The Problem with Disney’s Politically Correct Princess Movie Marathon

Disney princesses are headed back to the big screen. Well, six of them are anyway. According to the blog Oh My Disney, AMC theaters and the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles will be screening a Disney princess marathon as part of the Dream Big, Princess marketing campaign starting September 5th. But the six selections are leaving some Disney fans wondering: How, exactly, did Disney choose these films? And what message are they trying to send in doing so?

In 2016, a survey asked 80,000 people to name their favorite Disney princess. Predictably, the survey revealed the most popular princess to be Cinderella, followed by Elsa (from Frozen), Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty), Ariel (from The Little Mermaid), and Belle (from Beauty and the Beast). 

Given that Disney is, presumably, trying to make money by sponsoring this marathon, it would stand to reason that they would choose to screen the movies people most want to see. Instead, the marathon will be screening Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Tangled, Moana, The Princess and the Frog, and Brave. Of the six offerings, only one princess (Belle from Beauty and the Beast) made the public’s list of top five princesses. What gives?

The answer is not a mystery. While Disney hasn’t actually released its criteria for picking these six movies, the fact that the marathon is run by its “Dream Big, Princess” initiative tells us everything we need to know.

According to the Disney Parks Blog, the Dream Big campaign (launched in 2016) aims to showcase the qualities that help the princesses “achieve their dreams.” This shouldn’t be too difficult. All the princesses (particularly the most popular ones mentioned above) have clearly defined dreams and core values that help them achieve their dreams—including qualities such as optimism in the face of adversity, tenacity, loyalty, and kindness—precisely the kind of character strengths that make the princesses such good role models.

Evidently, though, these are not the traits that Disney wants to promote. According to the blog, the campaign actually wants to highlight things like Tiana’s “entrepreneurial spirit to build a business” and Merida’s “courage to break tradition.” In an ad campaign targeted at young girls, each princess is stripped down to her physical achievements rather than her character traits. Swim like Ariel! Run like Pocahontas! Ride horses like Merida!—as if the princesses’ external qualities were somehow more important than their internal ones, and as if vague notions of “empowerment” are somehow more meaningful to young girls than specific feminine virtues.

Of course, many observers love the direction Disney is taking. A writer for HuffPost praised the selections for the movie marathon, saying Disney “has focused on its more empowering characters, including two . . . whose storylines do not involve romantic relationships.” As if this is an unabashedly good thing.

So the Disney princess movie marathon is just one more way to erase the beautiful and feminine qualities of the original princesses and replace them with vague, politically correct ideas of “female empowerment.” And this is happening despite the fact that, as multiple polls have shown (including one that shows even predominantly liberal states like New York and California choosing “anti-feminist” princesses like Ariel and Snow White as the most popular Disney princess), nobody actually wants to watch princesses who don’t act like . . . well, princesses.

Of the six selections in the princess marathon, three princesses (Belle, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, and Rapunzel from Tangled) actually do represent the kind of feminine virtues that make Disney princesses so appealing to young girls. Belle teaches us about the transformative power of true love. Tiana teaches us that ambition means nothing without love. And Rapunzel shows us the kind of internal (rather than physical) strength a woman can embody when she truly knows who she is.

But these princesses have only been included in the “Dream Big, Princess” cannon because Belle is an academic, Tiana is an entrepreneur, and Rapunzel hits people over the head with a frying pan. And it lumps them in with Mulan, whose worth is measured by her physical strength, and Merida (from Brave) who would rather remain a child forever than enter into an adult, romantic relationship.

That’s too bad, because as everyone knows—especially the young girls whom Disney feels it must condescend to with this politically correct princess movie marathon—a true princess can be kind and virtuous as well as strong, smart, driven, and brave. And her beauty is found within.

Image: Disney

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  • Mack

    My little / Barbie / Little House on the Prairie / Disney princess is now a PhD. Her mother and I never propagandized her with fashionable ideologies.

  • Micha_Elyi

    If beauty isn’t found within, then her beauty is only skin deep and ugly goes clean to the bone.

  • Tann

    I rather think that most of these films were chosen exactly because they are NOT the most popular, and Disney wants to push them. If there is any ideological, rather than a purely profit motive, behind the selection, it is probably as much a simple-minded ethnological as a feminist one: Moana is Polynesian, Mulan is Chinese, Tiana is African American. (I’m a bit surprised Pocahontas didn’t make the cut, but then, she does show rather too much interest in WASPy male John Smith.) I find the inclusion of Rapunzel particularly irritating, since the peasant’s daughter of the original folk-tale was transformed by Disney into a princess, obviously purely so that she could be included in the Disney Princess merchandising line.

    • Sam Topeka

      Makes sense. Few little girls liked Brave. Snow White, though its animation is flawless, can’t make the cut because she had the audacity to pray,