Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Are Disney Princesses too dated?

Rachel Choi
Illustration by Rachel Choi.

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice.

I grew up in the golden age of Disney princesses. I lived in my princess-themed gowns and matching heels singing to birds and riding in a carbon-neutral pumpkin carriage with my fairy godmother. Being a princess was my dream, but I wonder if that dream still has a place in the world. I found myself posing, asking myself this question after Disney’s most recent live action announcement of the live action remake of their 1937 classic, “Snow White.” 

Disney remakes are a dime a dozen these days, with several versions of timeless stories developed into live action movies every year. By now, most people have seen Rachel Zegler’s viral interview following the announcement of the new “Snow White” remake. Zegler made comments on how her new version of Snow White would not be dreaming of true love and how she would not be saved by the prince. Disney fans responded with quite the uproar, claiming Zegler should be recast because of her ungrateful attitude.

While Disney die-hards may have condemned Zeglers harsh critique, I find myself wondering why she felt the need to say that in the first place. The truth is Disney princess movies are seen as anti-feminist because they promote traits that are considered traditionally feminine, such as nurturing or fearful attitudes. 

In this day and age of fourth-wave feminism, modern media has begun to focus on the destruction of traditional gender roles. We see movies like “Barbie” rise in popularity, where the main female character saves herself. This results in the progressive plot changes in modern day remakes of old classics, not just Disney movies. While I wholeheartedly support this movement in the media, I question it in the case of Disney princesses.

To me, a Disney princess movie is all about the fantasy and femininity that many movies lack today: young girls dancing through the forest with all their animal friends, hair flowing in the invisible breeze and fairy godmothers with magic wands turning rags into beautiful ball gowns. I am all for a hard hitting female action hero, but sometimes I just want to be swept off my feet by a prince saving a princess and their subsequent love story. 

Studios are no longer prioritizing movies with these classic storylines because of a social climate that in many ways opposes traditional gender roles. Don’t get me wrong, I love the new movies just as much as everyone else, but I find myself craving the old stories of royalty and love. Creating new stories like this just isn’t profitable for studios anymore. That is what makes preserving these old storylines so important. Without them, the genre of Disney princess movies will die.

I understand that, as feminists, we are worried about leading the next generation of young women astray with these sorts of storylines, but I believe that they have a place in their education. Psychology studies have found that children exposed to Disney Princess movies at a young age were more likely to see men and women as equals once they reached their teenage years. Additionally, researchers found that children who watch these movies have higher self confidence and are less accepting of hypermasculinity. 

Disney princess movies, when approached correctly, teach young girls that it is alright to not be able to save yourself in every situation and that getting help is not the end of the world. Modern feminism teaches us to empower ourselves to solve our own problems, something that not all Disney princess movies oppose. Stories like “The Princess and the Frog” are all about hard work and perseverance to achieve one’s dreams, but even Tiana needed to accept some help in the end. Mulan saved her country, but she couldn’t do it without her fellow soldiers by her side. Disney princess movies are not teaching young girls to expect someone to always save them, they are teaching them to accept the help others offer when they need it. 

Stories like these teach the importance of accepting help along with strong feminist ideals of self empowerment creating well-balanced women of the future. Above all else, these stories teach young girls to have kindness in the face of adversity—something I believe is a vital character trait to have today. We should not be rewriting these stories just to prioritize one kind of narrative over another. There should be no problem with showing girls media in which characters long for true love’s kiss. 

Conversely, it is okay for a woman to want none of that and strive for a career, but we shouldn’t be changing these classic storylines to hide young girls from longing for their Prince Charming. Disney princess movies still deserve a place in society, and when supplemented with other stories of independent women, they serve a purpose in shaping a well balanced next generation of women.

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