Mulan

Mulan, often hailed as the more feminist of the Disney princesses, certainly has some problems. While I primarily agree with the sentiment that Mulan is empowered and a bad ass, let’s not forget that the film opens with a number that places Mulan’s only value in her ability to find and keep a husband. “Girl” is regularly used as an insult in this film, and the song “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You,” while catchy, is certainly enforcing gender expectations. While gender norms are oppressive towards women, they are oppressive towards men as well. The need to be tough and physically fit can be quite the burden on our men.

Another cool thing about Mulan is she sheds all preconceived notions of a princess. She is articulate, loves being educated, strong willed, and disobedient. It’s refreshing after watching white disney princess films.

The representation of the Chinese race is problematic in this film and is manifested in a few characters. Chi Fu, the advisor sent with Shang and Mulan to defeat the Huns, is a nasty caricature of Chinese stereotypes. His accent is heavy, his animation is tacky, his voice actor is putting on airs, and his is highly sissified and used for comedic relief against the dark tones of the film. Another character that is problematic the is Emperor of China himself. While he is meant to be portrayed as a fair and trustworthy ruler, he spouts “words of wisdom” that you would see printed on placemats at a Chinese restaurant in downtown Lansing.

Chi Fu

My favorite part of the film, though, is during the number “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” and Mulan kicks the butt of every male soldier.

Feminist Rating: 7/10

Fails Bechdel Test

Passes Racial Bechdel Test

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Disney’s Distortion of Awesome Princesses through Merchandise, Part 2

This is a continuation of this post here.

Mulan

Above you can see the distortion of Mulan through Disney’s revamp of its princesses. While I already dislike the marketing of Mulan in anything but soldier gear, I don’t want to hate on femininity too much, because femininity is awesome. And being feminine doesn’t mean you’re not a badass or tough or strong. But what I DO dislike about the marketing of Mulan is that Disney seems to forget that Mulan was a soldier and pretended to be a man for over half the film. She hated dressing up and being a puppet.

Disney whitened Mulan’s skin and redesigned her dress to be sparkly. Perhaps the most disgusting retouching they did of this princess is her eyes and hair. I don’t think the Mulan we know would be caught dead in something like this. So why does Disney market her like this? Because they socialize little girls to believe that being sparkly and unrealistically beautiful is what a princess should be.

 Cinderella

Cinderella is also dramatically reimagined for this newer marketing campaign. Take, for example, the difference in size of her ribcage, the enlargement of her eyes and mouth, and they narrowed her shoulders.  Cinderella has been all around shrunk to fit the current version of the beauty myth. With Cinderella already being a problematic story, there’s no reason to confuse girls even more about their place or what they’re supposed to be.

Now that I’ve shown you what to look for in the redesigns of our beloved characters, here are some more for comparison:


All in all, please do not be distracted by the sparkles and red carpet glam Disney painted these women with. Think about the images you’re surround by and how they are edited to fit a certain corporation’s agenda.

Cinderella

Starting this off with: THERE ARE A TOTAL OF 0 POC IN THIS WHOLE FILM. 0. 0 POC. 

Cinderella is a problematic princess from the moment the movie begins. Right off the bat, when her father remarries and she is tormented by her step-mother, step-sisters, and even the cat, we see Cinderella become the embodiment of the cult of woman. She is, essentially, the perfect woman. She does chores without complaining, does the cooking without complaining, all the while being sweet, nice, kind, thoughtful, and pleasant to be around. She is thin, blonde, blue eyed, and loving. Give me a break.

The ruler of the kingdom decides his son must marry so that he can meet his grandchildren before he dies. He orchestrates a dramatic and over-compensating ball where the single women of the land must be on their best behavior, look the most attractive, and all around compete for one man’s attention. His name is literally Prince Charming. There’s nothing quite like promoting girl-on-girl competition, Disney, for girls to feel the need to replicate as they get older. And remember the ball was thrown specifically to find a wife for the prince to procreate with. In Cinderella, it seems, women are nothing more than breeding stock that must preen and parade themselves around men, vying for their attention.

The step sisters are animated quite different from Cinderella. With Cinderella as the embodiment of the cult of womanhood, it naturally spurns the audience from the sisters. They are loped in with the antagonist, Lady Tremaine, and are unladylike, unfeminine, and larger bodied.

Another issue I take with this film is that Prince Charming fell in love with Cinderella on sight. This encourages the already damaging social norm that women are only worth what they look like. Would Prince Charming have found her attractive in her maid garb? I’d like to hope so, but with the little attention he was giving the other women at the ball, would he have even given a servant-looking woman a thought? He was very kind to her at the end with the shoe search, but that was after he  was already “in love” with her.

Takeaways from Cinderella as a socialization agent: 
women are meant to clean
women are meant to cook 
women have to be thin
women have to be attractive
women have to be kind ALL THE TIME
women have to be gentle ALL THE TIME

and you will bag a man sans effort

Feminist rating: 0/10

Fails Bechdel Test

Fails Racial Bechdel Test

Dissatisfied Princesses

This is a cute video created by YouTube user AVByte that criticizes Disney’s princess stereotype. The princesses featured in the video (Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, Belle) are lectured by Queen Elsa on their refusal to critically think about their story lines. Princesses such as Pocahontas, Mulan, and Merida are omitted, perhaps because their story line does not revolve around finding love but on other factors and AVByte’s criticism might not have held up.

This video exposes many of the problems that are prevalent within the older princess films. While progress has been made with films such as Frozen and Brave, old princess tropes are still prevalent and surround our young girls. Even though Snow White and Cinderella are older films, I grew up watching them and even though I am now in my twenties I still see young girls enjoying them. The presence of criticism such as this cutesy YouTube clip is uplifting, however, because videos such as this can spur discussion among mothers and their daughters about what being a girl and a woman means. And even newer Disney princess films such Tangled fall under this trope, with Rapunzel being saved from Mother Gothel by Flynn Rider and never given the chance to grow outside of someone else.

Girls need to recognize that they need to develop as themselves first, then worry about falling in love. Love is an incredible human emotion and should be experienced by everyone one way or another, either between siblings such as in Frozen, family such as in Brave, between friends,  or between those in a consensual relationship. Dialogue such as this video needs to exist to bring light to the fact that men are not the be all and end all. While these older stories may center around the woman character, the real story is about finding and keeping a man. So are the stereotypical Disney princess movies really about women? ‘Cause it really seems to revolve around men.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel seems to believe that all she wants in life is to be human and to escape her overbearing father and life as a mermaid. She wants so much more than being a mermaid princess. This is an incredible premise for growing as a woman and becoming her own. “Part of That World,” one of Ariel’s big numbers in The Little Mermaid, she doesn’t mention a man in the entire song. She merely focuses on the freedom that she would encounter as a human, and her longing for it.

What would I give if I could live out of these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?
Bet’cha on land they understand
Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters
Bright young women sick of swimmin’
Ready to stand

However, as the movie progresses, Ariel encounters Prince Eric and falls in love. Falling in love is an incredible emotion and my critique should not be taken as one of love, but rather as a critique that falling in love with a man is the only thing that gives a woman value.

Ariel “falls in love” with the first human being she sees. Eric is, by all accounts, a friendly and caring man. But Ariel is only 16. Essentially, a sophomore in high school. As she deals with teenage rebellion, she projects that onto Eric. She sees him as her way out, like an escape, instead of seeking to find herself as “Part of That World” describes. The song itself transforms into an ode to love and devotion instead of a anthem of independence.

What would I give
To live where you are?
What would I pay
To stay here beside you?
What would I do to see you
Smiling at me?

At the end, she marries him. Marriage today is evolving into something beyond traditional gender roles. But did The Little Mermaid really move beyond those traditional roles?

No, it didn’t. Ariel was rendered voiceless in exchange for human legs to meet her man, and she was told to make him fall in love with her body. She was literally voiceless — something women have been fighting to rectify for centuries. In Ariel’s fight against the feminine mystique, she lost and sucked back in. She never has a moment to be herself in the whole film. The beginning she spends railing against her father, and the following scenes are spent searching for a way to be with Eric and make him fall in love with her as she has fallen in love with him.

There is not a single person of color in the entirety of the movie. One thing that critics have noted is Sebastian, with a Jamaican accent, seems to portray stereotypes of Jamaican culture and Disney pokes fun at the non-white culture by integrating Sebastian as some comic relief in the film. Sebastian does not qualify as a PoC (person of color) as he is a crab and not a human.

Feminist rating: 3/10

Fails Bechdel Test                                                                                ~Ariel does speak to Ursula in the scene where she turns human, but the whole scene is about turning into a human for a human prince, and I refuse to count that as passing. 

Fails Racial Bechdel Test