Do you have kids? Do you not have kids, and just possess functioning eyes? If so, you can’t have missed the Disney Princess Juggernaut coming to mow you down in a sea of glitter and fancy frocks. It’s the source of much hand wringing for feminists and people who would much rather their toys stay gender neutral, and a screaming mass of pink and tulle for everyone else.
As both a feminist and a Disney fan, I am deeply conflicted by the Disney Princess line. As a feminist, I hate the submissive role most of the princesses take, but the Disney fan in me is turned by glittery dolls with pretty hair. Therefore, I’m going to rank the princesses, once and for all. I am uniquely qualified to tell you who the best princess is to be the role model for your kids, and once I’m done this will be the final word on the matter. I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed.
The rules: I’m only ranking the princesses from the current Disney Princess line up, otherwise I’ll be here forever and my fingers will fall off from all the typing. There will be some notable exceptions. You probably know who they are.
Aurora, Sleeping Beauty
Sorry Aurora, but you’re rubbish. You spend most of your movie asleep (necessary, I know, but still), and you only have 18 lines of dialogue throughout the whole thing. Let’s be honest, Maleficent was much more interesting. NEXT!
You have to give it to Snow White, rather than accepting her death at the hands of the Huntsman, she begs for her freedom, survives the most terrifying forest in animated history, and secures her safety. However, what does she do with her life once she’s saved it? Cleans the house for a bunch of blokes and eats an apple from someone decidedly dodgy looking. Sorry, Snow, you clearly don’t have a lot of sense about you.
Now, I’ve a lot of love for our Cinders. She puts up with a lot of crap from her evil stepmother, and she knows she’s better than everyone in that house combined. Despite that though, she doesn’t do anything to save herself. Her first chance at freedom comes when the prince invites every woman in the land to a ball to find himself a wife (has the man not heard of Match.com?), and she only gets out once he falls in love with her. Bleh. Next!
Ariel, The Little Mermaid
Oh Ariel, I love you, you are my favourite princess, but I can’t put you any further up the list. Ariel just wants to get out of her little pocket of the ocean and see what’s going on above sea level, but she picks a really poor way of doing so. A deal with a sea witch? How did you think that would go, really? Plus, she falls in love with Prince Eric when she drags his unconscious body out of the sea. That’s a bit creepy, love.
You knew she was going to be in here. She’s not part of the ‘Princess’ line, but she’s basically a license to print money at this point. She doesn’t rank higher because despite having awesome ice powers and building herself a giant frozen castle, let’s be honest, all she does is run away and cry. She does sing an excellent song, though.
I watched Aladdin as an impressionable child, and I thought there was nothing more badass than owning a pet tiger. As well as that, Jasmine gives her father hell for trying to pick out a husband on her behalf, and then does a runner from the palace to stick one to the patriarchy and live her own life. Sure, she nearly gets maimed and has to be saved, but she’s lived in the palace her whole life! Cut her some slack.
Belle, Beauty and the Beast
Many of the ‘top’ princesses will have earned their spots by being warriors, but Belle is the princess that wins people over in a decidedly pacifist way. Arguably the first feminist princess, she loves reading and keeps telling Gaston to sod off, even though he won’t get the hint (by the way, Gaston is DEFINITELY the kind of guy who’d send you dick pics). She defeats a terrifying Beast not by chopping his head off, but by showing him kindness. There’s a lesson in there, somewhere.
Poor old Anna, her parents died and her sister locked herself in her room for her entire childhood. It’s not really a surprise that once she finally gets to interact with others, she decides she’s going to marry the first bloke she sees. When the shit hits the fan though, she takes charge and heads out after Elsa to bring her back. She’s here due to her bravery, but she doesn’t get any higher due to her poor judgement.
The first Native American princess, Pocahontas is pretty cool because she cares first and foremost about the safety of her people, and will even put her own life on the line if she thinks it’s the right thing to do. However, she gets a bit too friendly with all these English dudes who have kicked their way in like they think they own the place.
Rapunzel beats out her traditional fairy tale incarnation by being resourceful. After her attempts to convince Mother Gothel to let her out of her tower fail, she grabs the opportunity to get Flynn Rider to escort her out into the world. She can charm a bar full of angry looking dudes, calm angry beasts, and of course is handy with her weapon of choice, a frying pan. She’s a multi layered character, a rarity for Disney princesses, and is decidedly very cool.
Tiana, The Princess and the Frog
Tiana works her fingers to the bone in order to make her dream come true, so when she’s accidentally turned into a frog, her main concern is ‘How am I going to open a restaurant as an amphibian?!’ She’s not concerned about snagging herself a man, but eventually lets it happen when the opportunity presents itself. She’s got her head screwed on right, has Tiana.
Merida has had quite enough of your patriarchal nonsense, thank you very much. Rather than stamping her foot when a bunch of dudes fight for her hand in marriage (Hi, Jasmine!), she fights for her own hand. Despite her family’s insistence, she wants to live her own life, not the one that others think she should be living. When Disney tried to debut a ‘sexier’ image of Merida when they introduced her into the line, the outrage was so huge that they changed her back. Not bad going.
Let’s be honest, we all knew it was going to be Mulan. She pretended to be a man to join the army, even though she knew she could be killed for it, and eventually saved not only her own troop but the whole of China. Nice one, Mulan.
Agree? Disagree? Mad that I didn’t include someone? Let us know in the comments!
Siobhan Harper is a freelance writer living in Birmingham UK. She strongly believes in figuring things out as you go along, but only because she's pathalogically disorganised. You can follow her adventures in writing at http://wingingitsiobhanharper.blogspot.co.uk/, or her thoughts on early mornings and dogs on Twitter at @Beatrix_Plotter.