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12:00 PM on 06.29.2012

Princess Review: Brave

While Pixar is known for its emotional depth and memorable characters, it has been sorely lacking in female protagonists. There are certainly a few interesting female characters, but they are always in the shadows of thei...

Jenika Katz

Princess Review: Earth Girls Are Easy photo
Princess Review: Earth Girls Are Easy
by Jenika Katz

You know, uh, Disney princesses are terrible role models. What kind of message is it to tell a girl she should be- ah, royalty? She can’t be royalty. There aren’t many princes for her to, ah, marry. No, she needs a more- a more realistic expectation. Why not try to be a normal girl who, um, sunbathes quietly in her backyard pool and attracts the attention of horny alien men who have a magical sex touch and can take her into space? Yeah, that’s a lot more realistic.

Alien men are, well, they’re clearly a lot more handsome, too, and they actually have, uh, jobs. When’s the last time you saw a Disney prince driving, um, a- a space ship for a living? Never, that’s when.

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Princess Review: A Recap photo
Princess Review: A Recap
by Jenika Katz

Princess movies aren't something that generally pop up every year. Disney is well-known for retreading old territory, making a nice profit off of sequels and re-releases, so there isn't a strong push for them to keep coming up with original heroines. After the release of Brave in June, there aren't any other princess movies on the horizon for a long while. There are plans for a new series scheduled for the end of the year about a young girl named Sophia who becomes a princess when her mother remarries, but its aim at the preschool audience suggests that the show will be more about sharing and crossing the street than impressing a handsome prince.

It's been over a year since I started writing Princess Reviews, and I can only hope that you've gotten as much pleasure out of reading them as I have in writing them. But what have we learned about these movies in all this time? Which movies are the best role models for girls, and which of them teach horrible, scarring lessons? Is princess culture really as damaging as many people seem to think, or is the whole phenomenon really harmless?

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Princess Review: Tangled photo
Princess Review: Tangled
by Jenika Katz

Tangled is one of those movies that had some very worrisome marketing. What was initially meant to be a strong tale about a girl escaping from a tower ended up with trailers completely centering around her love interest. The fact that he was seemingly no different than any other Overly-Egotistical-Snarky-Guy character did not ease any concerns. Seeing yet another blonde princess needing to be rescued from a tower was a disappointment to many who'd been looking forward to the movie from its inception.

The movie ended up doing fairly well, and included some very dark themes about parental abuse. Of course, box office success says nothing about the effect a movie might actually have on a child. Can a princess movie successfully convey a message like that in a way a child can understand?

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Princess Review: The Princess and the Frog photo
Princess Review: The Princess and the Frog
by Jenika Katz

Disney took a long vacation from princess movies, but they took an even longer from traditional 2D animated musicals. The Princess and the Frog was their first attempt in a while (barring some that we're going to ignore), and it certainly generated a lot of buzz when it came out in 2009. Not only was Disney attempting another 2D musical princess movie, but it was going to feature their first black princess. There was a lot of pressure on the movie to do well. Disney was taking a big step with making a princess who wasn't white and blonde, and there was a lot of concern about what kind of role model the new princess Tiana would be.

Of course, no matter what Disney did with the movie, there would be some backlash. Tiana was a controversial character. With a new princess for a whole new group of girls to look up to, would she be the type of role model she ought to be?

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Princess Review: Enchanted photo
Princess Review: Enchanted
by Jenika Katz

After Mulan, Disney gave princess movies a long break. A full nine years passed between Mulan and Disney's next princess movie, Enchanted. The gap between these Princess Reviews was totally intentional and meant to mirror this real-life gap. Honestly. Unlike other installments of this series, Enchanted's Giselle is only partially animated, but she's just as much of a princess as real-life Amy Adams as she is in 2D.

Enchanted is a bit of a difficult movie to review for its messages. The movie is a parody of previous princess movies, so a lot of Giselle's actions are exaggerated and silly. This doesn't make her any less of a princess in a kid's eyes, however, and while the parody may be obvious to an adult, a young girl may not necessarily notice that. Is Giselle too ridiculous to take seriously, or is she just as much of a potential role model as any other princess?

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12:00 PM on 07.15.2011

Princess Review: Mulan

Princess Reviews return with the most pink I have put in a header in my life. Unlike some previous Disney princess films loosely following actual historical events, Mulan is based on an old Chinese ballad about a female warri...

Jenika Katz

The sidelined women of Pixar photo
The sidelined women of Pixar
by Jenika Katz

Given my main contributions to this site, you can probably guess how excited I am for Brave next summer. A Pixar fairy tale starring a princess that isn't about her quest to find a husband? Yes, please! While there isn't much information out about it yet, Brave sounds like it can be what I wanted from Tangled. There's the same unruliness that's rare to see in a princess, and she's not completely overshadowed by her love interest.

Of course, once I started thinking about other leading ladies in Pixar, I drew a blank. Where are they, exactly? Some of the major characters are female, certainly, and women have large roles in various movies, but not a single protagonist of a Pixar movie is a girl. Why are the women hiding in the sidelines? Can't they come out for an adventure with the boys?

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Princess Review: Anastasia photo
Princess Review: Anastasia
by Jenika Katz

Much like Pocahontas, Anastasia tackles historical characters and takes them drastically far from actual events in history. The main difference lies in the approach: while Pocahontas portrayed a very sanitized, skewed version of history, Anastasia takes an alternate universe approach, telling a tale of what might have happened if the  Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna had never been murdered.

Other than the lack of any historical accuracy, the movie does have a feisty female lead that doesn't obsess over men, and at a glance, she seems like a fair enough role model. Is a fiery personality enough to make a good impression on a young girl?

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12:00 PM on 05.13.2011

Princess Review: Pocahontas

Despite being relatively successful in theaters and winning a number of awards, Pocahontas is not a terribly popular Disney movie. Critics call the historical inaccuracies everything from misleading to full-on racist, and oth...

Jenika Katz

Princess Review: The Swan Princess photo
Princess Review: The Swan Princess
by Jenika Katz

The Swan Princess is not a Disney movie. You probably haven't even heard of it, but it was supposed to be The Big Thing in the early 90s, judging by the success of earlier princess movies. John Cleese accepted a role in The Swan Princess, figuring that it would be a much bigger financial success than his other offer, the role of Zazu in The Lion King. Obviously, this was a poor choice, and he's certainly been kicking himself since. This movie was a staple of my childhood, however, and it made me actually think about movie romance, something no other princess movie did for me at the time.

While its intentions seem good enough at the beginning, The Swan Princess quickly transforms into a jumbled mess of messages, jumping back and forth almost as often as the lazy animation. Is it enough just to make a kid question a romance, or should a princess movie go further than that?

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Princess Review: Aladdin photo
Princess Review: Aladdin
by Jenika Katz

Aladdin is the first movie in this line of reviews to have the actual princess as a secondary character. Early princesses certainly seemed like secondary characters at times, with the camera focused on the antics of their wacky animal friends, but the movies still revolve around their personal stories. While many of the love interests in those movies were pushed aside even more than the main character, Aladdin follows The Little Mermaid in taking an actual interest in the other character, letting the audience really get to know them and find what the main character sees in them.

Of course, given the outfit that Aladdin's main squeeze is wearing, it's not hard to see what got his attention. Princess Jasmine is wearing almost as little as Ariel, but without the excuse of living under the sea. Despite this tiny outfit, Jasmine is one smart girl, and she turns out to be one of the better influences out there.

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10:00 AM on 03.29.2011

Princess Review: Beauty and the Beast

Released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast was the first princess movie in the soon-to-be saturated market of the 90's. Belle is often thought of as one of the strongest women in these early movies: she values education and would...

Jenika Katz

10:00 AM on 03.16.2011

Princess Review: The Little Mermaid

Time for another Princess Review, freshly moved from the community blogs to right here. If you missed the first ones, there's an introductory post here, as well as earlier reviews of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beaut...

Jenika Katz