(part one here)The first three princess movies—Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Sleeping Beauty (1959)—establish a baseline for the rest of the films. The three heroines of these movies test drove the model upon which the Disney princess franchise has been built (thus, the beginning category of “once upon a time”). Snow, Cinderella, and Aurora all grew up in unconventional homes; wicked stepmothers raised the first two while the third was raised in near isolation by three scatterbrained fairies. None were exactly part of a nuclear family. Growing up, these horrifying home lives caused the biggest disconnect between the princesses and my reality. I could believe in talking animals (my stuffed animals totally replied to my babbling, you know they did) and happily ever after(s), but I could never believe that parents were removable or that adults in charge didn’t love you. What kind of fairytale is that?
So, familial relationships didn’t exactly work out for these test-dummy princesses. Unfortunately, their other interpersonal connections don’t fare much better. Snow White seems the best adjusted, since her dwarf friends are at least humanoid; Cinderella and Aurora both appear to only have animal pals. While I will admit to wishing that I’d had mice buddies to help me do chores in a sing along fashion, I could do without the singularly negative human interactions and the stepfamily servitude. Those, strangely, weren’t as alluring.
Then there are the princes. While the whole, “you’ve only seen him once and you think it’s love?” incredulity didn’t really hit me until I rewatched the films as an older individual, I did notice that the princes in these three films were not all that impressing. Snow White’s love interest is only referred to as “the Prince” and they don’t even sing together when they meet. Clearly, not true love. He doesn’t attempt retribution against the evil queen for his beloved—instead, the hag is struck by lightning, crushed under a boulder, and picked at by vultures (which is a little harsh, Disney, you must admit). Also, no matter how pretty she is, it is weird to come across a near stranger in the woods and kiss her corpse, dude. Like Snow’s Prince, we don’t know much about Cinderella’s “Prince Charming.” We know that he needs his parents’ help to find a girl and thinks that small feet are the only requirement a queen needs to rule. We don’t even get his name, but clearly this guy shouldn’t be running a kingdom any time soon. Philip (Aurora’s fiancé from birth, but hey, he’s got a name!) does some pretty impressive landscaping when he hacks through all those thorns. He is lucky to have magical help while going after the dragon, because throwing your sword was a horrible idea that could have led to everyone dying (just saying). He then decides to copy Snow’s creepy boyfriend by kissing Aurora’s eternally slumbering form. Basically, it all comes down to this; Snow and Cinderella should have gained autonomy way before any princes came knocking—seriously, did they not think of just leaving?—and Aurora should have asked questions and actually listened to the answers—you had one job, don’t touch the needles and avoid forcing magical sleep on everyone. With these three, I can see where the angry mob of parents comes from. Snow, Cinderella, and Aurora don’t do anything; things are done to them. That’s not to say they aren’t good models to teach your daughters from; these stories leave something to be desired, but that shows young girls that there is more to life than being pretty, polite, and getting the guy.