5 Positive Lessons Learned From the Non-Princess Ladies of Disney
Over the weekend, ComicBook.com announced that Disney is hearing the hype around doing a Disney Princess crossover movie after the success of their team-up in Ralph Breaks the Internet. The directors of that movie, Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, definitely see the potential in the project, as they have shared with the A.V. Club.
“It has definitely had an interesting response not just here in the States, but everywhere we’ve gone in the world promoting the movie. When you’re in Stockholm and they’re saying like, ‘Have you considered doing a movie just about the Princesses?’ I think it’s an idea worth exploring, because everywhere we go, we hear that response. ’Oh my God, I love the Princesses like that.’”
As do we, as fans. I already made it known on Twitter that they should def have their date each other, because other than a few, who is really checking for these Disney Princes anyway? Still, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the non-princess ladies of the Disney pantheon. Speaking as a legal Princess, I definitely get the attraction of the gown-wearing ladies, but we shouldn’t forget the awesome non-princess heroes that exist and give us a lot more food for feminist discourse than the princesses, by nature of their branding.
1. “Don’t suffer shitty dudes who can’t grow up.” -Wendy:
One of the things I love about rewatching Peter Pan is getting to appreciate how much personality Wendy has. At the beginning of the movie, she fears growing up because it means getting rid of all the things that have come to be her norm. That, however, changes when the guy she’s been crushing on for so long, Peter Pan, appears, promises to take her away into this world where she and her siblings will never have to grow up, and … it sucks.
It sucks because Peter is a man-child. He has all this life experience but no sense of how to be considerate of others. He flirts with other girls in front of her, ignores her, and treats Wendy as part of his entourage who is there for his whims. After one day of that shit, Wendy is over it. She goes back home because growing up is hard, but being stuck forever with an immature partner is worse.
He may be fun, but you aren’t supposed to be his mother.
Honorable mention: Princess Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron
2. “Fighting for justice isn’t supposed to be easy.” -Esmeralda:
Adaptations of Victor Hugo are hard, and the fact that Disney decided to tackle The Hunchback of Notre Dame will always be one of it’s more … interesting choices, however, it gave us their version Esmeralda. Esmeralda has a lot of meaning, especially in the days before there were many non-white Disney Princesses, and what made Esmeralda unique was that she, as a minority woman onscreen, talked about justice and fighting for the rights of the little people with great risk to her own safety and life.
Her compassion for others and her bravery in the face of literal death via burning at the stake are things that make her one of the bravest and most empowering women to ever exist in animation.
Honorable mention: Nala from The Lion King
3. “Most people are trash, but the good ones are out there.” -Meg:
“I Won’t Say I’m In Love” is like the classic sad girl song. I’ve belted it in cars with friends and played it when I felt the stirrings of a new crush as an adult. Meg from Hercules is a special kind of Disney leading lady because she seems like a grownup. We rarely have Disney characters with exes; their romantic lives seem to begin when they meet their designated S.O., but with Meg, when she is introduced she’s someone who has dealt with heartbreak, betrayal, and as a result, is cynical about the possibility of new and genuine love.
That’s something a lot of people can relate to, especially when the pain of that heartbreak still hadn’t fully gone away. I know there are those who take issue with Meg being a “femme fatale” and that she is “redeemed” by her relationship with Hercules, and while I understand that in the academic sense, I feel like, more than anything, it’s not about redemption, but about her letting down the walls that stopped her from caring about people. When you have been hurt, the last thing you want is to be hurt again.
Meg dying to protect Hercules in such an instinctual moment never felt like “she’s doing this because it ‘saves her'” but that she was doing it because she loved Hercules and was more concerned with protecting him than herself. And that’s what love is.
Honorable mention: Leia Organa
4. “A princess is more than decoration.” -Kida:
We don’t get a lot of chances to see princesses as political creators or leaders. That’s changing in recent films like Moana, but overall, there is little exploration that a princess is also a potential future Queen—someone responsible for the lives and safety and millions of people.
One of the earliest characters to showcase that potential was Kidagakash Nedakh, a.k.a. Kida, from Atlantis: The Lost Empire—a great heroine from an imperfect but solid movie, in my humble opinion. What’s great about Kida is that she’s interested in both reclaiming lost knowledge and using said knowledge to keep her people’s sense of self.
Even though she’s a royal, she’s shown to be a part of the warrior party protecting the entrance to the city. She manages to be strong, smart, and vulnerable all in the same movie, and while I don’t love how she becomes secondary in the third act when she’s consumed by the Heart of Atlantis, I appreciate seeing a brown woman being a damsel in a way that wasn’t her just being kidnapped. It was a situation where she legitimately needed help because she was too powered, rather than being depowered.
Honorable mention: Shuri
5. “Don’t be afraid to share how you are feeling.” -Riley:
There are so many legitimately amazing things about the movie Inside Out, but one that got to me the most was watching Riley deal with her emotions (or lack thereof).
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how hard it gets to keep swallowing up your feelings and pretending everything is fine when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry. We expect young kids to suck it up so much and to “stop crying” and “be tough” and give them little space to express themselves in healthy ways when they are sad.
That’s why Riley, after regaining her ability to feel sadness, telling her parents she isn’t happy is so great, because it’s taken me YEARS OF THERAPY to get to that point with my parents now. It’s also especially important for parents not to pressure their kids to be happy to a fault all the time, because sometimes life is shitty, and being allowed to share your sadness with the people you love is important.
That’s how you know!
Who are some of your favorite non-“official” princess Disney ladies?
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