Truly Feminist Disney Princesses

by Lisa Kaye Cunningham on

Truly-Feminist-Disney-Princesses

“Disney princesses are anti-feminist because they are all rescued by men!”  NONSENSE.

Please stop such small-minded drivel against Disney princesses!  Frozen doused the internet with a resurging feminist critique of Disney princesses under the banner that “Elsa and Anna weren’t rescued by men.”  This statement is true, but completely irrelevant regarding true feminism.  The Frozen women certainly show feminist characteristics, but confused extremists assume Elsa’s and Anna’s only strengths are their lack of male rescuing.  Don’t negate and ignore every real feminist trait they represent!  Elsa and Anna are strong feminists because they make bold choices that progress their own stories, not because they refuse male company.

Feminist radicals have contorted feminism into meaning that any male involvement whatsoever is offensive and demeaning.  Such shallow thinking is completely false, let alone extremely prejudiced against men.  This idea not only victimizes capable women and demonizes innocent men, but it limits feminism’s true potential.

True feminism creates equality and gives both genders equal opportunities and the freedom to pursue their own dreams and happiness.  Supposing women to be superior and men deserving of being trampled beneath female foot isn’t equality; it’s the oppression of a different demographic then before.

Therefore, strong feminist women find and take such opportunities.  Strong feminist women work to follow their dreams.  Weak women (or weak people in general) don’t work for their own happiness and blame others for their problems.  One may only claim that their feminist rights are being violated if someone takes away their freedom of choice, their freedom to follow their dreams.

 With this true definition of feminism reestablished, calling Disney princesses anti-feminist because they are “rescued by men” is wrong and a sign that you’ve read too many angry memes on the internet.

Almost all Disney’s classic animated films include female leads, but only eight before the release of Frozen in 2013 are deemed princesses: Snow White (Snow White, 1937), Cinderella (Cinderella, 1950), Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, 1959), Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989), Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991), Jasmine (Aladdin, 1992), Tiana (The Princess and the Frog, 2009), and Rapunzel (Tangled, 2010).

These characters should never be looked down upon for falling in love with a man; to do so insults true feminism.  True feminism gives women the opportunity to pursue their dreams, including their dreams of finding love as well as their dreams for careers.  On varying degrees all eight of these princesses do just that: follow their dreams.  This proves that, contrary to radical opinion, these princesses actually are true and strong feminists.

Why are these Disney girls attacked so much more than other female characters?  Other Disney heroines are rescued by men all the time (Maid Marian, Wendy, Esmerelda, Meg, Jane, etc.) but we never hear the radicals whining about them.  What makes Disney princesses different?  There are four important aspects that differentiate the Disney princesses from the ordinary Disney heroines:

  1. A Disney princess claims her title “princess” through birth or marriage.
  2. A Disney princess’s happily-ever-after reward includes marriage.
  3. All Disney princesses begin their stories trapped in oppressive or unhappy circumstances and dream of escape and/or happiness.
  4. All Disney princess’ villains directly violate the princess’s freedom; they violate the princess’s feminist rights. These villains are bent on oppression, making a princess’s struggle for freedom all the more compelling and relevant in the modern feminist world.

Admittedly some princesses are stronger feminists than others.  A feminist will pursue her dreams, yes, but by measuring how actively one does so we can gauge her strength.  Characters who actively make choices that progress their stories are strong feminist characters.  Characters who passively wait for things to happen and merely react to the actions of others are weak feminist characters.

The rest of this essay will study Disney’s eight princesses in order from weakest to strongest feminist character, analyzing their active or passive choices, and proving that they are indeed feminists.  Never again should they suffer the ignorant rants of confused extremists who dismiss their entire character based on such nonsense as male involvement.

 

  1. Snow White

Although Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a huge step forward in the animation world, this princess is the most passive.  Still, like all princesses, her battle for freedom from her abusive stepmother drives her story.  Snow White is first seen wearing rags and forced to work as a servant, the jealous queen’s form of oppression.  Snow White dreams of escape from such circumstances in the form of a handsome prince taking her away and sincerely loving her.  However, by rarely acting to pursue this dream, Snow White holds the position as Disney’s weakest feminist princess.9

SNOW WHITE’S REACTIVE CHOICES

  •   She reacts to her stepmother’s abuse by dreaming of a loving prince.
  • She reacts to the huntsman’s orders to run away by doing so.
  • She reacts to finding the dwarves’ cottage by making herself at home.
  • She reacts to the queen’s poisoned-apple trick by falling for it.10
  • She reacts to the prince’s kiss by waking up.

Snow White’s story is completely driven by the actions of others.  Snow White simply lets things happen to her rather than actively making things happen for her.  It was complete luck then, that her dream actually came true at the end.  Thank goodness the prince found and kissed her, or Snow White would have died with all her dreams unfulfilled.

IN DEFENSE OF SNOW WHITE

Although Snow White doesn’t rank high on feminist charts, she redeems herself according to the theme of her centuries-old parent fairytale.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs follows 11the original Grimm story so closely that it also follows the most basic theme found in Grimm fairytales: righteousness is rewarded and wickedness is punished.  Remember that Grimm fairytales weren’t written by the Grimm brothers, but were collected and recorded by them from a culture very dominated by religion.  Many Grimm stories teach religious principles, the most basic being that righteousness is always rewarded, either in this life or in the next by God.

By Grimm standards, Snow White is a righteous character; she bears and reacts to her stepmother’s abuse kindly and obediently.  She justly earns and deserves her happy ending.  The queen, meanwhile, proves herself a wicked character by abusing and trying to kill Snow White.  She likewise deserves her reward of falling off a cliff to her death.

Snow White shouldn’t be condemned for honoring this theme, but it admittedly forces her into a passive character who righteously accepts all the bad things that happen to her.  If, for example, she had actively tried to fight back against her stepmother it would have been judged by the Grimm brothers as a wicked act and Snow White would have been denied her happily-ever after.  Unfortunately modern standards mark this passivity as a weak feminist because she never actively tries to follow her dream, regardless of whether or not a prince was involved.  While she isn’t a strong feminist, Snow White is certainly a brave woman for enduring such abuse for so long and for enduring it righteously, sealing her happy-ending fate.

 

  1. Aurora

Nine years after Cinderella‘s smashing success, Princess Aurora graced the Disney world, more commonly known as “Sleeping Beauty.”  She only appears on screen for roughly eighteen minutes of the film because, of course, she sleeps through most of it.  Such little screen time makes Aurora difficult to classify as a feminist, but her single active decision toward her dream of loving companionship shows great promise for feminist Disney princesses.

AURORA’S REACTIVE CHOICES

  • She reacts to Prince Phillip singing with her by dancing and falling in love with him.12
  • She reacts to the fairies’ revealing her true heritage by crying.
  • She reacts to Prince Phillip’s kiss by waking up.

AURORA’S ACTIVE CHOICE

  • After falling in love with Prince Phillip she first reacts with fear and tries to run away. Then, 13realizing this is the opportunity she’s been dreaming of, she changes her mind and tells him when and where to meet her again.  When an opportunity to follow her dream came, she took it!

Unfortunately Aurora’s tragic circumstances sabotage her attempt to assert her feminism.  Over and over again Aurora’s agency is denied by her parents, her fairy friends, and of course by the evil Maleficent.  Despite her active decision to gain the companionship she so desperately wants, Aurora can’t help that the fairies force her to return to her father’s castle.  With her agency so harshly removed, Aurora has little time for any reaction except to weep, continuing Aurora’s losing battle for her freedom.

When Maleficent discovers Aurora’s location, she casts an eerie green 14light which, accompanied by creepy music, forces the entranced Aurora to approach the spinning wheel, again refusing Aurora’s freedom.  At the last moment Aurora tries asserting her own decisiveness by slightly withdrawing her hand, but the insistent voice of Maleficent intensifies, magically removing all Aurora’s willpower and most importantly, her power of choice.

Finally a kiss and a prince reward the sleeping Aurora, not only restoring her consciousness but her decision-making power, which she immediately exercises to follow her dream by staying with Prince Phillip.

By making one active decision to try and follow her dreams, this princess made a big step forward as a stronger feminist than Snow White, though Aurora remains bogged down with passive reactivity.  Regardless, I congratulate the character who did her very best in dire circumstances against the formidable Maleficent, who cruelly and effectively removed all of Aurora’s power of choice by knocking the poor girl unconscious.

 

  1. Tiana

As the hand-drawn style of animation lost popularity to computer graphics, Disney made a final attempt at its traditional animation; in 2009 Princess Tiana joined the league of Disney princesses as perhaps the most unique princess in the entire genre.

Tiana differs from all the previous princesses in several key points.  First and most visibly, Disney created Tiana as a black woman.  Because the film takes place in the American south during segregation’s height, it not only raises questions of feminism but also of racial equality.

15Second, Tiana rejects most princess-like norms.  Tiana’s contrasting race and princess-beliefs are best seen by comparing Tiana and Charlotte, Tiana’s white friend.  Charlotte represents a negative stereotype of princess-obsessed girls, arguably a critique on Disney’s own fan base.  Tiana, however, realistically notes the ridiculous aspects associated with princesshood, particularly having to kiss a frog.  Charlotte is indeed a kind and redeemable character, but she is also a rich, spoiled airhead who believes in passivity, expecting her dreams to come true simply by wishing them so.  Tiana, oppositely, is down to earth, hardworking, and recognizes that dreams come true only through active hard word, a worthy feminist ideal.

The third key point in which Tiana differs from all the other princesses is her dream: to own a restaurant.  Notice the evolution of Disney princess dreams:

1937 Snow White “Someday my prince will come.”
1991 Jasmine “If I do marry, I want it to be for love.”
2009 Tiana “I don’t have time for dancing.”

A Disney princess’s desire for love and marriage appears so diminish through the years.  This decline of dreaming for love correlates with the radical feminist movement that discourages all male involvement.

Thankfully Disney doesn’t appear to support such radical ideas when Tiana learns the importance of love and family.  Mama Odie encourages Tiana to pursue a family: “Your daddy was a loving man, family through and through.  You your daddy’s daughter, what he had in him, you got in you!”  Later, Dr. Facilier tempts Tiana by offering a trade: her dream restaurant in return for Prince Naveen’s life, which she declines.  Refusing Dr. Facilier’s offer and saving Naveen is Tiana’s greatest moment of strength and feminism, but let’s evaluate the rest of her decisions.

TIANA’S REACTIVE CHOICES

  • She reacts to becoming a frog by trying to turn back into a human.16
  • She reacts to Mama Odie’s instructions on how to become human by trying to get a princess to kiss Naveen.
  • She reacts to their failed attempt by sadly remaining a frog with Naveen.

TIANA’S ACTIVE CHOICES

  • She makes a deal with Naveen the frog and promises a kiss in return for the money for her restaurant.
  • She refuses Dr. Facilier’s offer and stays with Naveen.

By these lists, Tiana is mostly balanced between active and reactive, but does this make her a strong feminist?  True feminism means following your dreams, but Tiana’s strongest decision of sacrificing her restaurant for Naveen’s life actually takes her farther from her dream than before.  How can that make her a strong feminist?  It can and it does!  As Tiana slowly but surely learns that love is more important than her restaurant, her dream also evolves.  “My dream wouldn’t be complete without you in it,” she tells Naveen.  When Naveen becomes a part of her dream, she actually follows that dream by sacrificing the career part, proving herself a strong feminist character.

TIANA’S DOWNFALL

By having and achieving multiple dreams, Tiana appears more realistic and relatable than other princesses.  But, 17unrelated to her feminist standing, think of the true lesson being implied by Tiana’s example.  Yes, Tiana sacrificed her career for her true love, which is admirable.  However, her sacrifice is completely negated because five minutes later she turns back into a human, continues to work hard, and still gets her dream restaurant anyway with the added bonus of a happy hubby to boot.  She now gets the best of both worlds, but how?

All previous princesses show that finding a handsome prince might be easy, but the road to obtaining him is full of obstacles.  Ultimately they all obtain love because that’s where their focus remains; it’s what they dream of and work toward.  Tiana’s story is completely opposite: her focus is on her career, yet miraculously she obtains love.  Feminism aside, this is simply ridiculous.  Male or female, if your sole focus in life is on your career, then you will ultimately only end up with a career.  The same works vice versa for the other princesses: their sole focus was to find love, and ultimately they only ended up with a relationship.

I don’t suggest either extreme, but a balance.  You can have two goals to two hundred; if you balance your time and actively pursue all your goals, then I have every confidence all your dreams will come true.  Relationships, like careers, require active work and effort to obtain.  Love realistically won’t suddenly appear while you pursue other unrelated things, as it miraculously did for Tiana.

 

  1. Belle

A first in the world of Disney princesses, Belle doesn’t benefit from love at first sight.  Another first for Disney princesses, Belle doesn’t have a single dream of falling in love, but of having adventure with someone she loves:

I want adventure in the great, wide, somewhere.

I want it more than I can stand.

And for once it might be grand,

To have someone understand.

I want so much more than they’ve got planned.

[Emphasis added.]

For all of Disney’s previous princesses, finding love was a critical part of escaping their oppressive circumstances.  For Belle, however, finding love won’t automatically help her escape her unhappy circumstances; finding love means increasing the happiness she already possesses.  Her initial circumstances aren’t as oppressive as an abusive stepmother, but the movie’s opening song and Belle’s reprise (quoted above) show that Belle, though not abused, is an unhappy outcast.  Thus, she suffers from social oppression and can never be truly happy in her current community.

Still, Belle’s dream seems vague compared to other crystal clear princesses’ dreams, so it’s hard to classify her actions as actively pursuing that dream or not.  We can, however, study her decisions that push her story forward.19

BELLE’S REACTIVE CHOICES

  • She reacts to the Beast frightening her by running away.
  • She reacts to the Beast’s slow affections by slowly returning them.
  • She reacts to the Beast letting her go by leaving.
  • She reacts to the Beast’s death by realizing her true feelings for him.

BELLE’S ACTIVE CHOICES

  • She trades her life for her father’s and becomes the Beast’s prisoner.18
  • She returns with the Beast to his castle and nurses him back to health after the wolf attack.
  • She returns to the Beast to try to warn him and save him from Gaston.

Like Tiana, Belle is a balance of active and reactive decisions, but although Belle’s list of reactive choices is shorter than her list of active choices, her active choices are so bold and far-reaching that they outweigh her passive ones.  Without Belle’s strong decisiveness, her story would have been drastically different.

So yes, Belle is an active character, but is she actively feminist?  The answer is still unclear.  Strangely, all of Belle’s most active moments increase her own physical captivity.  If feminism means that women are free to equally pursue their dreams, then Belle refuses her own freedom and feminism by continually choosing to be the Beast’s prisoner.  Also, all of Belle’s active choices force her into situations where her most passive reactions occur.  How bizarre.

Upon this realization, perhaps radicals and true feminists alike might condemn Belle as the greatest anti-feminist of all for choosing her own imprisonment.  They fail to notice that each of Belle’s most active decisions, though they end in her own passivity, unintentionally lead to the fulfillment of her dream; she finds adventure in the form of an enchanted castle and a cursed prince.  She seemingly follows her dream by accident, and by doing so Belle is still considered a strong and assertive feminist.

20In that case, one might argue that there wouldn’t have been any difference if Belle had chosen the captivity of marrying Gaston, since she chose captivity anyway.  False!  The Beast certainly imposes on Belle’s physical freedom, but he never imposes on her dreams; she is still free to find adventure in his castle as she always wanted.  Gaston’s offer, however, completely negates all of Belle’s dreams, announcing that her “dream” will be to massage his feet while their pile of Gaston-like sons play on the floor with the dogs.  That may be Gaston’s dream, but it certainly isn’t Belle’s.  Choosing captivity via Gaston, however active the decision would have been, would have been an anti-feminist choice because Belle would have given up on her dreams.  Choosing captivity via the Beast (albeit strangely) makes Belle a strong feminist character.

 

  1. Jasmine

Despite the film being named for the male protagonist, the storyline of Aladdin is entirely dictated by Princess Jasmine’s battle for freedom.  The actions of every male character around her are motivated by her power struggle: Jafar manipulating the law in order to marry and control her, and Aladdin wishing for the Genie to turn him into a prince so he has a chance to win her.

Jasmine was a lot of firsts for Disney princesses: the first to marry a non-prince, the first not based on a European fairytale, the first non-white princess, and the first princess with a dangerously fiery attitude.  Rather than singing sweetly to woodland creatures, Jasmine’s anger sparks perhaps the most profoundly feminist line in the entire 21Disney universe: “How dare you, standing there deciding my future!”  Another first for Disney princesses, Jasmine openly chastises the men in her life for forbidding her feminism, the power to make and follow her own dreams.

But Jasmine isn’t a strong feminist for telling off the men.  While Jasmine hopes for love in marriage, more than anything she dreams of freedom and she actively pursues that dream.  The sultan, while explaining that forcing her to marry will ensure she’s taken care of, delicately puts her little pet bird safely back in its cage, a direct metaphor of his actions with Jasmine herself.  As soon as he leaves Jasmine throws open the doors of the cage and all the birds fly free, as she wishes she could.  But what does she do to follow this dream of freedom, particularly the freedom to marry whom she wants?

JASMINE’S ACTIVE CHOICES

  • She refuses the many suitors whom she dislikes, although the law tries to force her to marry.
  • She runs away from home, seeing no alternative to her forced marriage.
  • She chooses to marry Prince Ali.
  • She defies Jafar and deceives him in order to help Aladdin.
  • She chooses to marry Aladdin.

Despite these strong and active attempts to gain freedom, Jasmine’s agency is constantly threatened and completely removed.  At the start of the film her choice is taken away in the form of her being forced to marry, the law itself 22limiting her agency.  The issue escalates when Jafar tries to force her to marry him, inventing the law that the “sultan must choose for her.”  When Jafar gains power he puts Jasmine and Aladdin into weird red light and forces them to dance around him like puppets, now removing her physical freedom.  Next seen, Jasmine wears chains, another form of physical confinement.  Finally Jafar tries to force Jasmine to fall in love with him, which luckily isn’t possible.

The only matter Jasmine has agency over is her choice of whom to fall in love with, though not whom to marry.  Genie says that he can’t make people fall in love; Aladdin will have to woo Jasmine on his own, maintaining Jasmine’s single power of choice in the whole movie.23

For her active decisions and active fight for the power of her own choices, Jasmine becomes an incredibly strong feminist character.  The finale of the movie only allows her true happiness when the law is changed and her choices are fully her own, to which she happily replies, “I choose Aladdin!”

 

  1. Cinderella

Disney made quite the jump from the very passive Snow White to the very active and strong Cinderella, although many radicals might refuse to see it.  Like Snow White, Cinderella faces oppression by her wicked stepmother with two wicked stepsisters to boot, and like Snow White, Cinderella bears her afflictions kindly and righteously.  By Snow White’s standards, Cinderella justly deserves her happy ending.  But where Snow White was content to sing by her well and react to the actions of others, Cinderella makes decisive and powerful movement forward in her own story.  Walt Disney said of his favorite princess, “She believed in dreams all right, but she also believed in doing something about them.  When Prince Charming didn’t come along, she went over to the palace and got him.”

CINDERELLA’S ACTIVE CHOICES

  • She boldly announces to her stepfamily that she herself is invited to the ball as well, despite their mockery.27
  • She tries her best to accomplish her stepmother’s conditions in order to go (doing the chores and finding a suitable dress).
  • The morning after the ball, rather than idly doing her stepsisters’ laundry, she actively prepares to meet the duke and try the glass slipper.
  • She produces the second glass slipper and leaves her abusive stepfamily.

Paving the way for future princesses, Cinderella’s story isn’t only about fighting an evil stepmother, but about fighting for freedom.  Lady 28Tremaine is truly formidable and impedes Cinderella’s agency at every turn: forcing Cinderella into servitude, sabotaging her efforts to go to the ball, locking her up rather than let her meet the duke, and breaking the glass slipper.

Radicals might bemoan Cinderella for her inability to overcome such a villain without help.  Indeed, if not for her fairy godmother and her animal friends, Cinderella’s story would have been tragically different.  But recognize that Cinderella only received and accepted help as a last resort after all her other options were exhausted.  Don’t forget that she 29worked as hard as she could to accomplish her dreams, and don’t belittle her for the strength of her adversary!

Her handsome prince and happy ending aren’t only a reward for her righteous dealings with her stepfamily, but also for her strong actions in changing her own future, regardless of what help she received.

 

  1. Rapunzel

2010 marked the release of Disney’s 50th animated classic, Tangled, and the powerfully feminist Rapunzel.  All Disney princesses face oppression of some kind, but few faced such physical imprisonment as Rapunzel.  Her story of defying Mother Gothel and leaving the tower is her own active fight for her power of choice.

Rapunzel cherishes dreams to leave her tower and see the floating lights.  Like Tiana, Rapunzel doesn’t immediately dream of finding love, especially while force-fed lies from Mother Gothel about “men with pointed teeth,” but 24throughout the film Rapunzel’s dreams change.  When her dream of seeing the floating lights is fulfilled, Flynn encourages her to find a new dream.  At the film’s climax when he lay dying in Rapunzel’s arms they share two important lines: “You were my new dream.” “And you were mine.”  Although her dreams at first don’t include finding love, that’s clearly where her dreams led to.  Again, she isn’t a feminist for dreaming or not dreaming of love; she is a feminist for actively pursuing her dream, which she does admirably throughout the film.  Every action Rapunzel takes actively propels her story forward and moves her closer and closer to her dreams.

RAPUNZEL’S ACTIVE CHOICES

  • She asks Mother Gothel to take her to see the floating lights.
  • When asking Mother Gothel doesn’t work, she enlists Flynn to help her fulfill her dream instead.
  • She bargains with Mother Gothel to saves Flynn’s life.

RAPUNZEL’S TRUE SACRIFICE

Rapunzel ranks high on the feminist charts for so actively pursuing her dream and fighting her oppression.  One of 25her most powerful moment occurs after she returns to her tower with Mother Gothel under the impression that Flynn betrayed her.  Mother Gothel unbraids Rapunzel’s hair saying, “There.  It never happened.”  But both Rapunzel and the audience know that she will never be the same again.  She had a taste of real freedom.  She experienced the joy and power of pursuing and obtaining a dream.  How can she possibly go back?  This realization helps her to piece together the truth about her parentage and she confronts Mother Gothel, actively choosing to leave and further pursue her freedom.

Unfortunately for Rapunzel, and like so many princesses before her, she is thwarted by the villain and captured.  Her oppression is even more obvious now that Rapunzel is chained, and still Rapunzel fights.

26Consider the moment then, when Flynn returns and Rapunzel’s “new dream” is restored.  He is tragically stabbed and Rapunzel makes her final active decision in the movie: to trade her freedom for Flynn’s life.  Now she has experienced true feminism and true freedom.  How tragic her final sacrifice truly becomes understanding that she is sacrificing her feminism, her opportunities for having and following her own dreams; all this for the life of the man she loves.  Flynn understands this concept.  Rather than let her remain powerless, he cuts her hair and frees her, restoring her feminism once again.

 

  1. Ariel

Princess Ariel’s dream is perhaps the most definable and vivid; she dreams of being part of the human world.  A precursor to dreams like Rapunzel’s, initially Ariel’s dream lacks any mention of finding love, but her dream changes after meeting Prince Eric and she sings to be “part of your world.”30

Regardless of the physical barriers from her dream, her own fins and her father’s rules, Ariel is the most active of all the Disney princesses in following her dream, and therefore the strongest feminist princess of all.

ARIEL’S ACTIVE CHOICES

  • She regularly visits the surface desipte her father forbidding it; it is her dream, after all, that draws here there.
  • She rescues Eric from drowning.
  • She actively pursues Eric, trying to get him to kiss her.
  • She tries to stp Eric’s wedding to the disguised Ursula.
  • She yanks Ursula’s hair back, saving Eric’s life again, and turning the trident-laser toward the eels instead.

I don’t know what more evidence you need, you nazi radicals!  Ariel’s active decisions dictate her entire movie.  She boldly pursues her dream and boldly works to save the man she loves, as being with him is part of her dream.

Furthermore, Ariel’s greatest and most far-reaching decision requires an entire section of discussion instead of a mere bullet point:

ARIEL’S MOST ACTIVE CHOICE

She bargains with Ursula and trades her voi31ce for legs.

Many criticize Ariel for her rebellious acts of blatant disobedience.  Indeed, if we measured obnoxious teenager-ness, Ariel would come out on top again.  I don’t condone parental disobedience, but in Ariel’s case, by doing so makes her the strongest feminist and most relatable character of all.

Most other princesses exchanged their miserable circumstances for happy ones when their dreams were fulfilled.  Arguably Jasmine’s and Tiana’s situations changed the least, but still what they gained far outweighed anything they lost.  Do you think it was a difficult choice for Cinderella when she had to decide between staying with her abusive stepfamily and marrying a loving prince?  Surely she was cheering on the inside, “Sign me up!”

No other princess really faces the choice of sacrificing something truly precious to them in order to follow her dreams except Ariel.  She alone faces this epic dilemma: “If I become human, then I’ll never be with my father or sisters again,” to which Ursula replies, “Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it?”

But that statement doesn’t seem to apply to the other princesses.  Yes, each princess was plagued with her own difficulties in achieving her dream, but none had to make such a monumental choice as Ariel.  Yes, Ariel was confined and therefore oppressed because she couldn’t survive on land, where she dreamed of living, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she was unhappy living under the sea.  Perhaps if she’d declined Ursula’s offer she could have gone home to her loving family.  Perhaps she could have forgotten about Prince Eric.  Perhaps she could have found other passions in her underwater home.  Perhaps she could have somehow found new happiness where she was comfortable and safe.

But Ariel proves herself the most feminist when she makes the insurmountably difficult decision to permanently leave behind all she knows for a single chance to make her dreams come true.  She had no guarantee of success and faced even more dire consequences if she failed.  Still, she chose progression over safety.  She chose to try following her dream instead of giving up.  What other Disney princess sacrificed so much for just one little chance to pursue her own happiness?

However admirable, strong, active, and difficult the decision surely is for Ariel, it is still undeniably a mistake, 32greater and more far-reaching than any other Disney princess before or after her ever made.  Ariel knows exactly Ursula’s reputation and she clearly feels uncomfortable and anxious around the octopus-legged witch, her face betraying feelings of mistrust and uncertainty.  Despite all her forewarnings and misgivings, Ariel still succumbs to the sea witch’s trickery and bribery.  Ursula fools and deceives her.  If not for Prince Eric ramming a broken ship into the giant Ursula monster and saving everyone, all would have been completely lost and it all would have been Ariel’s fault.  Still, if not for Ariel’s rash bargain, she never would have achieved her dreams.

When Ariel wrongly trusted Ursula, she proved herself relatable and realistic, as well as the most powerfully feminist for fighting and sacrificing so much in order to follow her dream.  Ironically, of all the Disney princesses the most sincerely human is actually the little mermaid who dreams of becoming herself a human.