Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If Disney Princesses discovered Cheeseburgers

I'm tired of Disney Princesses.

Let me rephrase: I'm tired of watching the Pyrrhic struggle of Disney artists who attempt to come up with a new female protagonist for each new feature film, yet never step outside their narrow Disney box. I don't give a dang about seeing Frozen because based on the previews, I've already seen it because I saw Tangled. Why are Disney animators so afraid to vary heroine body types when they aren't afraid to do it with villains or side kicks?

There's this thing called "casting against type". This refers to depicting a character with a physical attribute that contradicts or belies their character. For example, a big tough beefy guy might actually have a very dainty and sensitive personality or habits. The short guy might have a very over-the-top or pugilistic personality. These things are usually played for comedy, but it makes the character so much more interesting! I appreciate being surprised. It shows me that the animators don't think I'm stupid. I don't want the same old side kick or the same old hero. Why are animators willing to surprise me with a villain or a side kick but not take a risk on the main protagonist?

We must ask ourselves what makes us attracted to a hero in the first place: Do we like them because they are handsome and also good, so when we see a beautiful person, we automatically assume that they are good? Did we start doing this before Hans Christian Anderson began describing his heroines as beautiful and virtuous or because of it? I think we've done our society a great disservice as a result. We are conditioned to think well of beautiful people, and to scorn those who do not measure up. Any extra poundage is associated with cardinal sins of sloth or gluttony and the supposed physical manifestations of character go downhill from there.

The more of real life I experience, the less charitable I feel towards the plight of a beautiful, privileged teenager with no apparent body image issues. You're the most beautiful female in the land, you are royal, have wealth and more power than any other female in your society is likely to have, yet the first thing you feel the need to sing about is that you want something.

 Give me a break.

I'd be much more likely to be sympathetic and root for a flawed or imperfect girl. How you look physically influences how people treat you, which shapes the person you become. This is the very essence of character design: back story. A girl who weighs 185 lbs is going to have a different outlook and therefore likely different attitudes than a girl who weighs a dainty 105. Even if they are both princesses. We KNOW the handsome prince pairs with the beautiful princess. Like salt and pepper shakers. This is expected. We know the story before it even starts.

But what happens to the one who's over-weight? Or wears glasses? Or has a scar, or is gay, or isn't a princess at all? You have a gazillion stories right in front of you here because we don't know what will happen to this girl! She isn't perfect and therefore is not a shoe-in for the perfectly tailored happily-ever-after. Take us on an unexpected journey to the happy ending we didn't know was coming!

But in the end, if you, Disney, are still afraid that nobody will root for someone who isn't pretty, I think you're still looking at it wrong and selling yourselves short as animators. Big CAN be beautiful! And see what potential for your character's story you have just by adding a few pounds:

What if Ariel realized that getting married at sixteen to a guy she'd known for four days was a TERRIBLE idea, ditched the dude, when back to school (fish, school, get it? nyuk nyuk) and gained the freshman fifteen? Boom, goes from a 90's Jennifer Aniston size 2 to a 50's Bettie Page size 8. Still lovely.

Ok, maybe adding the nerd glasses was cheating, but she spends a lot of time in the library! Doing your dissertation for your Masters degree by candle light is bad for your eyes. Also it sometimes leads to stress eating, which has rounded Belle up to a size 10-12, but I think she's as lovely, kind, independent, and smart as ever.

I think it's a shame they made Rapunzel so skinny from the get go, because between her outfit and her personality, she's basically a cupcake personified. Now extra fluffy! But still sweet, warm, endearing, and adorable. Hey, it's hard not to pack on the pounds when you CAN'T LEAVE YOUR ROOM. (or studio in my case....hmmm)

I wanna jam with this Jasmine! I never met a real belly dancer that didn't have plenty of belly to go around, and since Disney dressed her as a belly dancer instead of how an actual Middle Eastern woman would likely be dressed, I think this is pretty valid. Maybe she and Aladdin had some kids (who would be GORGEOUS!) or she learned to cook. Or both. Either way, she still clearly hasn't slowed down and is as feisty and graceful as ever.

Which brings me to another point. Even if Disney is too scared to make a Princess that weights more than 90 pounds, why are all the few moms who don't succumb to Disney Death also just as skinny?! I mean, sure, generally they've only had one kid. Pop a kid out at 16-20 years, your body might bounce back. But they still seem only to have acquired a few grey hairs between giving birth and their daughter turning sixteen. No weight change, barely a wrinkle. I was so excited when we actually got to see the mom in Emperors New Groove pregnant. At least that was different. She was back to skinny in a way I doubt she would be after kid #3, but still at least we saw a fat, sassy Disney female for a little while. When do we get more of that?! Come on Disney! Surprise us! Or better yet, show us someone we can actually relate to.


  1. You tell 'em Lucy! These princesses are typically young and beautiful. But who's to say that big isn't beautiful too? Now, Cinderella had an excuse, she didn't have a minute to sit down… but I wonder what happened to her after she married the prince and had servants doing everything for a change? Hmmm, just saying. :)

  2. Maybe she took up knitting? Cindy strikes me as the sort of person who wouldn't know how to not be busy doing something. Maybe she would use her queen powers and household savy to become the next Martha Stewart-eque media mogul.

  3. Shrek, the Croods, Lilo and Stitch... they're out there, but not as popular. We need to write the movies we want to see, and support with $ for it to last.