In my two previous posts about the Disney Princesses, I talked about the classic generation and the princesses of the ’90s. In this post, I will be looking at the princess movies of the 2000s: Tiana, Rapunzel, and Merida (though I can only say so much about her, since Brave doesn’t come out until June). These princesses, following the example of Ariel, leave their homes and seek adventure. Even so, the nuclear family is important to these princesses. This is interesting because the older generation is concerned about the demise of the nuclear family: they see that younger generations are moving away from the nuclear family and towards a family made of closely knit friends rather than blood. I think the theme of family in these films is an attempt by the older generation to instill in children a sense that blood relations are important. Neither Tiana nor Rapunzel seek a romantic relationship, but both find one. Romance is no longer priority number one, but it is still seen as something that should be obtained.
I’ve only seen The Princess and the Frog once, so I can’t say as much about it as I can the other films, which I have seen countless times. Tiana is a Unites States citizen, and she strongly embodies US ideals: she is hardworking, independent, and passionate. She has goals towards which she works and about which she dreams. She is, in fact, the first Princess with goals. Previous princesses have had hobbies and dreams, but none had a specific goal like Tiana’s ambition of opening a restaurant.
In many ways, Rapunzel is a movement back to the classic generation, especially Aurora. Much like Aurora, Rapunzel is cut off from the outside world. Despite her boredom at never leaving her tower, Rapunzel is always optimistic. Also like Aurora, Rapunzel’s life changes when Flynn Rider–the first person she has ever conversed with, aside form Mother Gothel–appears in her tower. There are many things that set Rapunzel apart from the classics, though. Rapunzel has always been told horrible stories about people in the outside world, especially about men. Even so, when Flynn appears, Rapunzel doesn’t cower. Instead, she takes action, tying Flynn up and demanding that he obey her. She thinks for herself, making her own decisions about the lights, the people around her, and the world in general. Her independent thought allows her to be reunited with her parents, both of whom are still alive (like Aurora).
In June of this year, Disney/Pixar will release Brave. From the trailers, it looks like Merida suffers from a classic case of rebellious princess syndrome. The film plays along with the idea that the only strong woman is the one who rejects femininity in favor of more masculine pursuits. I have already given my opinion on that idea, and will not expound on it here. The thing about Brave that has interested me the most is that I have not seen or heard anything about Merida having a love interest. The trailers are full of Merida’s interactions with her boisterous father, her ladylike mother, and her mischievous younger brothers. There is what seems to be an archery competition for Merida’s hand, but, from what I can tell, Merida is not interested in any of them. Instead, she chooses to fight for her own hand. If Disney manages to pull off a successful fairy tale without a love interest for Merida, I will be very impressed.
The current generation of Disney princesses is in many ways the most interesting. They look back to previous generations, while at the same time creating identities for themselves. These princesses are independent, but have strong ties to the people in their lives.