Today, I wanted to join in on This Happy Place Blog’s Kill, Refurb, Marry: Princess Edition. And so without further ado, I bring you my Kill, Refurb, Marry: Princess Edition.
Let’s be honest: Sleeping Beauty as interpreted by Disney is carried entirely by Maleficent and Merryweather with Flora and Fauna playing a nice supporting role and everyone else is basically an extra. Aurora is important in so much as Maleficent puts a magical hit out on her at birth. She could’ve just as easily been a book or another object, and perhaps that is what I dislike so much about her. Of all the Disney princesses, Aurora has the fewest lines and one of the weakest songs.
Beyond the fact that Aurora is just kind of “there,” the fairies give her the gifts of song, beauty, and not dying when she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. First, waiting for true love’s kiss? Come on, Merryweather, if you’d just said “sleep for 24 hours” that whole mess with Philip could’ve been avoided and how do you even know when true love’s going to show up and kiss you?! Song? Beauty? Seriously? Not the gift of intelligence (to know not to prick her fingers on spindles), resourcefulness, or the ability to be a kind and benevolent leader. She’s dumb as a stump but ain’t she easy on the eyes? These qualities aren’t going to come in handy when plagues spread across the land or her peasants are starving or Prince Philip as King Philip turns out to be a horrible, power hungry despot. Singing isn’t going to help when the peasants are breaking down the gates to the castle because you suck at ruling.
Aurora doesn’t fair well among her contemporary princesses, either. Her ability to talk with woodland creatures is old news since Snow White pioneered that and had the intelligence to put them to work for her cleaning the house. Cinderella, sure she’s a doormat but at least you know she’s handy to have around the house and also can put the mice to work. Compared to contemporary princesses starting with Ariel and moving forward, Aurora doesn’t even have a really great song to make her stand out. Sure, Ariel kind of sold her soul for a chance with Prince Eric but let’s be honest, “Part of Your World” was a really good song. She lacks Ariel’s rebellious streak and Tiana’s work ethic, not to mention Queen Elsa of Arendelle was rolling her eyes at that whole marrying-a-guy-you-met-singing-a-duet-out-in-the-woods thing.
There are a lot of princesses I would like to refurb, most notable among them Pocahontas. The other princesses are perhaps misguided in their blind faith in men they just met and obvious Stockholm syndrome, but Belle’s story is a staple of day time soap operas where it’s totally normal to marry a guy who raped you. ‘Cause that happens all the time, right? Rape leads to love. (FYI, no, that doesn’t happen in real life and it’s not romantic, either.)
Pocahontas gets a gut refurb because hers is a story based on something that actually happened, not fiction, so with all due respect to actual American history and what happened to her and the fascinating history of gendered politics among Native Americans and European colonizers I think she deserves to get a total re-do. After seeing what they did with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I have total faith in Disney’s ability to take colonists eating each other and turn it into a really catchy tune. Also, I don’t think I’m overstepping when I say that the actual John Smith was kind of a douche bag and could’ve made for a much more interesting movie.
“You think I’m an ignorant savage, and you’ve been so many places, I guess it must be so”? What? No. No. NO. You don’t have to guess that’s so, Pocahontas and despite the problematic relationship she has with John Smith, of all the princesses she’s one of the earliest ones that actually has something to teach the lead male about life, “but still I cannot see, if the savage one is me, how can there be so much that you don’t know?” Also as one of the few princesses who is a princess in her own right and not by marriage, Pocahontas doesn’t have the same spoiled, bratty attitude that Jasmine has. Come on, like you didn’t kind of hate Jasmine for that attitude? (I assert quite vehemently that it was not simply because I wanted Aladdin to myself.)
I bet you think I’m going to say Elsa. Well, you’re wrong. The primary reason for that being that ELSA ISN’T A PRINCESS SHE’S A QUEEN SO SHE HAS NO PLACE IN THIS. So there. In terms of marriage material, my gut instinct is, of course, Cinderella. Why? She’s got lots of training taking orders from others, she’s good at doing the domestic things like cleaning the house and making dinner, and come on, if you’re being strategic about this who doesn’t think that would be a total bonus?
But actually, I’m going to say I’d go with Rapunzel.
Rapunzel as a character speaks to me on a deep, profound level. Overbearing and overly protective mother? Hell’s yeah. The feeling of waiting for life to start? Amen, sister. And then finally feeling free to do whatever the fuck you want and being both terrified and ecstatic? She’s speaking my language.
The most interesting thing about Rapunzel is that it has a nice power dynamic. Building off of something that kind of started in The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel has agency and power that she uses to negotiate with those around her. First, with Flynn Rider and then with Mother Gothel. Her dealings with Flynn aren’t even “magical” in nature to start out, in fact she arms herself with a frying pan and offers him the crown back in exchange for taking her to see the lights. You go, girl. Subsequently with Mother Gothel, Rapunzel understands the value of her hair and compliance, and uses that to give herself power in her dealings with Mother Gothel by negotiating to save Flynn. Nice job.
Much like Ariel bargaining her voice away for a set of legs and some time with Prince Eric, Rapunzel is making a choice instead of having others make the choices for her.