Critiques of Disney Princesses

Despite their popularity Disney princesses have faced endless amounts of criticism. In this section, we have collected images by artists and activists that either critique Disney princesses, or use Disney princesses to critique other social issues. These artists have forced the viewer to question how Disney has chosen to depict beauty, gender, and race, and as a result force the viewer to question how this franchise has socialized their own conceptions of these topics. They also imagine a more positive possibility of using the universality of these princesses as a way to introduce social change.
"Curvy" Sleeping Beauty

Curvy Kate, 2015. Copyright: Kate.

Curvy Sleeping Beauty, is a fan critique of physical representation of Disney Princesses. The image first appeared on a website titled Curvy Kate. In the original animation, Sleeping Beauty appears with unrealistic body dimensions. The image critiques this idea by creating a Sleeping Beauty that adheres to average body types. By labeling a certain body type as “beauty” it defines what the ideal female body is, which forces cis-gendered women and transwomen, to feel the need to fit into a certain mold to be beautiful. This perpetuates body image issues and supports body shaming.  The artist’s choice to include the “curvy Sleeping Beauty” in her underwear, breaks societal barriers of what body types can be represented without clothes. The artist’s choice to include the “curvy Sleeping Beauty” in her underwear, breaks societal barriers of what body types can be represented without clothes.  However, it is important to acknowledge what is not included in this image, race. Many fan art artist, address issues that directly affect them. In this instance, it is not a fault of the image but an exclusion of a topic that could further critique Disney’s character.         

-Maya Marrero English

Disney Princesses with Disabilities
Copyright: Alexsandro Palomba

In this image, artist Alexsandro Palomba reimagines Disney princesses by depicting them with physical disabilities. From Snow White in a wheelchair to Jasmine as a double amputee, these icons of American culture are now representative of the 20% of Americans with physical disabilities. By posing the question “Do you still like us?” at the top of the image in the signature Disney font, the artist forces the viewer to confront not only Disney’s standards for beauty, but also their own. 

In conversations about visibility and intersectionality, physical disabilities often fall in the shadows. But is putting Sleeping Beauty in a wheelchair really the most appropriate way to approach this issue? Is it even effective? The experiences of someone with a physical disability still remain absent in the conversation surrounding this image. It addresses the visibility of people with physical disabilities in popular culture, but all other aspects of the princesses’ idealized beauty remain, possibly suggesting that the only way it is acceptable to have a physical disability is if you have these other physical standards. Maybe this is just the first step to changing the conversation surrounding physical disabilities, the final one being to completely reimagine each princess’s story, or to create a new princess altogether. 

-Natalie Rathgeber

Pocahontas, Health Care
Copyright: Maritza Lugo and Danielle Sepulveres

This image is part of a series of images by activist artists Maritza Lugo and Danielle Sepulveres who have reimagined Disney princesses by placing them within a modern context to promote female sexual health and wellness. Their work highlights gender and racial inequality in America’s health care system. Much of the series’ strength lies in its usage of the highly recognized Disney princess, making its critique of social issues extremely accessible.

Visual critiques of Disney princesses often focus solely on how they represent and emphasize certain standards of beauty. Racial and gender power dynamics, both social and political, are the focus of this critique. The visual interaction of the towering white male and Pocahontas simultaneously references the dynamics present in the Disney movie and the real world. By portraying Pocahontas as a modern Native American mother with a reproductive illness due to contaminated water, these artists reference the extremely relevant topics of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Flint water crisis making this an especially powerful and unique critique. 

-Natalie Rathgeber

Frozen

The story told in Frozen embraces a feminist perspective, in which the princess Elsa, the main character in this movie, appears as independent and strong. Whereas almost all fairy tale stories focus on getting the prince, the Frozen story tell about the relationship between the two sisters. However, it has racist overtones. Fairy tales are universal language for all culture, races and ages. this movie still emphasizes white supremacy, since people of color are absent; instead the movie defines  beauty as white skin, big eyes, long blonde hair, and a slim body.  the picture criticize the whiteness of the main character through presenting Elsa as a black woman. It subverts the idea of whiteness being a marker of beauty.

-Faradilla Fadllia

Critiques of Disney Princesses