October 1, 2011

It [Shopping] Gets Better: Disney Princesses And Feminism

There are more comprehensive studies out there, I'm sure, but this thread on Quora about "which Disney princess best embodies feminist principles and why?" is still a pretty good start. Here's part of one [fully illustrated!] analysis of Ariel:

Obsessed with a man


Wears a bra despite breasts' natural buoyancy in water, thereby perpetuating the sexualization of breasts and the wider commodification of the female body

The obvious answer about Disney princesses and feminism is barely touched on, though, which is that they become increasingly feminist--or really, less patriarchal fantasist--over time. There's Walt-era pre-feminism. Second wave, post-modern, Katzenberg revival-era feminist evolution. And now I'd say there's a fully realized feminist third wave, films with characters like Tiana and Rapunzel, which is basically running interference for the Disney Princess merchandising hegemony, which is overwhelmingly populated by the pre-feminist princesses.

Feminism is now a character/brand attribute, and Disney is only to happy to use their robust product development platform to serve that market niche.

Which Disney Princess best embodies feminist principles, and why? [quora via @auerbach]


Although mermaids are generally depicted without upper body garments, I rather imagine Disney would trouble marketing The Little Mermaid with her not wearing the shells (not the same as a bra) -- just as they gave Pocahontas a sort of leather halter top, even though apparently women from her actual tribe went topless during that period of history.

yeah, trying and failing to see how Disney would market a topless Ariel. Maybe if she spoke French.

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