For a group of people who supposedly hate Disney princesses, feminists sure spend a lot of time talking about them. They want to tell us what kind of Disney princesses we “need” — fat ones, gay ones, ones who’ve had abortions — and why Disney princesses do nothing to “combat the oppression of the patriarchy.” And now an op-ed for The Guardian is even taking aim at fans of Disney princesses. Bidisha (who needs two names when you can have one?) wants us all to know that “Disney fans like their princesses like their coffee: hot, skinny and white.”
Bidisha is responding to a recent survey from Britain’s YouGov, which asked Disney fans to weigh in on a variety of topics about Disney princesses — pretty much everything except what race a Disney princess should be. But that doesn’t stop Bidisha from claiming that millions of people are big fat racists (for loving cartoon fairy tales). Wow, it must be hard to be Bidisha.
What, according to Bidisha, is so wrong with Disney princesses? Well, apparently they promote “white supremacy, the tyranny of femininity, female isolation… ageism against women… the class system… bullsh*t romantic myths and US cultural dominance.”
Oh, is that all? And little girls, Bidisha wants us to know, are lapping all this up and magically transforming into baby white supremacists. (Run for the hills, the princesses are coming!)
When asked to name the Disney princess who is the best role model, respondents of the YouGov survey chose Moana, followed by Mulan, then Merida. The worst role model, according to the survey, was Aurora, followed by Ariel and Snow White.
But this, according to Bidisha, is just blatant virtue-signaling. These answers may seem to “probe the wokeness of the Mouseketeers,” but it’s all just a clever ruse! “The truth comes out in the end,” crows Bidisha, rubbing her hands together and laughing maniacally (okay I may have added that last part myself) because, when people were asked to name their favorite princess, the answers were totally different. Snow White takes the top slot, followed by Belle, then Ariel. (Least favorite was Tiana, then Anna, then Pocahontas.) Ah ha! You see? White people! (Ever noticed how it’s the people who claim to be fighting racism who tend to make the most judgments based on race? Just saying.)
Bidisha calls fan favorite Snow White “the ultimate masochist” and claims she “finds her bliss cleaning seven men’s toilet.” (Perhaps Bidisha would benefit from actually watching some of these films.) Runner-up, Ariel, is no better because her whole story can be summed up as: “gets a boyfriend, loses her athletic ability and her literal voice.” Oh dear.
Bidisha seems to think that, because the stories are so horribly anti-feminist, the only reason fans could possibly like these princesses is because the fans are all mean stinky racists. Hmm, I wonder why — with people like Bidisha out there — fans would dutifully name princesses like Moana and Mulan as the best role models, but stick to Snow White when it comes to favorites. No one wants to be attacked by crazy, name-calling, feminist harpies!
Let me offer, if I may, an alternate theory. Perhaps princesses who regularly show up as fan favorites — Snow White, Ariel, Cinderella, Belle — are beloved not because we all just love us some white people, but because their stories are just better. Perhaps, instead of being about toilet cleaning, Snow White is about optimism, ingenuity, and pluck — the story of a girl who uses her marketable skills to save herself from a murderous witch. Perhaps, instead of being about getting a boyfriend, The Little Mermaid is about following your dreams against all odds. Cinderella is about discovering who you truly are and Beauty and the Beast is about being accepted for who you truly are.
And maybe (just maybe) films like Brave and Pocahontas subvert the fairy tale trope of growing up, and leave their heroines right back where they started — at home. Yuck. The stories that fans universally love are tales of internal transformation and inner beauty. The princesses’ skin color, by definition, has nothing to do with that.
But Bidisha — and the countless other feminist critics who house Disney princesses, rent-free, inside their heads — have screamed at us so much about racism (and sexism, and ableism, and all kinds of other “isms”) that we’re scared to tell the truth. We’re scared to say that Cinderella is a better movie than Mulan, for fear of sounding racist. We’re scared to say that The Little Mermaid is a better movie than Brave for fear of sounding anti-feminist. We’re scared to say that Snow White is a better movie than Moana for fear of promoting an unrealistic body image and being racist. It’s a Disney princess minefield out there!
But this method of evaluating the princesses is their method. Race, body type, sexual orientation, etc., ought not to be criteria by which we judge a person (or a cartoon). Far from being racists, Disney princess fans — as evidenced by the YouGov poll — know which princesses resonate with them regardless of race. I’m pretty sure that makes them not racist. But let’s ask an expert. Bidisha?