly think it does.)

The word animism also reminds me of animals, and animals are pretty big in the Disney universe as a whole. We have animal-centric movies, like The Lion King, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp… And just look at all of the Disney princesses/princes with animal companions. Aladdin has Abu, and Jasmine has Rajah. Ariel has a whooping three animal BFFs (Flounder, Scuttle, Sebastian). Sleeping Beauty has an entire set of forest friends. Cinderella has her mice. The list goes on and on.

Pocahontas is no exception: she’s got two animal besties, Flit and Meeko, each with their own distinct personality and quirks. Meeko the raccoon is kind of a brat (but a lovable one) who enjoys stealing people’s food, and doesn’t always play nice with others. Despite all that, he’s adorably curious and ultimately a kind raccoon at heart.

pocahontas meeko's so kind

pocahontas meeko checking on percy

Flit on the other hand is an adorable hummingbird: serious, stubborn, but also friendly and very curious about the world around him.

pocahontas flit

pocahontas flit's reflection

They’re as close of friends to her as Nakoma is, and the movie doesn’t trivialize them because they’re animals.

The animals in Pocahontas all have a life, a spirit, a name, just as Pocahontas tells us. The film also uses them as symbolism at times: for example, Meeko represents the settlers. Much like they pillage and steal from the land without regard for its citizens, Meeko steals food from John Smith and others. Percy, in contrast, represents the Powhatan tribe: he was entirely content with his position until Meeko came in and started stealing his food and harassing him, much like the settlers disrupt Pocahontas’ life.
And of course, just as the settlers and tribe make things right in the end, so do Percy and Meeko.

pocahontas animal besties

The world of Pocahontas is very bright and vibrant, full of life and spirit. One of the best examples of this is in Grandmother Willow. We’ll talk more about her later, but for now, I’ll just say that she’s one of the best examples of animism to offer. We don’t see any other talking trees, but I like to assume that’s because we follow Pocahontas’ view for most of the movie, so obviously we’d spend the most time with HER tree grandmother rather than the relatives of others. There are also more general spirits to consider, like rocks, the sky, the Earth itself…which ties into the natural phenomena aspect of the world. The Powhatan tribe prays to and respects the spirits deeply.

Definition two, according to Google, is “the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.”

Most of the songs in Pocahontas, at least the ones surrounding Pocahontas and her tribe, relate back to the spirits (and animism). They look to the spirits for guidance and for food. Steady as the Beating Drum illustrates this really well:
Plant the squash and reap the bean
All the earth our mother gives

O Great Spirit, hear our song
Help us keep the ancient ways
Keep the sacred fire strong
Walk in balance all our days

The spirits all hold a sacred place in their lives. The Earth is their mother, the Great Spirit that they look not only for food and shelter, but also for guidance. They appeal to her to remind them to “keep the ancient ways” (keep with tradition), and to “walk in balance all our days” (to stay in balance with the land, and never take more than is needed). They also look to her in times of great turmoil, like when they’re forced to deal with new, unexplained phenomena, like gun shots and frightening pale-skinned men that shoot first and ask questions never for the most part.

One of the most interesting scenes in the movie to me was when Kekata, the tribe’s shaman/medicine man, conjures images from the fire, ones that end up later predicting events from the film.

pocahontas smoke men with guns and armor

pocahontas spirit wolves

The wolves surrounding Kocoum represent his death, and Chief Powhatan stopping their path represents the final conflict, when Radcliffe attempts to kill him. I also found it interesting the way the tribe managed to find ways to explain the unexplained phenomena around them. For example, the settlers’ weapons and armor, things the tribe doesn’t understand, are explained in ways that make sense to them. Their armor gives them “bodies that shine like the sun” and their guns are described as “weapons that spout fire and thunder.”

pocahontas smoky armor and gun

There’s also the comparison of the settlers to wolves, and how both consume everything in their path. Considering that wolves have probably caused trouble for the tribe when it comes to hunting, it makes sense now that they would compare them to the settlers, who, just like the wolves, wind up ravaging the lands and consuming resources the tribe needs. They trust Kekata, with his connection to the spirits, and trust the spirits themselves to guide them through the conflict of the movie.

And much like the tribe, who believes in path of the spirits, and the power that organizes and animates the world, Pocahontas shares the same beliefs.

Listening With Your Heart: Pocahontas’ Spiritual Journey
Pocahontas’ journey isn’t just about bringing the two groups together. It’s a big part of it, but that’s a journey that everyone is a part of (well, except Radcliffe, but no one likes Radcliffe anyway). Pocahontas’ own personal journey, her spiritual journey, is about finding her path.

Her “I Want” song is Just Around the Riverbend, and like most Disney Princesses, it boils down to two important aspects: a longing for adventure and choice.

pocahontas he wants me to be steadypocahontas waterfall

Like so many princesses, Pocahontas wants to chart her own course. Her father has charted one for her (a marriage with Kocoum), and while it’s a smooth course, one that would be easy to choose, Pocahontas has always been one to make her own way. The adventurous streak we see in Pocahontas from the beginning wants something more, or at least a chance at something more.

pocahontas riverbend rainbow

But she’s torn:
Should I choose the smoothest curve
Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?

pocahontas should i marry kocoumpocahontas kocoum riverbend
Or do you still wait for me,
Dream Giver Just around the riverbend?

pocahontas choosing another course
When Pocahontas reaches the two paths at the end of the song and proceeds down the jagged course, rather than the smoothest course (the one her father implores her to take), it’s clear that she’s made her decision, and of course, soon after that, she meets John Smith for the first time and her story really swings into high gear. Part of Pocahontas’ journey is learning to trust in the spirits, but more importantly, trust her own heart and decide what it is that she needs to do in order to find the happiness she seeks.

In her quest, she has two helpful sources to guide her: a willow tree and the colors of the wind. And I’m going to talk about why exactly both are so important to her, and how they influence her final course by the end of the story.

Grandmother Willow

pocahontas meeting grandma
Can I just talk about how amazing Grandmother Willow is? One of the things I’ve always loved about Disney is the fact that they aren’t afraid to make the powerful spiritual guides – aka the mystics of the universe – women.

Grandmother Willow is a great example of this. Without her mother there to guide her, and with Nakoma being too by the books (and too busy crushing on Kocoum) to be neutral, Pocahontas’ female guiding force in matters of the heart is Grandmother Willow. In fact, it’s her going to see Grandmother Willow about her dream that sparks off a lot of our plot, because it’s there that she sees the “strange clouds” (the ship sails) and the settlers come into play.

pocahontas grandmother willow from afar

pocahontas grandmother willow 3

Now, let’s talk about that dream of Pocahontas’. Pocahontas has a recurring dream involving her running through the woods, and in front of her is an arrow. When she looks at it, it starts spinning faster and faster, and then it suddenly stops. Why is this important?

pocahontas spinning compass

Well, first of all, the dream ties directly into Pocahontas’ quest. Whether it’s the spirits reaching out to her with this vision or it’s just her own mind trying to make sense of her path, it’s something that’s deeply important to her. It’s also important to see how the vision plays out, because while there’s a possibility the spinning arrow is a reference to John Smith’s compass, it’s also a reference to John Smith himself, and how he ties into Pocahontas’ journey. The arrow represents Pocahontas’ uncertain path, made even more uncertain by the appearance of John Smith.

Unlike Kocoum, John Smith is someone her father would probably not approve of (and he doesn’t, at first), but he’s also a lot more similar to Pocahontas. They both share the same sense of adventure. John Smith’s little “I Want” segment is actually all about adventure, which shows his own path diverging from Radcliffe’s; while Radcliffe only cares about money and getting gold, John Smith wants adventure in a new land, and more importantly, he wants to know about it. In that way, Pocahontas is good for him as well: she’s exactly the teacher he needs, and just as she influences him, he also has an influence on her. His presence offers her another option: another reason to diverge from the path her father has set her on.

The arrow spinning faster and faster could easily represent events put into motion, like the conflict between the settlers and the tribe, and the arrow stopping could represent so many things, but I like to think it represents Pocahontas finally choosing her course. Savages is the song that sets up the climax of the film, with the settlers and tribe determined to fight. John Smith’s execution is planned, and there’s really no going back for either side at this point… or so we think.

When Pocahontas sets out to save John Smith and unite the tribes, she’s finally taking the initiative to chart her own course for once. Standing up to save John Smith means going up against her father, but Pocahontas does it because it is the right path, and because she loves him. She loves both of them, and wants the conflict to end.

pocahontas this is the path I choose

And while all of this is going on, Grandmother Willow is Pocahontas’ guiding light. It’s interesting because while Pocahontas goes to her for advice, Grandmother Willow acts as more of a counselor. She does tell her to listen to the spirits (“All around you are spirits, child. They live in the earth, the water, sky. If you listen, they will guide you.”), but more importantly, Pocahontas must listen to her own heart and find out what she wants. She needs to make the right choice for herself, even if it isn’t the easiest choice or the smoothest course.

pocahontas right path is not easiest

And when all seems lost, Grandmother Willow reminds Pocahontas of her dream. “It’s not too late, child. Let the spirits of the Earth guide you.”

Then comes one of my favorite scenes of the entire movie: the colors of the wind swirling around Pocahontas. The compass stopping, just as we pan to the sunrise, the path to the conflict about to begin, and John Smith’s execution.

pocahontas compass

“You know your path,” Grandmother Willow prompts, “Now follow it.”

And like a badass, Pocahontas does, to the tune of one of the best musical montages of the entire movie. When she needs them, the spirits come through for her and get her to John Smith in time, so that she can stop the conflict. Her course has been decided, and the spirits are 100% behind her on this one.

pocahontas eagle help my feet to fly

The Colors of the Wind
Now before we get to the resolution, there’s something else I need to talk about: the colors of the wind. No, not the song. What I mean when I mention “the colors of the wind” is those pretty leaves that circle around Pocahontas and John Smith. Do you know what I’ve always thought those leaves represent? To me, they represent the other important spiritual presence of the movie: Pocahontas’ mother.

pocahontas pretty leaves
Now, we don’t get much about Pocahontas’ mother during the movie. We know that she’s passed away, because she’s spoken about in the past tense, and we do know that Chief Powhatan loved her deeply, because he speaks very fondly of her. Pocahontas is also compared to her, both by Chief Powhatan and Grandmother Willow.

pocahontas has her mom's spirit

We can tell Pocahontas cares deeply for her too, because of how deeply she cherishes the necklace she wears, the necklace that was once her mother’s, and how she speaks about her. And just like Grandmother Willow, Pocahontas’ mother is with her as well. If we think of the leaves as Pocahontas’ mother, then a lot of the plot makes sense. The leaves are there to guide her whenever she needs them. They appear a lot in The Colors of the Wind (of course), they draw Pocahontas and John Smith together (which, yes, means that Mama Pocahontas ships her daughter and John Smith just like the rest of us), and they’re what guides her toward the cliff so that she can reach John Smith in time.

pocahontas the leaves ship itpocahontas holding hands

They’re also in that horrible heartbreaking ending scene none of us like talking about, where they pass on Pocahontas’ love to John Smith as he sails away.

pocahontas farewell 1pocahontas leaves heading for the ship

pocahontas john smith slow wavepocahontas ending 1

(Nope, why are we talking about this, let’s move on from the heartbreak.)

Anyway, looking at Pocahontas from a spiritual stance, and seeing her mother as the leaves means that Pocahontas’ mother is her other important guiding force. An important facet of spirituality to me is knowing that the ones you love are still watching over you, and I think both Pocahontas (and Chief Powhatan) get that experience through her mother’s spirit watching over them.

pocahontas

pocahontas chief powahtan 2

Conclusion: Pocahontas’s Path Decided
I’m going to wrap this up by talking about the end of Pocahontas’ spiritual quest. After everything – finding her path, bringing the tribes together, all that jazz –, Pocahontas knows what she wants.

Unfortunately, John Smith is going back to England, due to that lovely gunshot wound he got from Radcliffe, and Pocahontas knows she can’t go with him. Her path led to him, but unfortunately, their paths have to diverge, at least as long as it takes for him to get patched up and come back to her (my preferred ending; I like to pretend the sequel doesn’t exist), and she’s okay with that. It’s hard letting go of people, even for a short time, but Pocahontas sacrifices what she has with John Smith, because her people need her more.

pocahontas always be with you

In the end, we get a sort of compromise. Pocahontas takes responsibility for her people and her role in the community, but she’s also on her own course, and no one can choose her path but herself. It’s not the path she imagined for herself, but as they say, you never know what’s waiting just around the riverbend.

pocahontas just around the riverbend

Notes: When we started brainstorming topics for the site, I knew that I really wanted to talk about Pocahontas, because it’s one of my favorite Disney Renaissance films, and once I started thinking about the movie, I realized that it would be wonderful to talk about the spiritual themes of the movie. I also thought it would be good timing, considering the holiday season is beginning. 😉
(Also, if you guys were wondering, the lyrics came from: http://www.stlyrics.com/p/pocahontas.htm)

Comment below with thoughts/feedback/opinions!

Cheers!

-M&M

25 Reasons The Little Mermaid Is Awesome and More Feminist Than You Thought

Standard

Since today is the 25th Anniversary of The Little Mermaid, I thought it would be nice to talk about why this movie is so wonderful – and refute those claims that The Little Mermaid isn’t feminist.

It’s bothersome when people write off Ariel as “anti-feminist,” a “bad role model,” and complain about her giving up her voice for a man.

little mermaid bby ariel

So here are 25 reasons why The Little Mermaid is awesome and way more feminist than you thought:

1. Ariel is confident in herself. One of the things that I’ve always loved about the Disney Princesses is how so many of them are filled with self-confidence, and confidence in their own abilities. Ariel definitely fits the mold. Even without her voice, even in a world that is nothing like hers, Ariel doesn’t change who she is. She’s out of her element, but doesn’t try to blend in, or minimize her personality. Ariel is wholly herself, on both sea and land, and I think her self-confidence makes her a great role model for girls.

little mermaid fabulous

2. She has hobbies! This might seem like a weird addition, but if you really think about it, how many of the Disney Princesses have hobbies? Not many. Belle has her love for reading (but Belle came after Ariel), Cinderella designs clothes for the mice, and we don’t get to see much hobbies-wise for the other princesses. Ariel is the first princess we have with multiple hobbies. She’s an explorer, she collects human relics, and she even sings in the choir with her sisters. How’s that for a well-rounded list of extracurriculars?

3. She’s adventurous! When a princess starts a movie looking through a sunken ship and facing off against a shark, you know she’s an adventurous badass. Like Belle, Ariel wants adventure in the great wide somewhere, but her somewhere is above land, and she ends up getting exactly the adventure she wants in the end. Everything Ariel does is an adventure, whether it’s facing off against evil sea creatures or figuring out how utensils work on land.

little mermaid 4

little mermaid combing hair

Watch how she takes a simple carriage ride:

little mermaid find a new perspective

4. Contrary to popular belief, Ariel didn’t go on land for Eric; he was just the final push she needed. When people call The Little Mermaid anti-feministic, their reasoning is usually because she gave up her voice for Eric, and well, that’s not a very good value to teach girls, is it? But that reasoning is WRONG. Number #1: The movie makes it very clear early on that Ariel has been fascinated with going on land way before she even met Eric. She’s been exploring and collecting human relics for ages.

little mermaid ariel's grotto

Look at that nook of items. There are a lot of things there, which gives us the idea that she’s been doing this for quite a while. Number #2: Listen to “Part of Your World.”

What would I give if I could live
Out of these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day
Warm on the sand?’

little mermaid 3

And this amazing:

Betcha’ on land, they understand
Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters
Bright young women, sick of swimming
Ready to stand

It takes place before she even meets Eric, and you can already feel Ariel’s burning desire to experience life on land. The song makes no mention of finding love. The things she wants to experience aren’t related to Eric. True, it is meeting Eric that spurs Ariel to go on land. But he’s not the only reason.

5. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and her beliefs, even against her own father. 

little mermaid but if you would just listen

6. She makes mistakes, but more importantly, she owns her mistakes.

little mermaid signing the contract

When the deal fails with Ursula, she finds a way to defeat her and save her father. She also makes things right with her dad after their fight.

7. She has a really awesome group of friends. Granted, those friends are a pelican, a fish, and a crab, but if you think about it, so many Disney Princesses have animal friends. Pocahontas had Meeko and Flint, Cinderella had her mice, Aurora had her forest friends… Ariel’s friends are basically the best though. They’re supportive of her, but honest; if they’re wary of one of her decisions, they’re not afraid to help her. And they’re right by her side whenever she needs them.

little mermaid we're out to discover

little mermaid 1

little mermaid the human world is a mess

8. She has an amazing singing voice. Okay, maybe this isn’t a unique reason – pretty much every Disney princess can sing, and sings plenty of awesome songs – but Ariel is the first one for whom her singing voice relates to the plot. She sings in the choir with her sisters and Eric first falls in love with her voice when he hears her sing. Her voice is what Ariel has to give up so that she can go on land, and it’s also what Ursula uses to trick Eric and mess with Ariel’s deal.

9. Ursula is an awesome antagonist.

little mermaid ursula transform

She’s an unabashed female villain, which we don’t get very often in the media, and she’s underhanded, and devious without any shame or remorse. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is such a great song because not only is it just an awesome villain song, but also because it shows how manipulative she is.

little mermaid pathetic copy

She never really lies during the song when she tells Ariel about the deals she makes, or the consequences: she just highlights the reward over the risk, much like a crafty saleswoman. She also knows exactly what she’s doing when she takes Ariel’s voice, because she knows that even if Ariel manages to catch Eric’s attention, she can use Ariel’s voice to distract him, because it’s what Eric originally fell for.

10. “Part of Your World.” It’s Ariel’s “I Want” song of the movie, and it’s amazing. It’s one of the most relatable “I want” songs because think about it: haven’t we had that feeling like we don’t quite belong? Or that we want something more out of life?

little mermaid part of your world flip

Ariel does, and she has the drive to follow through and pursue her dreams of stepping on land.

11. Triton and Ariel’s relationship is wonderfully realistic and heart-warming. A father and daughter who don’t see eye to eye? Story of pretty much every parent-child relationship. We all clash with our parents, and Ariel and Triton happen to clash over their opinions on the world above their own. Ariel wants to see more of it, Triton insists it’s dangerous. Both of them make a mess of things. Triton destroys her relics, basically throwing a temper tantrum, and Ariel runs out without so much as a word to him about where she’s going, which terrifies him. (Bonus: The Broadway version expands on this conflict a bit more on Triton’s side with the amazing song If Only. Listen here.)

But ultimately, the two of them make things right in the end. Triton even gives Ariel his blessing (and restores her legs) so that she can live on land. When she hugs him and says “I love you, daddy,” you know that all is right between these two, and it warms your heart.

little mermaid i love you, daddy

12. Eric is an amazing Disney Prince. He’s not my favorite (because no one can top the Disney Prince of my heart, Aladdin), but he’s a close second. Eric is kind, funny, sweet, charming… and most importantly, he loves all of Ariel. He initially falls in love with her voice when she saves him, and spends a lot of the movie wondering about the girl who saved him, but when Ariel turns up on land sans her voice, he starts slowly falling for her all over again. When he realizes the melodic singer that saved him and the voiceless girl who’s charmed him are one in the same, it’s such a great moment for us the viewer because he realizes what we knew all along: he’s fallen for all of Ariel.

little mermaid ariel, you're the one

And when Ursula is thwarted and Ariel is dragged back under the sea by her, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to take her down and save his beloved. He never asks Ariel to give up her place in the sea, and he never asks her to change; more reasons I love him.

13. Ariel saves Eric. A Disney princess saving her man, say it ain’t so! The Little Mermaid is the very first Disney movie to feature a princess doing the rescuing. In that moment a ship is sinking, she’s just seen fire for the first time and realizes it is dangerous, and a serious storm is brewing. She’s been separated from her friends. Yet, she saves Eric. She pulls him out of the water and brings him to safety. At the end of the film, Eric jabs his ship into Ursula, creating a balance between them. Ariel doesn’t always need to be the strong one because she has an equally strong man at her side. There is a give and take in their relationship. Having that equilibrium is healthy and important!

14. Sebastian. Let’s just talk about Sebastian’s character. You know that friend, the one who’s always like “I’m not sure this is a good idea,” or “maybe we should think this through?” The one who keeps the group from getting into chaos? That’s Sebastian. Other reasons Sebastian is awesome: he has a song all to himself (“Under the Sea”) and it is amazing, he’s the mediator who keeps the peace between Ariel and her dad, and despite his stern attitude, he really cares about Ariel. He also gives some hilarious dating advice.

little mermaid i hope you appreciate what i go through for you

15. We can’t talk about Sebastian without talking about Flounder. He’s an adorable sidekick, super loyal to Ariel and super sweet as well. He’s naturally skittish and shy, but he’s not afraid to stand up for Ariel and help her out however she needs him. These two have true friendship. ❤

little mermaid flounder shark

16. The Little Mermaid is one of the earliest examples of a princess with siblings who aren’t horrible to each other. (Cinderella’s step-sisters don’t count, at least not initially, because it takes a few movies for Cindy and Anastasia to bond.) We don’t get a ton about Ariel’s sisters, but her, her sisters and her father seem like a fairly close-knit family unit. Her and her sisters even sing together! That’s true family bonding. I thought their A-themed names were cute, and I think part of why Ariel doesn’t feel belonging is because she’s a part of a huge family unit, and she wants to be a part of something that’s hers alone.

17. During Ursula’s  “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” she brings up men’s views on women, which sadly we still deal with in this day and age:
The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land it’s much preferred
For ladies not to say a word

little mermaid body language

little mermaid ursula jgs

I personally think it’s pretty brave of Disney to tackle societal issues like this, and it’s important for young girls and boys to realize that you should be who you want to be, not what society expects of you.

18. And do you know what else is awesome about The Little Mermaid? The movie subverts Ursula’s assumptions by having it not be true for Eric. Eric is the exact opposite of that. He falls in love with Ariel despite her lack of voice, but that’s because Ariel is so expressive that she still finds a way to showcase her voice to Eric without saying a word. I think voice or no voice, Eric still would’ve fallen in love with Ariel, and part of what Eric loves about Ariel is how expressive and enthusiastic about life she is. He loves her, with or without her voice, with legs or fins, in a dress or a conch shell bra.

19. Also, just as Eric subverts Ursula’s expectations of men, Ariel doesn’t bend to Ursula’s version of what women should be. Ursula tells her to be “withdrawn”, and that “it’s she who holds her tongue that gets the man”, but those things go against the very core of Ariel’s personality. So does Ariel follow her advice? Not a chance.

little mermaid 5

20. Ariel is resilient. Her father destroys all of her relics and tells her to never go to the surface? Well, she’s not giving up on her dreams, no matter what he says, and she finds another way to get there. She doesn’t have her voice to win over Eric? She uses her extroversion to win him over: she’s naturally a bubbly, expressive person, and she uses that to her advantage. Ironically, one of Ursula’s bits of advice proves to be helpful for Ariel: body language helps her communicate with Eric, despite her lack of a voice. Ursula messes with the people she loves? Ariel fights back to make things right. She’s someone who doesn’t give up easily, and all of her persistence and hard work pays off in the end when she finds her happy ending on land.

little mermaid take your dreams into your own hands

21. She proves that women don’t have to give up everything for a man. One of Ariel’s big worries is that she’ll lose her father and sisters if she goes up on land, but Ursula tells her that she’ll have her man, and that life is full of tough choices. Like much of what Ursula says, this turns out to be a lie, because in the end, Ariel learns that she doesn’t have to choose between both worlds. She can live on land with Eric and still keep close ties with her family. The Little Mermaid is all about worlds uniting, and how Ariel can still hold onto her home and family while embracing her place on land with Eric. She also doesn’t have to change who she is for Eric. Yes, she gives up her fins, but that doesn’t mean she has to give up on where she came from or who she is.

22. Ariel is not afraid to cry, but then she can get right back up and fix her problems. After Triton destroyed the grotto, she was emotional, but then she took a visit to Ursula and found a way to get what she wanted.

little mermaid crying

When “Vanessa” arrived and Eric was going to marry her, Ariel was heartbroken, but when she found out Eric was being tricked and the marriage wouldn’t make him happy, she jumped into the water and saved him (again!). There’s nothing wrong with crying when you need to! Crying is natural and it makes you stronger if you can let your emotions out. Ariel is a fully formed woman: she’s not a weepy do nothing, but she’s also not this impossibly strong person. That’s a great message for girls (and boys).

23. Ariel is our first non-human princess, or at least, she starts out that way. Her world is vast and filled with gorgeous scenery, and there’s also some interesting world-building there as well. It’s such a wonderfully thought out world, and I love the fact that so much of the movie is focused on the differences between both worlds, and how the human world is just as fascinating to Ariel as the world under the sea is to us.

little mermaid atlantica

24. There’s this super interesting hinted at backstory with Ursula and Triton, because Ursula mentions once living in the palace and being banished. So what exactly did she do to get herself banished? And if we consider the fact that the original plan was for Ursula to be Ariel’s aunt, how much more twisted and interesting does that make this movie? (I personally like to imagine this as canon that’s not mentioned, because it adds some really interesting depth to the plot.)

little mermaid ursula power

25. Finally, one of the things I love about this movie is that Ariel is 16, and it’s clear in her personality that she’s still growing and developing.

little mermaid ariel bed cute

She’s playful and sometimes naïve and stubborn and I think people get grated by her sometimes because of her immaturity, but think about when you were a teenager. Teenagers tend to have this “I know best” mentality, even if we don’t, and I think Ariel really personifies that. But she learns from her mistakes and matures greatly by the end of the movie without losing her sense of self or her sense of fun and adventure. She becomes the best version of herself, essentially, and isn’t that supposed to be what love is? Finding someone who brings out your best qualities, doesn’t try to change you and makes you want to be your very best self?


The next time anyone scoffs at Ariel you’ve got 25 awesome comebacks ready!

What do you think? Can you think of anymore reasons The Little Mermaid is an awesome feminist film? Leave them and your opinions below in the comments!

Cheers!
-M&M

Happy 25th Anniversary to one of the best Disney films.

little mermaid seahorse