I grew up on Disney. Whether they were fairies, royalty, pirates or animal sidekicks, I was a fan. But I always struggled with my love of the Disney Princess. I wrote several essays on the female position in Disney films, including the role of the absent mother, the constant search for 'happily ever after' and lack of character development.
I grew up during the time where Ariel and Belle reigned. So my generation felt as if we had "better princesses" as role models. But at the same time, both of these characters' stories revolved around romance and discovering their happily ever after. Then I decided to dig deeper into each Disney princess. As my god-daughter was growing up, and watched Cinderella for her first time, she didn't notice the desire for the ball or handsome prince. Instead she saw kindness and courage. One of my best friends then confided that she always looks to Snow White when she's struggling because she was the example of hope through despairing times. So maybe I was just looking from one-sided point of view? Plus, that was the time we were living in and the view of the woman.
Then we enter the 2010s and we are introduced to Brave. In this Pixar/Disney film, although Merida doesn't have a romantic entaglement, she is pushed to choose her husband to rule rather than rule on her own. And then Frozen came into our world. In this film we have our first Disney royalty that doesn't desire romance, but rather self-acceptance in the character of Elsa. However, in the movie we still see another woman being developed around her love for a man and romance. So I still viewed this as unfortunate, that even at this time we have to choose between being a career woman or part of a relationship.
However, this past fall Disney has broken their Disney Princess routine with Moana. In a breath-taking film we meet a three-dimensional character driven by her passion, love of family and self-exploration. Moana is the daughter of the chief and desires to explore beyond the reef. However it is forbidden by her parents and Moana seems to accept her role in leading her people via-landlock. But when her island starts to crumble and die, she follows her inner desire to take to the sea, no matter the consequences. She is following her own passion while at the same time working to better the greater good. THIS is where we are as women.
Yes, we can have love. Yes, we can have romance. But we are more than that. We are not defined by a single person or relationship in our life, but rather by all of them and how we respond to the hardships we face on our own path. And I applaud Disney for at last bringing this to the screen and into our main stream culture.
-- Erin Carr