COLUMN: Disney Princesses Remain Role Models Despite Criticisms

Since when is being a princess a bad thing?

As a kid, Aladdin was one of those movies that my mom always must have had sitting by the VHS player so she could entertain me at a moment’s notice. I probably watched the movie hundreds of times, as I started to call Princess Jasmine my friend.

Although my parents never took me to Disney World as a child, I finally had the opportunity to go this past summer-I had just turned 20 years old. When I finally tracked down Jasmine (or the poor girl who was being paid minimum wage to dress like Jasmine), I teared up-and by teared up I mean you can see mascara running down my face in the pictures.

Needless to say, when I read my first article about the detrimental effects Disney movies have had on my generation, I was outraged. The article stated that most Disney princesses are put in movies to be dependent on men and that their main goals are to be married off to handsome, rich princes. It said that Belle was encouraging abusive relationships and Jasmine was an overly sexualized exotic princess. The critics even said that in general, the Disney princesses were encouraging dependency on men to be happy.

I was angry at first, and then I was sad. I felt used, and I knew I had completely fallen into a trap a media conglomerate was using to make money off of me.

Then I started to do some research. I read dozens of articles that these critics had written, and in my mind I disproved each claim they made about my friend, Jasmine.

For instance, Jasmine is often brought up in these articles as using her body to get what she wants. As viewers will recall, Jasmine is captured by the evil Jafar and imprisoned in a room because he wants to marry her so he can become Sultan. As part of her plan to escape, she bats her eyelashes and strokes his arm in order to distract him.

Some even go so far as to say she was prostituting herself. In my mind, though, Jasmine was always using her tricks to outsmart Jafar. She had gotten one up on the villain who was foolish enough to fall for her tricks. She was clever and strong, and she beat him out in the end, and I think as my 4-year-old self, that’s why I wanted to be like her-because she got exactly what she wanted.

Since I read those articles, I have re-watched Aladdin many times. My 20-year-old self wants to be like Jasmine for different reasons- but I still very much want to be like her.

Jasmine is one of the only princesses to buck the social norms that her family imposed on her. She gets so mad at the Sultan for forcing marriage upon her before her next birthday that she runs away. She is extremely independent and refuses to rely on a man for help, until she meets the “street rat,” Aladdin.

She eventually sees him as her equal, showing that she has no prejudice against social class. In the end, Aladdin essentially has more power than she does as he becomes sultan, but they still treat each other as equals-the way a husband and wife should treat each other.

Additionally, if you were an avid Aladdin fan like me, you would have watched the next two movie installments and you would’ve seen Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship grow into not just a friendship, but into a marriage wherein Jasmine ends up saving Aladdin from many perilous situations, also.

I think we all should strive to be someone who stands up for his or her beliefs even if it does go against societal norms, someone who doesn’t judge based on socioeconomic status, and someone who protects whom he or she loves. And if this is what being a princess entails, then I ask again, what is so bad about it?

I will be the first to admit that Disney heavily influenced me throughout my childhood and still does today. It sucked me into the princess mentality, and it spit me back out as a 20-year-old Princess Jasmine wannabe-but I think I’m okay with that.


February 9, 2014
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