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How ‘Moana’ Finally Settled The Disney Princess Debate

disney princess

Disney’s Moana was a fantastic animated musical, and one of the main reasons why has to do with its handling of the female protagonist, Moana herself.

The animation studio was essentially founded on the cornerstone of the “princess” being a driving force of fairy tale movies, which eventually evolved into increasingly more diverse types of stories. Specifically, Snow White laid the groundwork as one of the best films of all time (animated or otherwise), as well Disney’s first feature film. And they later built upon this with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty as smart ways to repeat Snow White‘s massive success.

This ended up being a saving grace for Disney after multiple near-catastrophes with bad box office, animator strikes, and so on, though Walt still believed in experimenting with non-princess movies like Peter PanPinocchioDumbo, and of course, Mary Poppins.

Long after his death in 1966, the Disney Princess transformed from an idea to an actual media franchise worth an insane amount of money and indicative of Disney’s influence over generations of children. In the early 2000s, it became an official thing, combining the classic Disney princesses of the old days with recent heroines of the 90s renaissance. And the criteria, at the time, was confusing to say the least.

disney princess

Obviously, Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora were “inducted” into the official Disney Princess brand. Joining them was Ariel from The Little Mermaid, another obvious choice though different in the sense that she’s royalty of an underwater culture. Then Belle from Beauty and the Beast, who doesn’t technically become a princess until the very end of the movie.

Jasmine from Aladdin was another obvious choice, though striking because she was the first Disney princess to be nonwhite, and she’s more of a supporting character than a lead protagonist. Jasmine was followed up by two consecutive nonwhite Disney princesses, though: Pocahontas and Mulan. Though Tinker Bell from Peter Pan was technically a Disney Princess for a short time before getting replaced by Tiana and becoming a home video sensation.

They didn’t include Nala or Kiara from Lion King, which seems to be because animals simply don’t qualify. Same goes for Esmerelda from Hunchback of Notre Dame because she’s technically a gypsy, Megara from Hercules, and Jane from Tarzan. The first “modern” princess was Tiana from Princess and the Frog, then Rapunzel from Tangled was added as the first CG character. And the last Disney Princess in the official sense is Merida from Brave, a Pixar movie rather than a Walt Disney Animation one.

disney princess

These are the “official” Disney princesses, but that hasn’t stopped many other fans from considering the wider breadth of characters to fit the bill. Simply because the criteria isn’t always consistent (like with Tinker Bell and Mulan not being royalty). Eventually, Anna from Frozen will be added along with Moana, but no one really believes their status as princesses is held back until Disney slaps their own label on it and has their clique running around Disney World.

A lot of this might sound a bit silly and inconsequential, but there are actually heated debates held by…some…who argue over which Disney female characters are “allowed” to be called Disney princesses. And this is a big deal, in part, because countless kids look to the mainstream Disney princesses as a representation of themselves in these movies. Parents want their kids to have positive role models, and the Disney princesses, like it or not, are a major cultural force in that regard.

The more recent Disney princess from CG animated films definitely fit the more literal interpretation of what’s become such a pervasive line of business for these animated films. But Moana subtly settles this debate, I believe, once and for all. It points out that the semantics don’t matter, really, as Disney seems intent on including future princesses as it sees fit.

moana

The pivotal line between Maui and Moana is what specifically points this out. Maui tells Moana she is a “princess,” but she denies this because she’s actually the daughter of a Chief (the literal view). But Maui banters back with self-awareness on the writers’ part:

“If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, then you’re a princess.” 

What he really seems to be saying here is that it doesn’t really matter. What makes these characters “princesses” has very little to do with royal bloodlines and more with the tropes that Disney infuses in its protagonists and supporting characters. A dress and an animal sidekick are incredibly broad. so Disney can in effect say from here on out that there’s no reason to overthink this merchandising franchise they’re so clearly benefiting from.

And that’s fine because it allows Disney to incorporate as many different cultures, hair colors, and clothing styles as they can with their princess characters, but not at the expense of the story making sense. Or worse, always falling back on traditional princess tales instead of doing something as “culturealistic” as Moana and Mulan.

moana

Moving forward, I like to think that this line by Maui was allowed in the movie because they’re acknowledging how limiting it is to hold back the Disney Princess inclusivity for the sake of being so literal. It’s not relevant how these characters look on a family tree, but rather that they’re interesting characters who follow a consistent aesthetic and type of storytelling that’s proven incredibly successful for Disney since the 30s. Maybe one day, it won’t even be questioned whether or not a Disney princess is one because she wears a dress, especially if you consider the fact that they included Merida, a princess who is usually shown with her bow and arrow rather than a bucket of glitter.

But one thing’s for certain. The best Disney princess is obviously Lilo.


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Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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Snarcasm: Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast and the Migraine

http://www.eonline.com/news/738362/this-disney-theory-about-beauty-and-the-beast-and-aladdin-will-blow-your-mind

Snarcasm is rapidly becoming the let’s poke fun at terrible fan theories every week – show. And of course, I’m totally fine with that considering the wealth of terrible fan theories that are out there waiting to be snarcasmed.

But this entry is different in that it highlights a unique trend in fan theories I haven’t harped on yet: the dreaded repost.

What is a repost, you ask (all six of you?) Well, a repost is when you resurrect content that was already incredibly popular at one point. Like a funny image, hilarious video, or fan theory that Aladdin exists in the same universe as Beauty and the Beast.

“But Jon!” you ask, “You repost theories all the time. Is this Snarcasm secretly about you?”

Well, here’s the difference between what I’ve done in the past and what constitutes as a “repost.” See, if you’re going to resurrect content and then pretend it’s new, you should at least add something to it. Build on it. Do something. But half the time, these reposts are just retreads that make The Force Awakens look like Tree of Life.

aladdin beauty and the beast

Who is the perpetrator of the repost in question? That would be Julia Hays from E! Online, who essentially runs their “we can do Buzzfeed, too” desk. She unearths everything from The Best Oprah Winfrey Gifs of All Time to Does Watching High School Musical for the First Time Alter Your Attraction to Zac Efron? 

Both of those are actual, real-life articles.

Recently, Hays published this gem:

This Disney Theory About Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin Will Blow Your Mind

buzz

“Hello?”

“Julia, it’s the editor. We need you to find a way to make this headline twice as derivative as the most derivative headline ever seen on the Internet.”

“OK, googling Looper dot come now.”

click

Now, some of you may have never heard about this Beauty and the Beast/Aladdin theory, which is why this article exists. But at the same time, it should at least be mentioned that this theory has existed for years, yet E! is portraying this as some sort of turning point in history.

Don’t believe me? Just watch.

| Prepare to have your world come crashing down,

Your headline already got me there.

| there is a Disney theory that’s sure to upend everything you thought you knew.

So, everything I thought I knew…Culture. History. Politics. The meaning of love. Why “Be like Bill” was popular for three days.

| There is nothing the Internet loves more than finding crazy theories about the movies we love.

Hays links to a separate E! article that dives into “13 Crazy Theories About…” eh, it’s really long. Half of the theories boil down to “they were dead at the end” or that Jack from Titanic is a time traveler because you deserve that.

| No matter how many times we re-watch Disney and Pixar classics, there will always be Tumblr accounts digging into the cameos and references we may have missed.

Why hire journalists when Tumblr does all the work for you?

Also, here’s something wildly entertaining I discovered while writing this Snarcasm. So above, “Pixar classics” links to another E! article that doesn’t have anything to do with Pixar classics, as it refers to that fan theory about how TangledFrozen, and Little Mermaid are connected for some reason no one understands.

But that’s not all.

In that article, they criticize my fan theory about Andy’s mom from Toy Story 2 being Jessie’s original owner. Quote: Fan theories are a dime a dozen on the Internet. Most we don’t care about (oh, Jessie from Toy Story may have been Andy’s mom’s toy? OK?),

That links to an EW.com article that references me personally.

Yes, this is real. E! Online thinks my fan theory is garbage. The same E! Online that thinks Sandy drowns in the beginning of Grease, Sid being the garbage man in Toy Story 3 is “subtle,” and Peter Pan is the angel of death (all in that “13 fan theories” article I referenced earlier). Because yes, you deserve that.

So here’s all I have to say to E! Online about that: neat.

| This Tumblr theory (which was brought to our attention via Someecards), 

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

| …points to a connection between Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992) that most fans probably never noticed.

Is that why people have been pointing this out since 1993? This was debated even before the Internet was widely available.

| It’s in a seemingly innocuous scene in Beauty and the Beast when Belle visits a local bookstore to return a book she borrowed. Is this just a scene to show the viewer that Belle’s an intellectual? No, there is so much more.

Yeah, yeah, that’s cute and all, but is that really the point of the scene? Last I checked, we knew she was a reader at this point. That scene merely showed that she was yearning for something more through her books, and that she’s kind enough to warrant a special gesture from the owner who lets her keep the book.

So, yeah, so much more.

Next, Hays actually just sticks the entire Tumblr post in the article. She doesn’t even set it up. It just appears out of nowhe-

aladdin beauty beast

Alright. A few things we need to discuss.

I’ve been asked about this theory around a dozen times, so I’ve looked into it plenty. And honestly, I don’t find it all that convincing. The gist here is that Beauty and the Beast is narratively hinting at Aladdin, a movie that came out a year later.

This makes some sense, as Disney is known to put little nods in here and there in its movies. And in a way, it’s cute to think that Aladdin is a book that Belle loves to read.

The problem? The plot points Belle references don’t really align with Aladdin when you actually give it some thought.

Daring sword fights? There really aren’t many at all. It’s mostly Aladdin running away all the time. Magic spells? The genie grants wishes, not “magic spells.” And that’s such a generic line, you can apply it to nearly any other Disney movie that has magic in it. Finally, Aladdin isn’t a prince in disguise, because he’s not a prince. He’s in disguise as a prince, and there’s a clear difference.

For that reason, I think this theory holds enough merit for debate, but it’s mostly weak.

| Belle’s favorite book describes the plot of AladdinFar off places? Agrabah.

 Ah, I forgot that one. But still, what Disney movie doesn’t occur in a far off place?

| Daring sword fights? Heck, even Abu the Monkey wields a sword at one point.

True, but Abu doesn’t even use it. It’s not a fight because the guards take out their swords and Abu runs off. How is that even daring?

Magic spells? Genie, ding ding ding!

And then Hays turned into a bell for some reason?

| And a prince in disguise? Prince Ali has an entire musical number, baby girl.

Semantics, baby girl. He’s a street rat in disguise. And it makes more sense that Belle is referencing a fairy tale land, like the ones where princes disguise themselves as common folk in order to save the damsel in distress. But I understand if you’re unfamiliar with information that is read in books.

| We don’t discover Prince Ali’s true identity until the third act of the film Aladdin.

What? We know who Aladdin is the entire time. I’m guessing she’s referring to Jasmine, perhaps? Even then, that occurs halfway through the film, not in the final act. But it’s complicated because there are two reveals: one where she discovers he’s the street rat from before, and then the reveal that he’s not a real prince.

Even then, here’s what Belle actually says: “Here’s where she meets prince charming. But she won’t discover that it’s him until chapter three.”

I get where Tumblr is coming from, but there are a lot of problems here. Aladdin is not prince charming. He’s not even a prince. And Belle is saying she won’t discover he’s a real prince until chapter three, but that’s the exact opposite of what happens in Aladdin.

See, the book is more widely accepted to be a form of foreshadowing. Belle doesn’t know the Beast is actually prince charming (she references this same line in the song, Something There). She’s taken to a far off place, there’s a magic spell, etc.

| Granted, the book itself that Belle is reading shows artwork that could also represent other Disney films with similar plots.

That’s one way to put it. The other way to put it is: Oh, well the book shows an entirely unrelated story going on that bears no resemblance to Aladdin whatsoever

aladdin beauty and the beast

That’s a castle. And a forest. And a white guy. And a white girl in a blue dress. You know, all the things that aren’t in Aladdin.

| Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty feature similar elements.

And here’s where my migraine kicks in.

| Beauty and the Beast has a distant castle in the woods, Gaston fighting the beast with a sword, a magical rose and a castle under a spell, and Belle doesn’t know the prince thing about Beast until later in the film. So, perhaps some foreshadowing?

Yup. Hays is altering this “mind blowing” theory that is supposed to upend your take on the Disney universe with the convention that pretty much everyone already knows about. “Mind blown” alright.

And at the same time, she’s pointing out that Sleeping Beauty has visual elements similar to standard fairy tales. You had to read E! to figure that out.

| Sleeping Beauty, as well, deals with far off places and magical spells.

There are no daring sword fights or princes in disguise, but don’t let logic get in the way of a waste of your time.

| Aurora doesn’t know Prince Phillip is royalty at first, despite his hella princely looking outfit.

There are so many things wrong with this sentence, my migraine just fused with the Tylenol I just took, and they are now working together to pass me out slowly for my own good.

Aurora not knowing who Prince Phillip is doesn’t mean he’s in disguise. This is simple reading comprehension, people. And let’s just disregard that the word hella made its way to an article—actually, no that makes sense considering where we are right now.

| Plus, Phillip battles the evil Maleficent with a sword.

That’s not…no, that’s not a sword fight, Hays. A sword fight is when two people with swords fight each other. Why is this happening?

| Our hearts still trust the Tumblr investigation behind Aladdin, but like a Netflix documentary, we’re trying to give you all the facts.

All the facts? These were facts you were writing about? Because so far, you’ve posted a few Tumblr gifs and arguments that boil down to, this is similar to this. See?! 

| Post YOUR theory in the comments below!

Fine. Let’s see what the trusted E! community had to say about this “theory.”

aladdin beauty and the beastWhew, not off to a great start.

aladdin beauty and the beast

Hear, hear. Or is it here, here?

aladdin beauty and the beast

aladdin beauty and the beast

I’m so proud of you, Internet comment section.

Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

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