Love them or hate them, the Disney Princesses have had a rough couple of weeks. First there was the announcement that Disney is giving them the axe. Then the superficial announcement that maybe they're not.
And then came the Tangled release in theaters last week. Rapunzel may technically be a princess (ahem, spoiler alert ahead), but the female star of Tangled is no friend to the frou frou. She's way too kick ass.
I dare say she may have successfully killed the princesses. But she had some help. If you've been following the princess trajectory, it was bound to happen. Disney has been trying to kill off the poofy princess for years.
They started to get a clue, believe it or not, back in 1991, when Belle told Gaston where he could stick it in Beauty and the Beast. She was a nerd who loved reading far more than fancy dresses (did you get a load of those aprons?), and when her dad was locked away by the Beast, she went all "no, take me, take me" and took his place.
Just so you're getting this, she's no shrinking violet. And then Disney went and let her fall in love and cure the Beast and blabbity blah, blah, she's a princess who forgets her books because she's so in lurv.
But it was a start.
Next came 1992's Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Ignore her. She was a waste of cute harem pants (not to mention too young for that outfit). But the genie was cool.
Fast forward to little recognized but still bona fide princess Pocahontas. Released in 1995, it's pretty clear John Smith would have been nothing without this particular woman. Her dad sets up an arranged marriage, but she says sorry, Pops, I've got my own fish to fry and takes off. This was the first princess with a little pigment in her skin (yay!), but could that skirt have covered any less skin?
Three years later, Mulan appeared. She wasn't technically a princess, but she also hasn't gotten her deserved props. The first truly Asian addition to the lineup was a warrior. Can't get much more bad ass, but the ancestors sending a dragon to help her out dampened our girl power fist bumping a bit. Come on, a girl can't kick some Hun butt by herself?
Then Disney took a break, waiting 11 years to give us The Princess and the Frog. I have repeated it on record many a time. Princess Tiana won this crotchety old feminist's heart. But that may be because we're both workaholics. And seeing the princess tell the prince (er, frog) he's a worthless piece of slime instead of simpering at his feet did my heart good. In fact, The Princess and the Frog was the first film where the girl got the guy but still left moms feeling like she got a worthwhile "dream come true" at the end thanks to the opening of her very own restaurant.
What mother doesn't want her daughter's dreams to culminate in something that will keep her working, honestly, and make her more financially secure?
All those mushy feelings about Tiana left me terrified that Tangled was going to send us back to the dark ages. It's based on the story of a princess locked in a tower, rescued by a man. Quick, get me Ms. Magazine. I need to fan myself. Oh, and stop reading if you haven't seen the movie (and really expect to be surprised at a kid's flick).
When Disney changed the name from Rapunzel to Tangled and there was talk they might, gasp, court a boy audience, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from mothers who only pretend to hate princesses.
But the result turned Flynn Rider into a bit of a dumbass easily pushed around by the girl with the ninja hair. Yes, I said ninja hair. And she wields a weapon -- OK, a frying pan -- that she's not afraid to use to fight her way out of bad situations.
And did we mention she thinks Flynn's a jerk rather than immediately dropping at his feet?
It doesn't matter what Disney has in the works in its magic animation station. There could be half a dozen movies about girl heroes or none. The Disney Princess, she of rolling over to make a man her hero, is already dead.
Rapunzel just stuck the extra nail in her coffin.
Image via Disney