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The Student News Site of Shorecrest Preparatory School

The Chronicle

The Student News Site of Shorecrest Preparatory School

The Chronicle

The Princess Project: Disney’s Journey with Feminism

Ann Licht
Raya from Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. She’s one of the most progressive additions to the princess lineup. Her film released in 2021. Illustration by Ann Licht.

     Belle, Tiana, Jasmine, Ariel—these characters are often looked to by young girls for entertainment, inspiration, and, ultimately, guidance for facing reality. However, these princesses have not always provided the best life lessons. 

     As a child, Visual Arts Department Chair and sponsor of the Gender Empowerment Club, Charla Gaglio loved Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, some of the older Disney Princess films that mainly focused on the princess’ relationship with a prince—a theme that she recognizes has since developed. “I think that [female empowerment] has evolved over time,” Gaglio said. “I think the idea that you must find a prince, that you must be a certain way or look a certain way or act a certain way or have a certain social status or whatever in order to get your prince—and that it has to be a prince—I think those ideas have shifted over time.”

     Sophomore Ellen Hommeyer also notes this change in direction. “[The movies] have gone from a guy rescuing this dainty lady to a very strong woman saving the day. It’s her idea…she doesn’t need a guy to feel validated,” she said. “I think my favorite movies were Moana or Brave because they had very strong female leads who didn’t need a man to come and rescue them. They knew they were worthy.” 

     Hommeyer describes the concept of women’s independence, an idea integral to feminism—a movement focused on eradicating sex-based discrimination. Feminism is a vital contributor to the princesses’ roles and their impacts on today’s youth. 

     “Feminism should be better integrated in the idea that it’s not that women are superior…it’s not the idea of being better than someone. I think a lot of people misinterpret that,” said Hommeyer. 

    “Feminism, and the inequity it makes glaringly obvious to some, is a necessary step in our human development,” said US English Department Chair Jake Seymour. As feminism is increasingly incorporated into the films, young girls across the world better grasp their capabilities and are thus encouraged to embark on pursuits beyond the act of finding a husband.

     One of Disney’s more recent films, Raya and the Last Dragon, expertly showcases a powerful female lead—a highly-skilled warrior—who saves her kingdom. Sophomore and Disney lover Jenna Kamm admires the qualities the princess possesses. “This evolved storyline is pretty much representing the rise of female empowerment and giving children the idea that they can fight for themselves,” she said. 

     Although they’ve made excellent strides in their portrayal of female protagonists, Disney still has work to do. Hommeyer said, “More teamwork of all the female characters should be incorporated. It’s good that they’ve shown independent women, but we also need to work together because it’s not always just one person who saves the day.”

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Sierra Orlick
Sierra Orlick, Current Events Editor
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